For the tenth time this week Holly chose not to play with our youngest kid. She is always really happy to play with our older boy but when it comes to the other child excuses are made, effort drops off and our little girl is ignored and dismissed. It really, really winds us up.
Some of the reason it affects us badly is because it’s splitting our family. The rule in our house is that everyone is loved and accepted and all get to play. When someone decides against someone else it undermines that special cohesion that we have. Secondly, we know it is about laziness. Our youngest is not as funny or entertaining as our boy and so she is dismissed as irrelevant to Hollys need to be constantly entertained. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, it really hurts our little girl – she is confused by her brother being able to join in playing with her and she feels lonely and rejected. As parents, this is the outcome that really pushes our buttons!
When your buttons are pushed like this as carers it takes extra strength to step back and reflect. Of course there are ways that we can try to improve things, such as games which they both enjoy or deliberate times where we put them together and ask them to collaborate artistically or with lego. What you realise at times like this however is how easy it is to really dislike some of the kids that come into your care. Let’s be honest the word ‘grateful’ is hardly synonymous with fostering but when one of you hurts it’s amazing how fast your brain goes to that place of judgement over a child in care.
A while back I wrote about where love fits into the fostering world and I revisited it today as I was reminded that if we only looked after the kids we liked there would be a far worse shortage in foster carers than there is currently. That feeling that is beyond ‘like’ has to give you enough strength to keep going, has to give you enough grit to see through another day when you are sneered at or one of your loved ones is hurt. It has to remind you of the fact that all children deserve more of us and a model of relational resilience which they have not necessarily experienced before.
Oddly enough, our youngest kicked off tonight about something completely unrelated to Holly. As she was shouting and screaming and accusing us of all kinds of stuff it occurred to me that in that moment there was nothing in me that liked what was in front of me. Despite this I had a real peace as I knew it would blow over and normal service would be resumed before long. Love, I suppose, is the rich fuel to keep going with whomever is around you. Maybe you can identify with this, maybe not but I do think love is what separates out good carers from others and it is those children who journey with those carers who are affected long term.