Wednesday, June 12, 2019

THE END IS NOT NIGH

Here's something I hadn't seen coming;

It happened because Ryder, our newest foster child, is shortly going home.

It's always an emotional time, obviously. But last night she was very brittle and not herself at all.

She was catty with my eldest foster child - with whom she's usually on top form. At teatime she was sullen, pushing the peas around her plate.

After tea there was an argument about the remote control and I had to ask her to go up to her room and come down when she'd cooled off. This usually takes 10 to 15 minutes.

She didn't come down.

I gave it half-an-hour and crept up. She was on her bed, her face buried in her pillow.

Dear me, she was sobbing those huge but almost noiseless sobs that come from deep in the heart.

I said softly;

"Ryder? Darling? Can I come in?"

She digested that it was me and that I was sympathetic and nodded.

It's always hard to find the right words to ask a foster child what's wrong because it could be one or several of innumerable things that are not only 'wrong' but also no fault of theirs and what's more there's often nothing they can do to put things right.

It turned out that the thing on her mind was huge, not her fault, and about which she can do next-to-nothing.

Before I tell you what it was it's worth remembering that she is due to go home anytime, and that she sees this as the beginning of a whole new and wonderful world for her and for all the people she cares about. She wants this new life to burst into bloom as she walks through her front door, and for this rejuvenated and wonderful life to last forever.

Got all that?

Good.

So. The reason she was all over the place was because she'd caught a trending news item on her phone in which a group of experts announced that human civilisation would end in 2050.

Just as things seemed on the up for the poor mite came the 'news' that - as far as she could deduce - the world was going to go pffft and disappear when she is aged 41.

In fostering you get asked by children to explain some pretty strange and often almost inexplicable things. Every time your first priority is to be truthful but to protect the child from unnecessary fear or anxiety.

News providers have no such framework of responsibilities.

Sometimes it's not the fault of the News. For example (true story alert); when I was little the TV News was filled with updates on a world statesman who was very old and at death's door. Each time a bulletin ended the newscaster would say;

"There will be another bulletin in an hour."

As this went on into the next day my youngest brother suddenly cracked under the pressure and through his tears he pleaded "If he's so ill, why do they keep putting another bullet in him?"

So, with that awful image of decades ago still fresh in my mind, I went to work.

I explained (largely from well-intentioned guesswork) that the scientists hadn't been predicting the end of the world, they had been saying that life would be a lot different by 2050. I reassured her that the air would be cleaner because cars would be better. I suggested we probably wouldn't be eating meat all the time so animals would be happier. I said that by 2050 maybe most known diseases would have been conquered and people might expect to live well beyond 100. I added that her generation were gearing up to be the best ever; if anyone is up to the job of fixing starvation and injustice it's people like Ryder and her friends.

Did it work? Er...

My predictions went down okay, but she still blubbed a bit, albeit with less despair.

What sealed the deal was;

"Tell you what. I bought a tub of lemon sorbet yesterday. Sorbet is kind of like ice cream but without the cream so it's better for you. But it's a grown-up taste. It's in the freezer. I need someone who knows what they're talking about to try some and tell me if the rest of the hungry hippos will like it or turn up their noses. We'll have to sneak downstairs and get a bowlful up into your room for a secret tasting session without anyone spotting what we're up to."

Ah, distraction. Still at Number One in this Foster Carer's Top Twenty.

Oh, and was I telling the truth about what I think about climate change?

Yes, I was telling an optimistic take on the truth as I see it. But crucially I was telling it in the way a damaged and vulnerable 10 year old needed to hear it.





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