If you look back over your life, do you believe you have made a lot of mistakes or just a lot of choices?
I wouldn’t mind betting that you’ve said ‘mistakes’ and I’d have agreed with you, a few years ago.
Remembering some of the decisions I have made, well they could be seen as rather cringe-worthy than as a mistake .
For example I decided, over a year and a half ago, to apply to become a Foster Carer, a single carer and yep, not for children or babies. No, me I had to be the one who I decided to go for broke and foster teenagers! Crazy or what! But hey, I thought that all I needed to do was to just remember what I was like as a teenager and use that experience to get me through the tough times. How wrong I was.
After the 6 months of going over my life with a fine tooth comb, answering very personal questions about my family history and my childhood I was finally ‘granted’ permission to look after other people’s ‘forgotten’ children.
During the process I found it therapeutic in many ways and also discovered much about myself that I didn’t know existed.
I think at the time I was trying to prove something. Prove to other’s and to myself that I could do something as good as this, take on someone’s else’s child with all their issues, problems and usually, horrible circumstances. I, Paula, didn’t need to have my own children and I’d be different by becoming some kind of ‘super woman’ who’d take on any child!
Who was I to think that I am better because I am fostering children? Who am I to look at other’s and say ‘well they need someone’ and I’ve got this covered.
Needless to say it was extremely difficult, I was not prepared for the absconding, the worry, the anxiety and the total lack of support from the social workers. I was left alone to deal with this 15-year-old girl, who hated her mother, herself more and who no doubt knew the system inside out before I got involved.
This piece is not about how I view fostering caring, but more to do with the choice I made at that time. I will admit that I had a ‘I’m such a good person’ attitude when I decided to foster, but I also deep down inside, wanted to make some kind of difference and that was genuine. However, I wasn’t really ready to take on this commitment and I knew it.
In the end I had to quit after only 9 months. I quit for two reasons, one because the girl I had living with me didn’t need a single ‘mother’ type or indeed a friend – she needed a hell of a lot more. The second reason is that I knew I was just not cut out for it. Simple really. And it was horrible. Admitting that to yourself is embarrassing, humiliating and a total disaster. Not only di I going back on everything I had said, I had wasted so much of everyone’s time including my own.
But had I?
If I had taken another road and not decided to Foster children would I one day have thought ‘what if’? Honestly? Probably not. But I do know that it was not a mistake. It was a choice I made, no one forced me into it. I went into it with my eyes open, except they were a little rose-tinted.
I am glad of that choice however, because although I gave up and admitted to myself why I had made that decision. I am a lot more clued up to what I actually want now. I look back at that time as I know now that persist in area’s I would never have persisted before. I also realise that children are not to be taken lightly and that for me having a child is a massive decision.
I am not a bad person for making that choice, it was just not the right road for me and it took me going down it to realise that – otherwise how would I have grown?
I sometimes wonder where she is now and if she is happy. I hope so. She was still a little girl trapped inside a teenagers body. She just wanted to be loved. That’ all any child wants and needs.
So I guess what I am trying to say is that making choices can never be seen as a mistake, even if they aren’t the right one for you. See them as a choice, a road, a path to something better down the line.
I’ll tell you what, I am not the same person now. I am grateful for that experience. The sleepless nights, phone calls to the police and walking on glass moments because there might be a blow out at any given time.
Really I am…..