I have this ongoing thing with Holly about learning independence. When we talk about money, jobs around the house, future work, school work etc. she thinks long and hard and places her hand on my shoulder. She then reassures me that when she is an adult she will definitely take all this stuff seriously. She then walks away. It’s hilarious as she really believes that is how life works.

Holly thinks she has these golden years or work being an ‘opt in or out’ situation and that fundamentally there are staff (parents/adults/teachers) who will do the mop up work of making sure that no wheels fall off and that a warm bed and dinner are served up at the correct time of day. It makes me laugh because she thinks that I have opted in to this kind of life but if I wish could opt out at any time as well and just like for her, the laundry would be folded and the bills would be paid. So when she says that she will be like me when she grows up I guess I should take it as a compliment as she assumed I have made an interesting life style choice.

Having grown up in a family where you might be expected to do certain things around the house, when it comes to adulthood you increase the chances of experiencing a ready transition into looking after yourself. I know that this is not the case for everyone as I remember a friend calling mum from university asking how to cook a lettuce. For kids in care though I wonder whether there is another dimension? Is it the case that the benefit system has provided a ground where if you don’t bother, actually things get done anyway? I don’t wish to get political however I do find Holly’s response to mucking in interesting. If she has grown up where people swarm when you don’t work what else could you deduce as a child?

Certainly a work ethic is not only an issue for kids in care as I can testify of my 10 year old however it must be even more difficult to be plugged into a new family who don’t talk about work as an option but rather a necessity for life and health. As with many things in this life it is a slow burn and I don’t think the worm will turn until she stands in her first flat and understands how to iron, cook and clean and realises that she has been practising for years.

How do you instigate a work ethic in your home? Do you provide reward or make it an expectation or maybe you just try to make life as easy as possible for your children as they have been through so much. It would be really interesting to hear from you!

James


The other night we had parents evening for our birth kids. Before we went over I sat with Holly and talked about the fact that she would have to come with us as me and Louise were both wanting to be there. She asked if she could take her tablet to which I agreed as the dialogue would be boring and most likely there would not be much else to play with. We double checked we had everything and we set off.

We arrived at school and sat down with one of the teachers. Just as we started speaking Holly spoke loudly over us. “There is no signal for my tablet” she announced. “Ok” I said in a much lower voice “play something on it which doesn’t need signal”. There was a huge sigh followed by “there was no point in bringing my tablet and now there is nothing for me”. I returned to our conversation with the teacher really angry and my face was showing it. The teacher had clearly picked up on this and I felt like I was being judged (even though I probably wasn’t) for bring angry with Holly.

It occurred to me that judgements are often made on the small amount of information we have. That interaction was part of a larger story. One where Holly had had lots of great stuff given to her over several days. Lots of making sure she had all she needed. Lots of, well, everything being ok because all needs were met. For me there was no excuse, for the teacher it looked like a parent unloading at the smallest of slights.

I chatted to another carer a while ago who had been sneered at because their foster child’s behaviour was not the expected in a soft play area. She was spoken to, judged and told that she should do a better job. All of this without the accuser knowing where that family was at.

I don’t intend to judge the judger, rather I recognise that we are all capable of this. We all have a point of view and will use it in spades to justify our world view. All of us claim to know truth inside situations we have no real idea about. It can very toxic and foster carers can often feel on the receiving end but I would encourage you to reflect on making sure that you are not these people either.

Maybe you have reached a place where any child who is well attached should not be struggling. Maybe you feel sorry for yourself because no one understands what it is to foster. Maybe it’s a hundred different things. Either way, remember that everyone is in a different space, a different place and everyone needs grace and peace. My hope for you is that in each interaction you take a moment and remember that we are all just trying to figure this parenting/fostering thing out.

James


I have written before about finding the right exercise for ‘H’ and along with other things it has been an elusive beast! At the beginning of December, in an attempt to shave a few pounds off myself I started the dreaded ‘insanity’ training regime. It is a high intensity, high misery affair which often will have you face down on the floor in a pool of your own sweat with a chiselled machine of a man asking you for three more press ups.

Having started this daily workout I bought myself to the fourth out of five people in our house who were doing regular exercise with ‘H’ being the exception. For some reason ‘H’ really noticed this discrepancy and would periodically walk in on me with my DVD and enquire as to how it was going. Occasionally, when I had the breath, I replied. After three weeks ‘H’ remarked that she had noticed a difference in my physique and then took a handful of her own belly in her fist in a woeful way. I quietly invited ‘H’ to join me when she would like to and she confirmed that starting tomorrow she would give it a go.

The first session was fantastic, not because of her effort but her face when she had got through the workout. After 15 minutes she asked if her belly look smaller. I had to give her the harsh reality plus the length of time that it would take to start to see a bit – we laughed together and I egged her on. There was a real levity in our times running, jumping and attempting switch kicks (something which I don’t think either of us have done right yet) and ‘H’ would ask me to see her form with her press ups. The best of times was when she said that her breathing and lungs felt funny and that she had never really felt it before. Being slightly concerned I asked some searching questions and concluded that she had never really identified the feeling of having a stich and being out of breath! The squats bought more hilarity as she found that there are muscles in the tops of her legs.

Despite its difficulties however we had real fun in those sessions. Laughing with and at each other as we tried and collapsed at different points. There was something so great in doing this common third activity, this goal we attempted together.  ‘H’ by no means has fallen in love with exercise but it does give me ideas about the future and it certainly tells me that ‘H’ is never going to go for a lone run. She is a social creature and she looks for stories and results in others before she will ever do something herself. It reminds me that my life, my encouragements and my example are all noticed and sometimes they are acted on. It all matters and we have to keep trying to show a better way.

James

Therapeutic Foster carer


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