Today's blog comes from El, who saw our Sons & Daughters blogs on Twitter and was inspired to share her own experiences about growing up with foster carers for parents.
Home has always been chaotic! If four active children weren’t too much to handle then my parents prepared themselves for a full house time and time again over the years. The front door was always open – metaphorically and literally – to friends, family and visitors. My siblings and I were brought up amongst faithful Labradors, disinterested cats, squeaky guinea-pigs, a wild warren of rabbits and latterly, a raft of ducks and a greedy pot-bellied pig.
However, as loveable as all the pet animals were, it was the array of foster children that shared our house that made it a real home.
The first night was always an eye-opener. Typically, in the dark of the evening, a sole toddler would be delivered to our house by a concerned social worker in their people carrier, all their worldly possessions in tow. Sometimes they were laden with clothes, furry toys and their favourite blanket, however on the odd occasion they only had, pardon the cliché, the clothes on their back! For the eldest girl in an already large family, this was particularly shocking as I had never wanted for anything and already had a very full wardrobe and a vast collection of china dolls and cuddly rabbits (I was a little obsessed with rabbits as a youngster!). I soon grew accustomed not to judge the child on their belongings, but rather on their character.
After arguing with my younger two brothers and baby sister as to who would show the ‘newbie’ to their bedroom and help Mum bath them, it was my chance to watch these unusual creatures and to see what made them smile or cry. Often, their worried looks meant that they didn’t take to any of us straight away but a good hot supper and lots of juice meant they relaxed enough to be able to settle in their new, alien bedroom. Having always been a people pleaser and receiving great satisfaction from hearing kids laugh, in the first few days of a foster-child’s stay I would tend to take them up onto the big trampoline in the garden and see how they enjoyed bouncing around. This was such a new experience for most of the toddlers that a few times their light little bodies would almost fly off the edge causing me enormous stress. Lesson learned. Always have two eyes on little ones!
Actually, for the ten years I lived at home whilst Mum and Dad were fostering, I learned a lot of lessons. Children love getting messy and eating sweet things. Wait, scrap that. All children love getting messy whilst eating and think nothing of throwing food around the kitchen or dining table! During my countless babysitting experiences I have been there to hand out plasters, teach them swimming, encouraged them to care for pets and been there to assist in baking. All of which have been great memories and a milestone in each child’s life.
Having children move into live with your family is never an easy experience but if I can find the calm in the chaos, then I’m sure many others can too.
You can follow El on Twitter - @ElsterD