Saturday, 6 December 2014

All that yummy stuff

"Remember Onesie Night?" YT (Younger Teen) asked me this today during my visit to the prison. I remember it very well. It was one evening last winter and the boy was bored, which generally results in him going out and getting up to something antisocial. We were already dressed for bed, in not-quite-matching onesies that he had insisted on putting in the trolley last time we went grocery shopping. Searching for a diversion, something - anything, I suggested we drive to the 24 hour supermarket a few miles away to buy a DVD and some pick and mix. So that's what we did...still in onesies. We behaved like naughty, overgrown children in a virtually empty ASDA and then returned home to watch Karate Kid and eat Haribo under a duvet on the sofa. It is one of my most treasured memories of my time with YT so I'm not sure why it surprised me that he remembered it fondly too.

For OT (Older Teen) the memory he has of his time placed with me, almost two years ago, is the evening I dragged him out into the back garden to point out the International Space Station passing overhead. He happened to be home at the right time, I thought he might get a kick out of spotting it, I thought it was just one of those things that hadn't made much impact, but two years later out of nowhere he says "Remember when you showed me that space thing in the back garden? I think about that a lot."

I made a point of going out to eat regularly with both boys, OT was bemused by this and YT very anxious to begin with, it wasn't something either did much with their families. Both nominally ended up in care due to their challenging behaviour, always the tip of the iceberg in my experience, so were rarely taken anywhere where they might show their parents up. Actually whenever I went to a pub or restaurant with either of them they behaved impeccably. I arranged outings too, which I don't think Supported Living Carers do that often given that we are only paid to provide board and lodging, but I got a kick out of seeing their enjoyment. OT liked going with me to the cinema, YT loved the skate park and enjoyed it far more with an enthusiastic audience member.

I suppose the reason I really did it was to give them memories like the ones they recalled in the visits hall. The training officer for my LA used to talk about giving the children and young people in our care cuddles, quality time, play "and all that yummy stuff." When your charges are 16+ you don't really expect to be doing that. I teach that age group and most would do anything to avoid a day out or evening in with their significant adult but not so with care-experienced young people. Both of my lads would spend time with me over time with the PlayStation, their mates or girlfriends because an interested adult is a novelty. Even at 16 and 18 they were still seeking that connection with a caring parental figure.

So for now prison visits are all we have, memories of time shared in the past. Next year they are both due for release and I'm looking forward to creating new memories with them both, lots more "yummy stuff."

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