How big is your world?
One of the first children we cared for was nearly four years old when he arrived.
On his second day with us he dutifully held my hand as we headed off to the local park.
It seemed like a fairly ordinary yet potentially fun activity. I tend to think out loud and I wittered on about the size of the park, the swings in the park, parks I’d visited, and began to sing Blur‘s Parklife, even though I didn’t know the words.
The kid offered no opinion on parks when asked. In fact, he was yet to utter a word. Unperturbed, I led him across the final road. This kid was not the first person to ignore my wittering and I thought nothing of it.
As we left the pavement and walked on the grass, he stopped, pointed, and muttered something barely audible.
I looked to see what had caught his attention. I assumed there’d be something remarkable. Perhaps someone was flying a kite, or there was a funfair. I scanned the scene but could see nothing of any particular interest.
It was just a park, a nice park, but just a park, like loads of other parks.
I followed his eye line and outstretched arm.
The little boy was pointing at a tree.
“It’s a tree.” I touched the tree. I rubbed the bark.
Tentatively he held out his hand and rubbed the rough bark just as I had done.
It was fairly evident that he’d never seen a tree before, and certainly never touched one.
We spent 20 minutes with that tree. We stared at it, we walked around it, we looked up at its height and we felt its bark.
We learnt the word ‘tree’ and then we learnt ‘leaf’ and ‘twig’.
We spent many wonderful hours exploring that park.
We worked out, purely by observation, that he’d never experienced the wonder of television, knew nothing of swimming pools, cinemas, shops, ball pools, or bath time. Quite what he’d been doing for the years before he came to live with us remained a mystery, but we guessed that his world had been very very small.
Over the 15 months he lived with us, we introduced him to all that normal stuff.
We also showed him a world where there was always enough to eat, you’d always be warm, and where people would not hurt you.
Sometimes fostering is about doing the most simple of things.
Maybe we’ll travel further abroad when we’re older.
But for now, there’s a whole new world at the end of our street, and it’s just waiting to be discovered.