We were going on holiday.
The evidence was clear.
Sun cream, swimming goggles and phones chargers were being piled up on the kitchen table.
Flip flops, buckets and spades, and a snapped body board had made their annual migration from the shed to the hallway.
The Little Man had been to the phone shop four times, and was keen to go again.
We’d learnt that repeated demands to visit Dr Mobile, a 10 minute walk away, was a clear sign of stress.
Four trips, with another on the horizon, suggested we were peaking at ‘maximum anxiety’.
Whilst my wife and our birth kids made preparations for a week at a well known seaside caravan park, I patiently made the journey to look at phone cases again, and again, and again, and again.
The Little Man loved the seaside.
He loved the sea, and the slot machines, and the shows, and the battered sausages.
But he didn’t like change.
In the world of fostering and adoption, change of any type is known as a ‘transition’.
Any transition, or change from the routine and ‘norm’, even to do something nice, can lead to deregulation and absolute chaos.
Adults are also likely to be somewhat on edge and this can be picked up by a kid and magnified.
I’m yet to meet a Foster Carer or Adopter who hasn’t thought that the whole ‘holiday experience’ is not worth the bother.
We firmly believe our kids deserve the same experiences as every other kid, and this means leaving where you live and visiting somewhere else.
We’ve been on holiday all over the UK, and when legally possible, taken foster kids to Spain and France.
We’ve learnt to do what works and swerve what doesn’t.
We explain roughly where we’re going and what we will be doing.
We avoid giving too many details, as this can be held as evidence against us if plans change.
The Little Man, like so many others who have experienced significant trauma, can rarely be described as ‘flexible’.
If we say we’re going to the beach, then that’s what he expects to do.
No mitigating factors still be accepted if the advertised plan changes.
We take familiar things with us.
France is known for its Haute Cuisine but we still pack several parks of noodles from Poundland.
We load iPads with favourite programmes.
We pack as many teddies, phone cases, and other familiar toys as are desired.
We walk a fine line between trying to broaden horizons and doing what works.
Caravan parks are generally very similar. The familiarity brings a sense of calm. We’ve found that booking a similar caravan, whether in Yorkshire, Wales or Brittany makes everything that little bit easier.
We often go on holiday with friends who are also Foster Carers or Adopters.
It’s great to be with people who have the same expectations as we do.
It’s great to be with people whose eyes are full of sympathy rather than judgement, whilst you’re managing a meltdown in the queue at a Pay and Display Car Park.
Our expectations may be modest by some standards.
We eat out, but generally avoid your Michelin Star Restaurants, and anything else that may be referred to as ‘fine dining’.
We preferr ‘Eat all you can buffets’ or Burger King.
Buffets provide you with a legitimate reason to wander about and the service tends to be quicker.
At Burger King you also get a free hat.
I also think there’s a beauty in simplicity.
We are unlikely to go white water rafting or exploring the Serengeti anytime soon.
We will not be contributing to the wealth of The Casino owners in Vegas.
The Great Barrier Reef will have to cope without my family poking about it’s nether regions.
However, we have built a system of sea defences and sand castles that briefly defied the waves of The North Sea before being washed away.
We have spent a very pleasant hour looking for lost coins under the slot machines in Rhyl, and then a further hour reinvesting our hard found cash in the Penny Falls, providing a cost neutral activity.
We have spent an entire afternoon exploring a solitary rock pool just south of Filey, armed only with a bucket, spade and a net sellotaped on to a piece of bamboo.
Our best find was a ‘hermit crab’.
I explained to the Little Man that such crabs have no shell of their own.
They have to find an empty shell.
They adapt and squish their body shape to fit inside.
Then, they are safe.
He looked at me and I looked at him and we had one of those golden moments.
He’s not one for metaphors, but we both knew what the other was thinking.