Have you ever seen Shirley Valentine? The film about a bored housewife from Liverpool, who has a midlife crisis and goes on holiday to Greece
She begins a relationship with a local lothario, played by Tom Conti, but is ashamed of her body.
Tom tries to reassure her. He says her stretch marks and other natural ravages of time are beautiful, and make her who she is.
You don’t get stretch marks from fostering.
But your home and your property may get ravaged.
Our woodwork is chipped, and in some places gouged.
We have rubber bumpers glued to the walls to protect them when doors are slammed.
The kitchen door needs rehanging, again.
Phones and iPads have been launched in both anger and frustration.
Some damage has proved to be prompted by naivety rather than malice.
On one accession, our birth son could not find his iPhone.
We assumed it was somewhere in the house, and would turn up.
As my wife was rummaging through the freezer looking for tea, she discovered a Tupperware container containing frozen water.
Deep in the frozen water was our son’s iPhone.
We knew it had been placed there by our foster child.
Had he done this to spite our son? Was he jealous? What was he trying to tell us?
We asked him, but as anticipated, he ran off to his room, denying any knowledge of any phone, the freezer, Tupperware or water.
Our daughter solved the mystery.
It was plain to see in the Foster Child’s YouTube history
He had recently searched ‘What to do when your iPhone freezes’
Yes, that’s right, he’d given this question a very literal interpretation, and frozen the first iPhone that came to hand.
He was not being naughty, he was being curious!
We thought the phone was ruined but at least the motivation was not as serious as we’d first thought.
Remarkably, the phone thawed out and worked perfectly until the end of contract.
On another occasion, the same foster kid received a ‘pay as you go mobile’ from Grandad for his birthday.
He had an obsession with phones and we’d thought he’d be delighted.
And he was.
For a couple of hours.
The phone was in his hands by 10.00am.
By 2.00pm he was smashing it to crap with a hammer.
Did he hate the phone? Did he hate Grandad? Did he hate birthdays?
No, he hated himself.
We worked out that the ‘gift’ just did not fit with his self image.
As his parents had rejected him, so he had to reject anyone or anything that suggested ‘love’.
He could not cope with anyone or anything that suggested he was loveable.
It took us a while to work that out, but it’s helped us cope with Christmas, birthdays and any other occasion when we might show obvious love and affection.
It has got better.
When the red mist comes down, which could be triggered by absolutely anything, we have learnt to move as much as possible out of harm’s way, and let the anger burn out.
A good meltdown would involve the throwing of cushions and pillows.
If there were no soft furnishings to hand, anything that could be trashed would be trashed.
On one occasion, after a fraught day at school, he was ‘proper fuming’ to use the local vernacular.
Kitchen chairs were being knocked over with a satisfying crash and his Primary aged fists were pummelling the table, the floor and the walls.
My wife and I were standing back and would only intervene if he was in danger of hurting himself.
But we’d made an error.
In the middle of the table was a bottle of juice, or ‘squash’, if you’re southern.
It was Apple and Blackcurrant, a colour combination that is known to stain.
And the lid had been left off.
‘This will take some cleaning’ was the thought in both our heads.
As our Little Man’s anger raged on, he spotted the bottle.
But then he stopped, and still seething with rage, he found the lid, and screwed it on as tight as he could.
Back on the table, rather like a rugby ball waiting to be converted, the bottle was then launched across the kitchen by a well aimed punched.
We were amazed.
This was the first time the Little Man had ‘self regulated’ during a meltdown.
As was often the case, he then calmed, and within minutes was watching Tracey Beaker, as if absolutely nothing had happened.
Stopping, and pausing, and minimising the damage was a massive step.
Meltdowns didn’t end.
There is still damage.
But every day that kid feels a bit safer and is a little bit calmer.
In my mind, what you see as a Carer for a traumatised child is ‘fear masquerading as anger’.
And, let’s face it, some kids have got a lot to be scared of and have a a lot to be angry about.
If you’re precious about stuff, and live in a show home, you probably want to give fostering a big swerve. If you want to make a difference, contact me or your Local Council.