Wednesday, September 22, 2021


 Middle foster child came downstairs in a strop or as my nan used to put it 'with a right cob on'.

He used to be eldest foster child but since the arrival of short-term 17 year old Ged, he's now the middle one.

I heard that PG Wodehouse started a short story with the sentence;

"It is not difficult to discern the difference between a ray of sunshine and a Scotsman with a grievance."

For 'Scotsman" read "Foster Child".

Some of them, they bring a special skill set to the important matter of appearing p****d off, it's practically an art form. Or more like a stage act, in fact.

An episode is often first flagged up by a louder than usual slamming of their bedroom door followed by unusually heavy footsteps coming down the stairs.

You say to yourself; "Here we go…"

You are supposed to look concerned and say;

"Everything alright?" or "What's up? You OK?"

And so you do. They don't just WANT you to inquire, they NEED you to. It's the beginning of the dance which will probably end in them getting ice cream, or a nod that they can stay up late and watch Netflix on Friday night. Or both.

Nobody knows the trouble they've seen, and their lifelong experiences in their bio home has taught them a wealth of survival techniques. They will have watched parents, older household members and family members playing the problem hierachy game and learned the benefits that can be squeezed from things being all wrong.

The problem hierarchy game is where people compete to be the one most under duress.

Of course; many things in foster children's lives ARE all wrong; they had a tough time, their parents parenting was questionable at best, their education chequered. Now they live in a strange house full of of strangers.. and however much we foster parents try, it's wrong.

But they don't present us with these very real wrongs.

When they want a bit of TLC or a metaphorical cuddle it goes a bit like it did with middle child.

He came stomping into the kitchen and made for the larder.

"Oh Jeez! No Salt and Vinegar!"

Then he's off;

"Why are we always out of Salt and Vinegar? It's not that hard is it? To buy crisps? I mean, you guys act like you're all so clever and you've got two cars and wooo you're foster parents, but even a Zombie hamster could get crisps right."

I try to say nothing.

"I mean…crisps! How hard is that?"

I shrug as if to say 'Yeah we're pretty useless…' He goes on;

"I mean, it's like the other day when Jason came round and you gave us chips with the burgers and everyone knows it's fries with burgers, chips go with fish! I was like SO embarrassed. Is that why you get the food all wrong round here. One minute you're trying to make me obese the next you're starving me!"

Jason is his friend who sometimes comes round and they chill. It's uplifting hearing their laughter and mock gee-up banter.


"How was Jason today?"

"Jeez how should I know? He's an idiot. I don't care how he is. If he wants to hang out with Ben Willis' bunch of wallies that's his doom sorted and so what? He was the embarrasment. Not me.""

So we gradually got to the nitty gritty; he and his friend had had a bit of a tizz. 

Apparently over politics. Well, to be precise over whether Boris Johnson is a ****** or not.

They'd fallen out digitally (messages).

It hurts rotten when you're young and finding your way with friendships. We all made plenty of mistakes and thought it was the end of the world.

Children and young people in care are sometimes more clumsy socially than their peers and a bit more desperate to build relationships. 

There's not much we can do there, they are usually best off sorting these spats out themselves, all part of life.

But it's one reason why there's usually a tub of emergency ice-cream in the fridge.

I remember a Blue Sky training session on de-escalation. The trainer said that offering a pleasant distraction, such as going on a bike ride could help the child's anger. One carer was against the idea saying;

"I'm not going to reward bad behaviour by giving them something nice!"

He had missed the point on this one, de-escalation is about distraction, and anyway; kindness is not a 'reward', it should be ever-present. Is sticking a sticking plaster on a wound a 'reward'? 

Bottom line, ice cream works. 


  1. Lovely story. We do a lot of de-escalation, our youngest has autism on top of his other troubles and is mostly a toddler in the body of an older boy. He's come on leaps and bounds and can now communicate in words and short phrases but still struggles to express his needs and wants. I'm an expert in whipping out a distracting mini twix or little pack of raisins the minute he gets a tantrum building.

    Of course - he's noticed this.

    We're walking around a shopping centre. He suddenly stops, stomps his feet, screws his face up into a rage and screams "TWIX" at the top of his lungs. No trigger, no warning build up.
    I look at him, he's glaring at me, fists balled and face full of thunder. I do a little mental maths about when we last ate.
    "Oh, are you hungry?"
    His face softens a bit "I hungry"
    "Would you like a twix?" I ask, like this is my idea and I'm offering it to him, rather than him demanding it.
    He's smiling now "Twix!"
    I get it out of my bag, "Twix what" I ask,
    He's hopping now he can see it - "Twix please, Thank you!" he says quickly.
    I hand it over, he's happy as can be and I'm thinking - you clever little thing, working out if you shout I pull out a chocolate bar!
    He has me well trained!

  2. Always great to get your insights Mooglet. Sounds like you've got your hands full, just as well the hands in question are yours; you're a real credit to the many professions that make up fostering.
    And I know you're not seeking prasie or any suchlike but it doesn't do a foster mum any harm to get deserved respect.
    Autism must be gruelling at times - if not all the time - but I remember you talking previously about strategies and Twix is right up there with the best. I loved your move in making it seem like your idea to minimise the chance he was teaching himself a line of control which might not be for the best; brilliant.
    Mind, if he is learning strategies it means there's constructive things stirring inside him so whichever way you look at the Twix thing, you're getting results.

    1. Thank you for those kinds words. When I'm having a wobble I often think of your blog and your insights, you've helped me be better at this than I thought I could be.

      As for the little lad - well he's a handful and half but indeed the wheels are turning in his little head. We know this because (and the story will make you laugh) he has found himself a new swear word.

      He came to us with a limited vocab, except for swear words which he knew in abundance and used constantly. That tapered off after a few months and he's been without a good word to express his anger for a while now.

      He's finally found a good one. He hasn't said it to us yet but he's been practising it on the dog. I caught him, leaning down to whisper it in the dog's ear: "SMELLY-BUM!".