You know how you always think of the perfect put-down about 5 minutes too late?
Well, today, for about the first time in my life, it came out right away, and it was a great feeling.
It all started a week ago. Driving home on the school run I was waiting to pull out onto a busy roundabout, the car behind hooted. You just don't take any chances with looked-afters in the car. I waved sweetly at the car behind, to remind that I wasn't a car I was a person. In the mirror the teenager sitting next to the driver started giving us gestures.
The looked-after was mortified. They've seen so much confrontation they don't want any more, however mild. This child's parent had fought with everybody; social workers, the police, benefits officers. Neighbours, friends, family. The child would have been stood there, time after time, burning up with embarrassment.
I apologised to the child, tried to explain safety is everything, felt a bit guilty that I'd reacted as I did.
Today we went to PC World to check out stuff for Christmas. Child is contemplating a big budget main present against a bundle of lesser ones. Wanted to see what these tablets are all about.
We'd already decided that child is not getting a tablet. Not before me anyway, for crying out loud. Too expensive. An upgraded DS maybe (hand held children's mini computer to play safe sophisticated games on).
But the child is entitled to check out all options, so we went to a counter where there were tablets and laptops set up for you to try. The child found one, started browsing, picked a car race game, fired it up. I walked to the end of the aisle to confer with partner. "The games aren't that brilliant, I think we'll get a walkaway." But suddenly, here's the child stomping past us with a grim face. I asked what's up. The child said "A man said could I get off the tablet, he wanted to go on it."
This, as a parent, one does not like. I looked along the aisle to the tablet. Mr and Mrs Important. Salmon pink V neck cashmere over a light blue weekend button down shirt, crisp silver hair, moleskin strides. Her husband was dressed the same.
We live in a country full of people who think children are irrelevant. It's not just the lost souls down on the sink estate, they're everywhere.
The child must have seen my face get somehow set. "Don't say anything! Leave it! Alright!"
So I respected the request, and we decided to go. As we got close to the sliding doors, I discreetly hid a carrier bag of pet food we'd bought earlier. When we got to the car I said "Oh flip, I left the pet stuff in there, I'll just nip back."
Mr and Mrs Important are still at the machine.
"Excuse me" I said "Did you throw my child off this tablet?"
Mr Important not at all thrown. "We said would you mind letting us look at this please?" I said "You had no right to do that, you upset the child, you wouldn't do that to an adult, ever, would you?"
Mr Important replied "These aren't for kids to play on!"
I said "The child is here choosing a Christmas present, has as much right as anybody to use these things, and if you knew what the child had been through, you'd be ashamed."
Mrs Important kind of gets it. "Oh dear, we do apologise, please apologise for us."
Mr Important's expression is clear: not convinced that he might have no more status than a mere... child.
Then it came out of my mouth, perfectly, for once.
"Treat children like adults. Then I won't have to sometimes treat adults like children."
There was a 2 second silence. I'd actually managed to hit a spot. I turned and walked away.
Sometimes it's easier to stick up for someone less well-off than yourself, than yourself.
Got back to the car. With the pet bits.
Child pretended, I think, not to know I'd had a word with Mr Important.
If the child is with us for a long time, one day I may ask if child remembers the incident, and if child knew I went back in and stuck up for child. I would like to think the answer will be yes.
I hope the child felt good that their foster carer wanted their foster child to be respected.
The foster carer felt very good about finally getting the right put-down out on time.
The Secret Foster Carer