Friday, 25 September 2015

Do foster children make good parents?

Jane and I were unlucky that we were never blessed with children but quite often I wonder what it would have been like to have had a son or a daughter. I do think having good role models must help somebody to be a good parent and I think both my parents always did their best.

My Father's health was ruined serving his country but when he came home he didn't, or so my Mother told me, even complain or say that what happened "wasn't fair". He didn't want charity and he used to force himself to go to work even when not feeling well. It is sad that I don't remember him but I do know that my Mother loved him dearly and that his early death was a terrible blow to her.

My Mother worked hard to provide for me. She worked long hours is not very exciting jobs so that the two of us had somewhere reasonable to live and enough food to live on. I think she sometimes only gave herself tiny portions saying she wasn't hungry so that I had enough to eat. She always put me first. When her mental health got worse she needed help that just wasn't available. She coped for as long as she possibly could before eventually having to go as an in-patient at the mental hospital. In the months before her memory went completely she would ask how I was managing on my own, she didn't realise that because I was only 14 I had been put into foster care. I think that would have really upset her so I am glad she never realised.

My foster parents were not such good role models. They were never nasty to me it is just that they never seemed interested in what I was doing or how I was feeling. It is quite hard to put into words without seeming too ungrateful but it was all rather like living with strangers rather than with somebody who cared about you. Perhaps if they had cared a bit more they could have helped me pay for the new school uniform I would have needed if I had gone into the 6th form at school. I got the grades but I just didn't have the money.

Mrs H who became my landlady would have made a wonderful parent. She was a widow but she treated me just like I was her own child. She was one of the nicest and most caring people that I have ever met and I would love to think that some of her niceness rubbed off on me.

Jane's parents (Jane was my wife, she is dead now) were very kind to both of us especially in the early years of our marriage when money was in short supply. They treated both of their girls equally and they only offered advice when it was asked for. They never interfered.

So overall I think I did quite well for role models and I think Jane and I would have been good parents so it is sad that we were never given the opportunity to prove it.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Family traditions and the foster child

Although I am quite old (over 60) my skills in Information Technology are not too bad. Not as good as the youngsters I know of course but much better than the retired people I see doing the Beginners or Intermediate courses in the local library.

I thought that this site was quite interesting.

In a strange way reading what foster parents are supposed to do now makes me both happy and sad at the same time. It is good that more is done now to make the foster child feel loved and wanted but it makes me cross that nobody seemed very bothered about that sort of thing when I was being fostered in the 1960s and 1970s.

My foster parents were white working class. They were not religious, except at Christmas time when they used to play Christmas carols on an old mono record player. Christmas and Easter were just holidays from having to go to work and would involve them sitting in front of the TV watching old films or various Christmas Specials. Most of my non-fostered pals would be expected to stay at home with their families over the main holiday time so I used to get bored with having nobody to have fun with. I used to go out to the park when the remains of the Roman walls are and walk round and round the lake just to pass the time. Quite often there would be families there with the youngsters trying out their new bike or other toys and it used to make me rather left out of things.

For some reason my foster parents were far more generous at Easter rather than Christmas. I used to get 1 big chocolate egg and 6 of those small cream filled eggs from them. I used to make them last a whole week.

Obviously my foster parents must have had some family but I cannot remember much about them so I am guessing that they either lived a long way away or that there had been a family row sometime in the past and they had stopped talking to them. I certainly don't remember any family visits, phone calls or letters.

All this meant that when I left foster care I didn't really have any family traditions to take with me when I went into lodgings with Mrs H.  Mrs H was quite old, but she was lovely and she made my birthday and Easter and Christmas feel like special times. Decorating the Christmas tree always made her cry a bit because she had been doing that when the police called to tell her that her husband had been killed in a factory accident.

When I moved away to live in Wolverhampton to live with my new wife Mrs H made me promise to put the little angel she gave me on top of the Christmas tree every year. And every year I still do!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Foster kids and their lack of fixed points

"Friends come and go but your family never changes." - that was something that Mike used to say quite often. Usually when he had a pint of lager in his hand!

Mike had lots of casual friends but I think I was the only one he would have called a close friend. He used to work long hours when he was doing up houses so by the time he finished work there was usually not much time left for socialising. It was Mike who introduced me to the hobby of stamp collecting and he had a very fine collection that he left to me in his Will. I think it is probably worth quite a lot of money although I would never even think of selling it. I think the only social event he would always go to was attending the monthly meeting of whichever was his nearest stamp club.

Because he didn't have a family to talk to I always felt that underneath the cheery exterior there was quite a lonely person. In all of the years I knew him he almost never mentioned his birth family. I think he must have had a very troubled time as a youngster and like most men of his and my age he didn't find it easy to talk about his feelings. We used to joke about how few birthday and Christmas cards we used to get but in his case I think his jokes were just a way of hiding that he was feeling sad.

Although he and I had a lot in common we were different in other ways. I always wanted a job where I was working with other people. Mike tended to think of other people as being unreliable so he always did his building projects on his own. I never felt the same amount of restlessness that troubled Mike all the years that I knew him. Wherever it was that he was living it always felt that he was planning his next move to somewhere else. I think he was looking for somewhere or something that he couldn't find.

I don't know for sure where Mike lived before he ended up in St Albans. He had a London accent so perhaps it was from somewhere down there. After he died his solicitor and I went through all his belongings . Mike had stopped his building projects after the bad news from his doctor so he was living in a medium sized flat but it didn't take long for us to realise that Mike had destroyed most of his "made of paper" history in the weeks before he died. I think he must have guessed he was very ill and didn't want people prying into his past once he had gone. The only important  name that we could find was the person he left his money too. She was his last-but-one lady friend and she must have got a real shock when the large cheque arrived.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Mike, my best pal, was a foster child too.

Mike - just how I remember him
Mike was my best friend for over 30 years and when he died in April 2011 it hit me very badly indeed. We had exchanged letters and emails about every ten days for all that time so I suppose it isn't surprising that when that stopped I felt really sad.

Mike was a very skilled builder and decorator and that is how he made his living. He would buy a house that was tatty but just about OK to live in and he would transform it. I saw loads of "before and after" photos of projects he had done and it was amazing what he could achieve.

He would sell the improved house at a good profit and use some of the money to buy another house to start working on. But in the gap between finishing one house and starting on the next he used to do something very strange - he would go on a quite long and expensive sea cruise. I can remember at least 10 of these cruise he did and he must have seen more of the world than most people. I was quite jealous when he visited Antarctica and when another time he went to New Zealand.

Another strange thing he used to do was to suddenly get bored of where he was living so he would pick somewhere almost at random and move there. When I first met him he was living in Watford, then it was Taunton, then Hull and finally Chester. He used to say that he had never had a home as a grown-up. He just had places where he lived. I have heard other foster children say that as well so perhaps it is a common feeling to have?

Mike never married but he had lots a lady friends. Sometimes in his letters I could tell that part of his brain wanted to settle down while the other part was so restless that settling down to married life was never going to happen.

Mike was a fixed point in my life. Part of my weekly routine and somebody I could share things with that might seem strange to a non-fostered person. He helped me sort out my wife’s funeral and that was typical of the man he was. I think he deserved better than he got from his life. Hardly anybody made the effort to go his funeral and there were less than ten of us there.