An introduction to the trials and tribulations of our family life, additional needs, and unnecessary film and poetry references.
Ten years ago, I was a parent of two children, both bright witty and engaging (obviously). A boy and a girl.
I was also a Professional, a Speech and Language Therapist, I liked Science, investigation and finding answers.
Oh I was a wife as well (still am in fact, apologies Mr Pearlie J)
A control freak, sometime depressive, a Church goer and Christian. A book mad, self deprecating, film loving stereotype. Not very house proud (no change there).
Living in a house of loud opinionated people suited me pretty well, but one amongst us felt the family just wasn’t finished, and as we are both the youngest of three we set to, to complete it.
I’ve worked with various types of acquired and developmental disorders in my job. I never automatically assumed that our children would be perfect, but having produced two who seemed just fine, was fairly laid back about this one.
Besides special children did not happen to people like me. There were none in my circle of friends. When I did see parents of these children they seemed patient, able to cope, well organised. They’d probably chosen, or been chosen, for this path in some mystical way. Also there weren’t that many children like that out there.
Naivety has been an abiding part of my life, a constant course of hilarity amongst my nearest and dearest. I am in fact the person who believed the word gullible had been taken out of the dictionary. I had given birth to a Pearl of a girl at home, with no pain relief (look on my deeds you mighty and despair). Perfect. I had well and truly nailed this parenting lark.
At this point I will introduce you to Pearl. In a family of leaders she is noisy, self assured and communicative. Oh and nonverbal. Did I mention nonverbal? She communicates by pointing, shouting “yeah” or shaking her head and by signing biscuit. Or cake. She shamelessly uses charm, persistence and leadership skills (not bullying obviously) to bend the world around her to her will. Pearl is 9, she dribbles profusely, has learning difficulties. is still in nappies, can’t dress or care for herself, and although she can walk has significant mobility issues and uses a wheelchair or K walker. She has changed everything.
Oh and somebody forgot to tell her she was disabled.
If you have a mind to, stick around and I’ll tell you what we’ve learnt , how to succeed in parenting (hollow laugh) and how to remove chocolate from a wide variety of surfaces.
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll hurl .No? Just me then.
Incidentally we have no diagnosis. Just the wrong kind of snow changing our travel plans.
I’m not sure this was exactly what Mum on a Missionhad in mind when she set day 2 of #30daySEND bloggers challenge. I know she has an excellent campaigning blog in mind, but I’m feeling egocentric-so settle down, or switch off as the mood takes you. If you find you already did know them, consider yourself one of the inner circle. Welcome to my world.
1. I judge people on coffee. I’m very polite, you’d never know. Instant coffee is NOT coffee. Similarly decaffienated-what’s that all about then?
2. I love antique and vintage things. Before blogging I had a little Vintage business Pearlie Queen Collectables (that child gets everywhere) selling homewares and decorative glass and ceramics.(Oh and owls.That is a whole other story) My eldest used to help and we sold at fairs and markets always dressed up vintagely.
3. I was a committed Christian. I think I still might be. Since Pearl, I have had a real struggle over faith, meaning and the purpose of life. It all appears to me to be very random, and some of the things said to me about healing, strength and being a special parent really haven’t helped. Still on a bit of a journey of discovery on this one. Suspect most of us are.
4. I worry. All the time
About money. We are in a very fortunate position, but are both employed by my husbands business. What if it fails?
About health. What if I die or become really ill? What if the Mister does? Who will care for a small special Pearl?
About the future, do I have the stamina to care in the long term?
About Pearl’s health, what if the epilepsy gets worse? What if her mobility deteriorates?
5. I can’t bear people making assumptions about me based on my appearance, gender,accent, politics or beliefs. I can become quite aggressive if I see someone doing this to someone else too. I try very hard to rein in my own assumptions when meeting others, and make every effort to notice those I do make. Unless I see someone drinking decaf instant coffee, then all bets are off.
6. I have a tendency towarsds depression. It’s hideous when it’s here, but it is possible to live with it, and I have had plenty of practice. I believe in Citalopram, exercise and occasional hibernation.You absolutely do not have to be afraid of me because of this, I am a master of disguise, with a well chosen outfit, the right amount of slap, and an impressive smile you would be none the wiser.
7. I am a little bit obsessed with clothes. And styling. And design. And handbags. Oh and shoes. It’s getting worse as I get older. If I see a stylish soul out and about I compliment them. Complete strangers. Mainly people are delighted, except my teenage daughter, who if with me, is mortified especially when it’s her friends I’m complimenting.
8. I am tired and emotionally wrung out much of the time.
Tired of fighting the system for provision that is necessity not luxury.
Tired of wrangling a small girl who can’t bear the ordinary routine of dressing, tooth brushing, and washing.
Tired of the smell of nappies in the house.
Tired of handling people’s stares going out.
Tired most of all of being patient, understanding and reasonable. Surely it is my turn to have a meltdown in public?
I am basically tired of being the grown up and would like someone else to take a shift.
9. I love to laugh. Generally,despite everything I find life to be lovely, people to be fabulous and nearly every situation potentially hilarious. Unless the black dog is visiting obviously and then-well more if that on a future blog.
10. I hate waste. Medicines that have not been opened or used have to be thrown away?Really? Splints that have been grown out of into landfill? In ‘Austerity Britain’? This does not sit well with me.
10.5 ( Oh go on, humour me) I think T.K.Maxx should be offered on prescription:
“take 2 hours browsing at least once a month. In emergency cases of extreme fed-upness enter immediately and do not leave without an unnecessary tea towel or mug.”
I leave you with a picture of a Radley Handbag I bought from a charity shop, neatly encapsulating points seven and ten.
You are most welcome.
Why not check out other fabulous SEND bloggers on Firefly Community? Join in, comment and take part!
It finally happened. I realised I have a terrible addiction. My laptop has died and I feel like part of me has been removed.
Blogging for me is quite old school, I write long hand in a real book with real paper and pen. I settle down with my beautiful laptop and type and edit and fidget. I also do my paid work on it, and all our family admin too. I am not very good at typing on the tiny screen of my phone.
Yet here I am. A SEND bloggers group I am part of is doing a 30 day blogging challenge, and I want in!
It will be short, it may be pointless, it absolutely will be typed very slowly with one finger and wearing my bifocals .
Why is the blog called The Wrong Kind Of Snow? If you’ve been a regular reader you will know.
I love names,and slogans and brands. I’d considered “Home thoughts from a Broad”(already taken unfortunately) I toyed with “Adventures in..” and having several blogs Adventures in Vintage/Antique/Parenting/Disability/Autism but realised that might be too ambitious. As one of the big supermarkets recently started using this, I’m glad I ditched this although I did wonder if I’d missed my calling and should be working in marketing.
Reflecting on Pearl’s lack of diagnosis and the catch all term that is Global Developmental Delay I thought of explanations given by British Rail for journey disruption.I did consider “Leaves on the Line and other reasons for delay ‘ but it was overlong and didn’t stick.
One winter the rail companies exceeded themselves by blaming the wrong kind of snow on delays and disruptions.Perfect ! Snow has a quality of stillness, nostalgia, longing and rarity that appealed. I wanted to capture some of these feelings in the blog.
The desperate excitement and longing to get out into the snow, quickly replaced by the desire to be anywhere else, once the reality sets in seemed particularly apt.
Two months into the blog and nine and a half years into the life of a small person, a diagnosis arrived in the post.
“One Girl’s Journey with a Novo Mutation on GNAO1” ?!?
Politics.It’s everywhere.You wait around for a General Election and then two come along in quick succession.
So how do you vote? Follow your family, stick with your tribe? is anything that goes on in Westminster relevant to the daily grind anyway?
Yesterday I was minding my own business, parenting and such like, when politics came up and slapped me hard across the face. I took my son to an assessment to see if he qualifies for PIP.
I’ll explain.Once there was a boy who was little eccentric and rather old fashioned. He muddled along with friends in the school system until Secondary School, or “living hell” as he preferred to call it. Becoming extremely angry with violent outbursts in school, he would tear his clothes swear at teachers and have to be physically restrained.My boy became suicidal, self harming and desperately,desperately sad. Eventually he was removed from school, provided with a tutor for 18 months, and placed in a Special School for children with autistic spectrum disorders.
The boy had secretly been harbouring Asperger’s, and his otherwise remarkable (and modest) mother simply hadn’t noticed it.
The care needs at the time, related to the Asperger’s and his depression,were significant. As a result we received Disability Living Allowance. This was easy to apply for (hollow laugh) and only required the filling in of a colossal form with appended information from all his healthcare team and his educational statement.
When politicians get a bit bored, they look around for something to fix.When they want to impress the voters, they like to show you they are saving you money
For this reason (Insert Fanfare) The PIP or Personal Independence Payment was born! See how it removes the word ‘disability’ from its title replacing it with the hipper “independence’. Marvel as all the disabled people who we all know are ruthlessly draining the countries finances (unlike for example, large coffee chains or internet delivery warehouses) are sorted into “properly disabled” and “scroungers”
Anybody needing assessment will now be assessed by form, frequently followed by a one to one assessment in person, carried out by ATOS. At 16 all current recipients of DLA are also reassessed.
I find myself then, far from home with a young adult on the autistic spectrum, who fears change, gets stressed about meeting new people and has significant sensory issues, related to noise,crowded areas and being assessed.
I have never been anywhere quite like this centre. It is large and clean, and that is truly the only positive thing I can give you.
The chairs are in rows in front of a screen displaying colourful, friendly logos about what the assessment will contain. Despite all this there is the same smell of fear and despair you find in a vets waiting room.
Periodically someone comes and calls out a name, very quietly from the back of the room. It is packed with people waiting with ‘companions’ and we wait for 45 minutes for our turn, at which point we are taken upstairs to a room. There is a stairlift, but we are told that we need to be able to get down the stairs independently in case of fire.
Access wise so far then, we have the difficulty of getting there, the strain of hearing or understanding your name, and the inaccessibility of fire exits. Forgive me if that seems a little peculiar for a place likely to be assessing people with needs, but it is what it is.
Upstairs we meet a perfectly pleasant Health Professional. I do not know what her specialism is, but I suspect it has something to do with form filling and typing. In 45 minutes she questions Aspie boy who is by now, in an extremely agitated state, takes most questions literally and looks more distressed than I have seen him in some time. I have to discuss in front of my mentally fragile young person, the suicidal ideation he suffered, the lack of school support, the Psychiatric input, my locking away of knives and drugs. All this to a stranger we had just met. This does not appear to aid his mental state.
The assessor is supportive and impressed with how far he has come, but has no idea if he will be eligible, having to send the report to the DWP to use as an assessment tool. We have leave to appeal if it doesn’t go our way.
You may glean that I have some problems with this process, how astute of you!
I absolutely believe that governments should be held accountable for how tax payers money is spent. I do think we should minimise fraudulent claims, and encourage independence as far as possible.I suspect that there may be better ways of doing this.
For example, what if the DWP used medical information provided by medics who know the person well? How about school or Psychiatric reports? Does reinventing the wheel and adding another layer of assessment really save money? How much do the centres cost to run, clean, heat staff and light?Is this money offset against the colossal savings made by removing the fraudulent claimsters? Should centres be accessible? Do the Authorities realise that being disabled is not a choice? It does not discriminate. It could be YOU!
I found the whole situation shocking. It felt like a processing plant. It was dehumanising, to see people coming in with crutches and walking frames ready to be assessed to see if they really needed them. It infantilises people, and discredits the existing medical and social care professionals. It breeds the idea of disabled scroungers living off the stage in the public mind, and discourages inclusion as a result.
I want to believe this was not the intention of Government when it was introduced.I truly want to believe that everyone in our society is valued equally. I strongly advice you not to become sick or carelessly acquire a disability.
Please consider this when you vote, but most of all, please vote!
In which turds resolutely remain unpolished, and I buy shares in bleach.
There are some words guaranteed to make a ten year old giggle.This morning Pearl was beside herself because I said knickers; poo and fart have much the same effect.
We are big on toilet talk in our family as an important precursor to actual toilet training success. This post, is not, I’m afraid, a wonderful campaigning post about the necessity of Changing Places important as these undoubtedly are (you can find one of these here). It is instead a further insight into my complete inability to housewife effectively.
After a Bank Holiday weekend of waiting for a very constipated girl to poo, a delightful combination of movicol and mini enemas started things moving (I’ll spare Pearl’s blushes, and it really isn’t her who needs to be embarrassed by this post). If you imagine a coke bottle stuffed full with hard pebbles you can see that neither she nor I had a great deal of fun.
At the end of the weekend, we returned from our caravan of dreams with a huge bag of washing, and a digestive system slowly restoring itself to normal function. Desperate to get ahead of the washing, which was covered in chocolate coloured stains from both ends of Pearl, I merrily loaded my trusty washing machine.
Completing my first wash load, congratulating myself on my ability to restore order from chaos I hung some of Pearl’s lovely new t-shirts up to dry.
This morning the smell of ordure hung heavily in the air. I smelt the beautifully ‘clean’ shirts and gagged slightly. Then I opened the tumble drier to be met by the same smell. Pulling everything out I found what was apparently a piece of dried chocolate biscuit at the bottom of the dryer. Except it was actually a dessicated poo. Oh yes indeed.
Many irritating things have snuck into my wash and caused chaos in the past, tissues, red skirts, asthma inhalers I’ve washed them all in my time-but this was a new experience. After a full and unexpected bleach of the tumble dryer (accompanied by vocalisations of horror and disgust, and the occasional “oh shit, literal shit!) I went for a run to breathe in fresh air and rinse the idea of tumble dried poo from my mind.
Back, full of the smug endorphins that follow a run, I began to hang the washing on the line in the spring sunshine. I was congratulating myself on saving an unpleasant situation with optimism, quick thinking and bonhomie. What a model of resilient good humour I am. If it was possible to receive a Nobel prize for Special Needs Parenting I was surely on the short list. But wait,what was this? A t shirt, fresh smelling,with a huge brown stain on it, surely not more chocolate? Dear reader I was right, it surely was not.
I’ll admit, I have form with faeces. When The Glory was being potty trained, she snuck into our understairs cupboard for some privacy, it was two days before I found a human poo on the floor of said cupboard.
More recently, this winter, with the electric heater on, a nappy disaster featuring a fast moving Pearl and a subsequent poorly anchored nappy tab, lent me the ablity to use the phrase “the shit hits the fan” non figuratively.
Anyway back to today’s disaster. Running (fast) back to the machine I found a poo squidged into the seal, and, dear Lord why had I not noticed this before?-a damp, glistening offering (Bristol Stool Scale 1 ) which had been through an entire 40 degree wash. Reader you may not be able to polish a turd, but I somehow had managed to wash a whole nappies worth, minus the actual nappy.
At times I reflect on the Special Needs journey and wonder how my life would be were I not living the dream. I can tell you that unequivocally there would be less literal shit, and piss taking, although with a family of five of a sarcastic bent, plenty of the metaphorical stuff.
The time I’d saved “getting ahead with the washing” added an hour to my cleaning of the laundry room, an hours 90 degree and bleach cycle, on an empty machine, and rewashing two loads of suspect smelling clothes.
As you can see I’m very efficient (spell check attempted to change this to effluent how apt!) A marvel of time management. Also practical, and pragmatic, having ignored my initial temptation to throw away all the clothes and set fire to the house to clear the smell.
Now the whole sorry episode is over with no one any the wiser. Apart from you, dear reader, and I trust you to take it no further.
In which we make a spontaneous purchase and holiday happily ever after.
It may not be evident from the blog thus far, that I am a bit of an outdoor girl. Much given to running, especially through mud and on hills, and walking, whatever the weather. You may think then, that I am probably a happy camper. What’s not to like about camping? Take yourself wherever you like at a moments notice, pitch up and run, walk, picnic at your leisure. Sorted.
This dear reader is to misunderstand my needs entirely. I exist somewhere between not caring at all what I look like, and never leaving the the house without full make up. I also wear contact lenses. My firm belief, that we as human beings can only live our happy, first world lives due to an amazing sewage system and indoor plumbing, is I’d argue, supported by recent history, and half the world’s first hand experience.
Why you would put yourself under canvas in a field for fun is quite beyond me. Add in a girl with significant learning difficulties, no sense of danger and issues (ahem) with continence and you’ll understand why camping is not on our agenda.
Years ago when Methuselah and I were young, I used to go on holiday in a ‘static’. A Mobile Home that was neither mobile nor homey. It did however have flushing toilets and running water. Big tick.
On a trip to our local Carers Trust funded static, we did not expect much more. How wrong we were. I have lived in much, much, worse permanent housing than this. It had a proper shower! Double glazing! Central Heating! A fitted kitchen which was nicer than the one in my house!
So gentle reader you find me this morning, in the warm, in my PJs with microwaved porridge, a cup of tea and wifi. In my caravan. Reader we bought one.
There is a little corner of North Wales we regularly drove past, rushing to get to Conwy, Snowdonia or Anglesey. It is just over an hour from home, and about 30/40 minutes from all the above. It has one of the most glorious, unspoilt, sections of beach this side of Northumberland and if you are very good I’ll tell you where it is.
On a Friday, when I have wrangled work, rare diseases, Local Authorities, Aspergers, and pre A-level teens all week, we can jump in the car and emerge a little later (approximately 2.5 episodes of the podcast No Such Thing as a Fish) at our own bolt hole. We have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, Netflix, and Broadband. It is the caravan of dreams.
The next morning I can be up, bundled into running clothes or with boots and dog in tow on the beach. I can see sea, a lighthouse, the Great Orme,the Wirral and sometimes Liverpool-although a local tells me if you can see Blackpool Tower clearly it means rain is on the way. Surrounded by sand dunes, unbothered by promenades or piers, this is Talacre Beach, which runs into Gronant Dunes, an SSSI. Talacre itself has a photogenic lighthouse, and a small friendly main drag, basically two small arcades, one shop, a Café, pubs and an awesome baker and ice cream shop. In short everything you need for a proper day at the seaside.
Our caravan (which I should call ‘holiday home’ apparently)is on the lovely Talacre Beach Holiday Park. It is small and friendly too. There are 3 small parks for owners only, and one with holiday rentals. It’s pretty, well landscaped and quiet. There is a bar and restaurant, and if you want bingo and cabaret (we don’t) it’s there. There is the Go Active programme with kids clubs and sports all included if you are an owner. A small, well equipped gym is on site, although personally I’d rather be running on the beach. Pearl’s best place is the bright swimming pool, Father of Pearl and I play tag team in and out of the steam room, sauna and jacuzzi. A modern lodge houses the Tranquility Spa offering beauty treatments from massage to pedicure and back again. It is in fact very heaven.
Talacre appears to have its own microclimate, it’s often sunny when further up the coast it’s raining. We’ve also found that if it’s raining here, Llandudno and Conwy are dry (usually-but remember holidaying in North Wales without waterproofs is just plain foolhardy).
The season is long (March-January) and we have just returned after the winter break. I can’t begin to describe the sigh of relief as we drove onto the park with nothing but a weekend of beach and play ahead of us. Admittedly the seagulls running across the top of the van in the night sound like they wear hobnail boots, but they are a small price to pay for the location and general ambience.
In short we love this place. It has become a proper escape from our messy, appointment filled lives. For some reason the permanent guilt I feel at not theraping Pearl through her every waking moment doesn’t follow us here. I’ll let her watch TV and play on the iPad to her hearts content, knowing that they’ll be enough active and outdoor activities to balance it out. Once every six weeks or so I escape by all by myself for a couple of nights, to walk, read, run and recalibrate. It is bliss.
I would go on, but small dog Herb is scratching at the door and I must go down to the sea again.
If you would like to check out the facilities follow the link here or better still call and speak to Lori Jones, tell her Mother of Pearl, sent you and she’ll arrange a completely obligation free visit to see it all-and show you where the cake shop is!
This blog is a finalist in the BAPS awards (Father of Pearl has been asking friends to vote for his wife’s Baps), promoting blogs about additional needs and parenting. If you would like to vote for us the vote is open for one more week and you can do it here
Going on holiday with my gang of miscreants is not an easy task. A friend of mine with small children describes her holiday experiences as “same sh** different location”In an effort to avoid this we have tried a number of things.
Air travel is currently out.Father of Pearl is properly afraid of flying.Valium helps.
Pearl doesn’t do queuing and waiting, the idea of wrangling her and a 6′ 4” gibbering drugged up wreck through an airport and onto a plane is less than appealing. The Glory flies off to extraordinary places with Guiding.The Gambia and Copenhagen have both been on the list-I’m hoping if I stay on her good side we can go away together in the future.
Rab shows a typical, non typical, resistance to change.He can do holidays if he knows where we are going, how long the journey will take,what time we’ll leave, when we’ll arrive what his room will be like and a rough itinary of the break.He doesn’t like them and is usually desperate to get home.Both teens (and F o P) NEED wi fi.Obvs. I’m a dinosaur and just need lots of books.
We also require flat access, downstairs bedroom for Pearl if at all possible and a flat outside space.
This leaves us with the following options.
Stay at home. Forever. No surprises. No changes of routine, and the real possibility of infanticide.
Choose the same, or similar places. And this brings us to the reason for this blog,a short, non sponsored paen to the place that everyone in the family loves and a big thank you to those who work there.
We have just come back from Center Parcs. We love the place. It is not a cheap holiday alternative, but what it offers us is perfect for everyone.For reasons I cannot begin to explain(and nor can he) Rab loves it.It’s familiar, the villas are the same. We did, it’s true, have a slight wobble, when he realised this time our villa was “the wrong way round”but as he’s 16 and was aware it was the autism speaking he bravely overcame having the living area the wrong side of the kitchen.
In the car on the way to Sherwood Forest the 18 and 16 year olds regressed to being about 10,hitting each other shrieking and laughing, they say this was to amuse Pearl, (it did) but it’s actually the effect of going to Center Parcs that causes it.
If you have never experienced this place I’ll explain. It is a large,managaged forest.There is a variety of accommodation, close together, but orientated so that you have clear views of your surroundings and aren’t at all overlooked.There is an amazing huge swimming pool, sorry, “Sub tropical Swimming Paradise”, with flumes, wave machines shallow pools, this is all included in your stay. There are a massive amount of bookable activities that you pay extra for and can take or leave at your leisure. In the past we have done aerial wires, roller blading,flown hawks, watched owls, a nature walk, scuba dived, Bollywood danced, tried archery,hired bikes and played badminton.
Years ago on a previous stay,The Glory learnt to ride without stabilisers there for the first time. That’s the other thing, when you have unpacked your car, all cars return to the car park and the site is vehicle free.It is possible to be mown down by a middle aged person unused to cycling, but on the whole it’s safe and easy to navigate,and fairly flat so Pearl can walk a bit.
This last weekend came with an ensuite swan.On opening the blinds in the morning he knocked incessantly on the window in the hope of food.I’d like to say that the teens didn’t give him my cereal, but I’m not entirely sure.This,and the gaggle of geese who appeared plus the squirrels, rabbits and moorhens made me feel like Snow White without the dwarves.Pearl was utterly enchanted and ready to feed them Doritos (she doesn’t like them) but was restrained.
All human life can be seen at the pool, all ages, sizes,races and abilities.This makes holidaying with someone small and special easier, as you are absolutely not the only one.There are decent changing facilities with benches, and when the small person with you resists getting out of the pool and changing ,while screaming blue murder, you are sympathised with, and nobody calls Social Services, which is a bonus.
The staff really seem to enjoy their jobs, and most waiting on staff gamely took Pearl’s orders made with the help of her PODD book and came when she looked over her shoulder and shouted “haro”while jabbing at the food and drink page.
There are a handful of fully accessible villas, with wet rooms and hoists.We don’t presently need this, and knowing all the other villas were one storey, did book a villa two stays ago, only to find it was up a steep flight of steps.Within 20 minutes we’d been reallocated something more appropriate.The moral is, an organised parent phones to book and mentions needs rather than doing it online. (I’m sure you all would have done that anyway).
This stay Pearl managed more in the way of walking and of climbing on soft play. We also allowed her an ill advised go on a steep slide in the pool-I went down to the landing area to fish her out, only to realise there were almost vertical steps to get out of the water. We did it once more (she loved the slide) before finally admitting defeat.
However the best thing by far was the World of Spa. Having taken advantage of the fact that Pearl was shattered by all the activity and can’t tell the time, we put her to bed at 5.30 (yes we did pay for it with an early morning) left the 18 year old in charge and floated, bubbled, steamed and relaxed our way around the spa for two and a half hours.It was awesome and I was so relaxed I went to bed as soon as we got back at 9.Which was just as well when Pearl woke up full of beans at 3.Maybe she can tell the time after all?
So Center Parcs,I know you are a large organisation, and our family are only a tiny handful of your yearly visitors, but a HUGE thank you from us for being, inclusive, fun, friendly and good at what you do.
Have you and your family enjoyed and inclusive accessible holiday with great service? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.
*STOP PRESS* We have been nominated for an award! The BAPs awards is a new award for bloggers writing about additional needs parenting.The Wrong Kind of Snow is a finalist in the Promoting Positive Perceptions category.You can vote here, and do take a look at all the other awesome finalists too! Thank you.
In which I wake up crying, and try to put it into words.
As you have been graciously following the inane ramblings of a parent carer, I thought you may like to join me on the next stage – how to stay calm while dealing with extreme pressure to parent fully and effectively.
I have recently become interested in extreme sports and have been considering amazing feats of daring-do and endurance. Maybe this is an age thing (46 as our local paper was keen to pointlessly share) or maybe it’s a growing awareness that life is short.
I suspect it is more to do with the fact that jumping off the side of a bridge attached to an elastic seems a great deal easier than parenting my three children.
Before I start, can I just say that parenting is difficult. All parenting is difficult. Childcare is difficult. It can be tricky, keeping small people safe let alone moulding them into useful and delightful members of society. It can be boring. Anybody who has watched a friend who is a party loving wild child turn into an exhausted zombie, unable to stay awake after 7.30pm, will know what a baby can do to a person.
My personal view is that if you get to the end of a day, haven’t killed,maimed or lost anyone and you’ve all been fed, you are a successful parent. If the house is clean and tidy that’s a bonus. If you have completed an improving craft activity with child/children you deserve a medal. If you have managed to arrange some lemons in a ceramic dish, photograph it and put it on Instagram, you probably need professional help.
Let me tell you what parenting in extremis looks like. In my case, qualifying as an extreme parent, includes a preexisting tendency to depression, which is largely managed with careful monitoring. Add a lack of sleep, and constant physical exertion, so that you no longer have the mental resources to carry that monitoring out.
You will be responsible for a small non verbal person, with physical and some health and behavioural issues. (Let’s call her Pearl) She will be prepubescent and in thrall to hormones that she cannot understand or explain. As well as this you will have a filing cabinet (or two) of information on her to keep up to date and in order. Somehow you will also have the role of coordinating all her care, and communicating across disciplines.You may have a Family Support Worker who has roles that don’t appear to match her title, and both she and you are not certain of what they are. Social care ‘support’ will make you want to cry. You will have to travel across counties and sometimes at short notice to a vast array of appointments. You will absolutely not be able to keep up your professional role, and end up doing your husbands admin with a very bad grace.
You will also be responsible for a 15 year old male of the species. He will cleverly have been harbouring Asperger’s Syndrome until the age of 11. There will have been many signs of this scattered liberally through his life, but as you are busy extreme parenting the small person, you haven’t noticed. You will continue not noticing until he becomes suicidal at the age of 11, and is advised to leave school at the age of thirteen. You will be expected to deal with having a very sad stressed person at home for 18 months while receiving minimal support. You will lock up all the knives and medication,and live in a state of hypervigilism, realising that the one thing you want for your children, that they would be happy, is not under your control. You,my friend will have to deal with an extraordinarily unhelpful and overstretched CAMHS department, find a new school and ask for one of the first EHC in the LA (and country). You will learn about autism, watch him become well adjusted and in tune with himself, and try to hold your nerve while he wants to move back into the very mainstream setting which caused him pain, for his A levels.
You now have to guide an 18 year old female, who has taken it upon herself to be The Glory of the clan, through extreme social anxiety, watch as she refuses all help and begins to spiral downwards into depression. At this stage base jumping looks like a walk in the park. Offering support while also giving her room to make her own choices, pushing her academically while recognising that her mental health being stable is so much more important, will be the most difficult balancing act you have embarked on. Her school will be limited in the support it can offer, counselling will be in short supply and variable, and CAMHS, well you have seen the help they offer already.
When you wake up in the morning wanting to cry, out of touch with your own needs and feeling that you, and you alone have caused this myriad of difficulties take heart. In your dreams you may have been a more, Little House on the Prairie type parent. Remember Laura Ingalls running through a sunny field? Do you also remember the lack of running water, decent sanitation and washing machine?
I see you, fellow extreme parents. I see you and weep for you, for your situation, and for the poor and patchy support you are receiving in your taxing, thankless dirty, painful jobs. I have had coffee with some of you, and railed against the system and your situations. I have lost sleep over a country that prioritises academic achievement over the good mental health of its children, and who makes accessing support so difficult that some of you just give up asking.
An older woman of my aquaintance told me that love covers everything, and smooths out any parenting mistakes you may make. I hope she’s right.
So, if you like me have accidentally become an extreme parent what do you do? I expect you are waiting for the Zen moment? I’ll let you know.In the meantime I’ll try to practice Pearlfulness TM and be grateful for Gilmour Girls on Netflix.
If like me you are struggling with extreme parenting take a look at this graphic from Carer’s UK.