Yesterday we went to Church as normal and we were all sat together for the first part of the service. When it came time for the sermon the kids got up with their respective parents/carers to go to their groups so they could do some stuff together that was more age appropriate. Our church meets in a local high school. It works well for us as there is a big enough hall for us all to be in together, a large refectory where people can mingle and have coffee and an extensive labyrinth of classrooms and corridors which we are allowed to use.
When we left with the kids Louise and I talked briefly about which age group would be appropriate for Holly and her needs. Eventually we settled on a room where our son goes so that she had a secure friend in the room whilst she spent time with some new people. Up to the point of arriving Holly had been nudging me to say that she was bored and that there was not enough for children. She had a good point (something I am working on in Church) but I assured her that she would not have to wait long before there was something for her. As we arrived at the classroom she froze as she looked in. There were tables and chairs. There was a whiteboard. There was a desk for the teacher. Immediately she said she did not want to go in. At first I could not make out why. Maybe it was fear of new stuff, or a fear of being left alone. Fairly quickly however she managed to find the words. “It is a school” she said “school is boring”. I laughed and explained to her that it was not like that at all. There was in fact going to be games and colouring, discussion and fun. She immediately dismissed this as I apparently was not taking in the facts. “Look” she said “there are books and tables – it will be boring”. I explained again but she felt that I must be lying. Eventually I asked the group leader to come over and confirm what I was saying. She was suspicious but entered the room.
Around half an hour later an eager and satisfied Holly bounced in front of me. She was sucking a lolly and had the other hand wrapped around some craft she had done. I laughed and asked her if it still felt like a school. She smiled and shook her head and walked off to speak to some friends.
It had not occurred that Holly would have noticed this when we first bought her to Church. I guess we had such a filter for the school that we do not really notice that the rooms are classrooms or that there are pictures of kids with certificates on the wall. For Holly however the evidence was clear. Our Church clearly was a school! This situation made me reflect on the evidence we present to kids and expect them to understand. What are my expectations of our foster kids understanding of situations when they come into our lives. Maybe some of the things and environments are really hard to understand at first. I was challenged to remind myself that explanation is often necessary and helpful in the moments that we do things for the first time and that anxiety may present in spaces that we least expect. I’m really glad that Holly managed to overcome what appeared to be clear evidence to the contrary but it will make me think about lots of aspects of our lives which maybe look one way but are actually for something else entirely.