March now seems like such a long time ago. Can it only be 5 months since everything was thrown up in the air?
I entered lockdown pretty terrified about what it would mean for us as a family. There was no mourning for a lost social life, I don’t have one. No regret over cancelled holidays, I no longer even have a passport. No panic over childcare, that all falls to me.
My terror was pretty specific to ‘if school is cancelled then we have nothing’. I don’t think we had ever had the luxury of being able to take the time to sit and reflect at how we had gradually shrunk our lives, reducing what we do, who we see and where we go in a desperate bid to grant smudge the capacity to cope with school.
It wasn’t working. She finds school traumatic. She doesn’t have the abilities to function in a mainstream secondary and even in assisted provision was barely managing. This barely managing was manifesting as increasingly demand avoidant, dangerous and violent behaviour especially at home. In layman’s terms if things were/are bad my 14 year old daughter beats the shit out of me and trashes our house.
The thought of being locked down with my abuser without even school as respite meant early lockdown battered my mental and physical health. As a key worker, G still had to work. I was left with a 14 year old and a 6 year old to home educate, 2 Open University modules to finish, attempting to keep some freelance working coming in, and going back out again, and all the usual life admin and domestic gubbins.
To begin with the juggle worked. With school off the cards smudge’s anxiety reduced and we had fun, we made it work. G had annual leave over Easter and this ‘new normal’ was ok chez macp. Until it wasn’t.
I got hurt, g got hurt, I got scared, really scared and poor puff witnessed everything. Our carefully constructed attempt at familial harmony fell apart.
And there was no help. There is no help. We have school, CAMHS and social work involvement but nothing is actually being done, no supports have been put in place, we are all on our own. Except we’re not. We have to tell tales, report back, go over the trauma, expose our hurt and shame poor smudge over and over again. With professionals who offer nothing in return.
And yet, we’re preparing the girls to go back to school having undergone a bit of a monumental shift. Having come to the realisation that shrinking all our lives and sacrificing so much to facilitate smudge’s schooling would be an acceptable trade off if she was gaining anything. Only she isn’t. She isn’t receiving any kind of academic education, all interactions with her peers end horribly and ultimately cause her trauma and I can’t think of a single positive from her last academic year. This realisation changes everything.
Smudge has a bit of a softer start, building up her time over a few weeks. We’re going to watch closely and at the first hint of her not coping we’re pulling her and demanding a meeting to discuss an alternative. What that alternative looks like remains a mystery. But I am not inflicting another 2 years like the last on any of us.
I also spent Thursday afternoon putting the Social Worker firmly back in her box. Laying down the rules around not shaming smudge for behaviour which is completely beyond her control. I am done with watching my girl attempt to shrink herself, contorting her body into smaller and smaller shapes to reduce the surface area for these professionals to cover her in shame.
I have detested lockdown. It has come close to breaking me. But I am grateful for it. Without a period like this I don’t think I’d have ever come to the decisions that I know stand the best chance of working in smudge’s best interests and of maybe making it a little bit more possible to attempt to build a life which isn’t solely focused on one member at the expense of 3 others.
Oh and incase you were wondering:
My home educating did not recommence after the Easter holidays.
I only passed my university modules because my final assignments were cancelled and the modules were graded on all the work I did before my children were at home all the time.
I have continued doing the tiniest possible amount of freelance work. I haven’t done any of the things that I optimistically and laboriously plotted out in my fancy goal digger planner at the beginning of the year.
And for once I say all this without a single hint of shame, guilt or regret. I’ve kept two children safe during a pandemic.