As a parent of three children, I feel I am skilled in the art of the elusive ‘playdate’. For all of my children’s lives I have worked full time as a teacher and so, when a playdate was arranged there was at least a 75% chance that I would have forgotten about it by the time the day actually came around.
What I thought in my head would be an afternoon of craft activities that wouldn’t look out of place in The Louvre, baking which would put Mary Berry to shame and exquisite cuisine that would have the other mums rushing to Waitrose, would inevitably end up as last-minute colouring sheet print outs, Rice Krispie cake making and me rolling out the ‘ole faithful – chicken nuggets, chips and beans. It hit the spot every time. So, when Friday came around at the end of my first week of fostering I whipped open the freezer and pulled out my trusty friends. My confidence was growing and I felt that ‘Friday buzz’ that only a woman about to experience a fall could feel. I served dinner. I sat back. I was smug. It lasted all of about, 15 seconds.
All the children tucked in…..all but one. I felt my confidence ebb. I was genuinely taken aback. Surely, out of all of those things in life, we could rely on, children loving chicken nuggets would be up there as a near certainty. I tried ketchup, mayonnaise, bribery (yes, I’ll admit I’m not against a little ‘compromise’ when dealing with children) but to no avail. The scowl that looked back at me would have reflected the look of someone who I had just served rotten fish to. I won’t lie, it was a loss and I took it (inwardly) very badly. I felt as if one of the pivotal columns which my parenting rested on had been smashed in front of me.
Now, I know I sound dramatic. I mean, come one, it’s just a meal, but it suddenly made me look at all of the absolute fundamentals that I parent by. My forms of discipline, how I praise, risk assess, interact and how I form relationships. All of it was suddenly up for discussion and revision. It was a wake-up call. One which couldn’t have been portrayed in a training session or explored throughout the Foster Carer assessment process. It was a single physical act by a very small human which made me realise that flexibility, adaptation and most importantly, an erasing of everything I thought I knew as a certainty, was in order. I suddenly understood that I was going to change just as much as these children in front of me during this placement.