Just imperfect parents raising imperfect children

I have a confession to make: I am not a perfect mum.image
I just needed to get that ‘out there’ without feeling a failure or weak. The truth is none of us are ‘perfect’ parents and none of our children are ‘perfect’ either. We are all muddling through as best we can. It’s just some of us are under more scrutiny than others.Most families get to raise their children with minimum involvement from others outside of their own family. I don’t have that luxury. And while I am grateful for everyone who supports us it also comes with huge pressure to ‘perform’ and ‘jump through hoops’ at times.
I left another multi-agency meeting this week in tears. While no-one actually came out with the line of ‘it’s the parent’s fault’, there is always a feeling of inadequacy that comes with having children who have ‘extra needs’. Sometimes it can feel like your best is just never enough.
So I just need to get this out:
I am not perfect and neither are my children.

My children throw tantrums often for the craziest of reasons, they have more screen time than they should, sometimes we are still in pyjamas at lunch time at the weekend. I sometimes let them sit right in front of the TV even though I know they shouldn’t, I help them get dressed some mornings for school just because it is quicker and easier, and I have even thought about doing homework for them because I just can’t face another battle (I said thought as not quite mastered the art of writing and spelling like a six year old).
My children have off days.
And so do I.
Just because my children have special needs does not make my family any different to any other. In fact we are probably more exhausted, more chaotic and busier than many other families.
We live in a glass house at times where teachers, social workers and therapists feel they can tell us where we are going wrong and what we have to do to help our children. Sometimes it is helpful; sometimes it isn’t. I don’t have all the answers, but neither does anyone else.
But we are doing our best.
It is easy for others to judge and criticise and ‘guide’. And there are times when someone outside of the situation can see things we just can’t which is helpful and supportive. But on a daily basis we live this.
I know I get it wrong at times. And I know other times I get it just right. Sometimes my children master something new, sometimes they don’t.
Special needs parents are no different to other parents really. But because our children ‘struggle’ in areas it puts pressure on us to ‘fix’ them and support them when all we really are is imperfect parents raising imperfect children.
When we get it ‘wrong’, be kind. When we get it ‘right’, encourage. We are all raising unique, wonderful, individual children with different qualities and skills. And we are all doing it in the best way we can.
My children’s struggles may be obvious but everyone of us struggle, wether child or parent.
Be kind, be supportive, and don’t judge.
Every single one of us are just imperfect parents raising imperfect children at the end of the day.

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Finding beauty in the simple

Peace can often best be found in moments of simplicity.

The last few months have been anything but calm in my family with illness, upset and medical challenges and I have had to learn to find tranquility in the points of each day that may easily be overlooked. I could become overwhelmed with the endless screaming for example but that ten minutes when he laughed and flapped at yet another hand dryer shows me that such a simple thing can bring so much pleasure. Or watching his sister get so excited at the workings of  revolving doors. These are the moments I have to treasure in the midst of chaos.

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imageLike the moment the other day when I was playing a game with Naomi and for the first time her twin brother showed an interest too. It took so much for both children to play together: one requiring encouragement and reassurance that I would not allow her brother to once again ruin the game or become violent and the other requiring huge physical and mental support to have any idea what the game was about. But despite that we had a beautiful moment. It was simple. But my twins played together for a brief moment. They connected and that was the moment I will remember from that day, and hopefully they will too. A moment of healing, peace and beauty in an otherwise stressful and chaotic weekend.

Life is not easy. I will never pretend it is. My children have huge additional needs and that puts a massive amount of stress and pressure on us all. But in among the endless meetings, appointments, forms, phone calls, paperwork and high care needs there are moments of love, moments of beauty, and moments to treasure. Right now those are the things I am looking for in every day. It is the glimmer of gold dust in among the filth, it is the rainbow in an otherwise wet and grey day, it is the diamond that appears when you least expect it.

I came across this poem I wrote about twenty years ago and it sums it up:

Beauty in the simple

Have you eyes to see the beauty in the simple?
Do you stop to smell the roses as you drive?
Inspiration will derive from all that’s simple
And it’s the simple things that keep us all alive

Have you eyes to see the beauty in a raindrop?
Or notice all the colours in the grass?
Have you ears to hear the song the birds are singing?
Or watch the insects crawling as you pass?

Have you time to notice how the leaves are falling?
Or gaze as clouds are drifting through the sky?
Can you taste the purity of water?
Have you listened to a new-born baby cry?

Have you eyes to see the beauty in the simple?
Or grasp those tiny details all around?
A creator who was wise and so inspiring
Knew that beauty in the simple could confound.

It really is amazing how a simple thing can make a big difference. My son may never be able to say I love you but his hugs say so much more.

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Who supports the parents?

imageAnother letter. Another meeting. You know, the ones where everyone and their dog meets to discuss YOUR child? Now don’t misunderstand me here: I am so grateful for professional input, I appreciate them taking the time to come and I value their opinions (mostly).

The thing is though, they are doing what they are paid to do. They come dressed for the occasion, prepared, fresh and professional. And I just can’t compete with that.

I know I am ultimately the ‘expert’ on my child, but I don’t always feel like that.

I come to the meetings a very different person to them. I am mostly harassed, sleep-deprived, emotional and ill-prepared. I have not had the liberty of having a relaxed breakfast or had 15 minutes to apply my make-up. I have not even have a minute to use the bathroom in peace!

The times are set to meet their schedules, not mine. While I know the challenges involved in getting so many people together in the same place at the same time, I also know there will have been emails flying around, telephone conversations and tweaking of times and days among themselves to find a point of agreement. None of which I will have been involved in yet I am expected to just be there.

And I always am. Because it is what we do as parents and because I know these things are important for my children.

And so the meeting will go on. Each person will say what they are doing to help and support my child and reports will be circulated. It may well be minuted and if I am lucky I may even get a copy. Then they go their separate ways, each back to their own office, or base, or classroom and proceed with their day.

While I go home to cope with the everyday demands of two special needs children. Whilst in school my child appears to be well supported I wonder, not for the first time, about who supports the parents?

We are the ones dealing with the challenging behaviour, the meltdowns, the endless screaming, the not sleeping, the sensory difficulties and the food refusals. We are the ones who do the personal care, fight to get the uniform on and battle to get them to school. When the holidays come we are left alone and everyone at the meeting carries on with their day.

We are the ones fighting with schools, dealing with transport issues, and filling in forms. We are the bottom line and the most important people in it all. Our opinions matter hugely, our insight is important and our knowledge crucial. We should be valued, respected and acknowledged. We are the true professionals, the best experts, and have the most invested in our child. But we also deal with the reality so much more than anyone else.

I love that so many people support my children. But I do wonder sometimes when I watch other families going through the same thing as I do, when I hear so many parents of special needs children struggling with depression or crumbling with the stress of it all;

Who, in all this, is supporting the parents?