Well that last post was a bit of a doozy wasn’t it. Sorry about that, I think we can call that “the breaking point”. I guess the rather obvious subtext of it is that this shit is hard. Then we move into a holding pattern for a while until the next drama unfolds.
Life with a child with special needs – be they physical, medical, intellectual or all of the above – is bloody hard.
Everyone nod sagely at that. Offer a ripple of how amazing we are to rise to each day, an empathetic “I don’t know how you do it”, the occasional “God only gives you what you can handle” from which you should be grateful you walk away without multiple stab wounds from a splintery stick lined with rusty nails.
The most unrelenting part of it is the cold hard brutal truth that it never goes away. Every day this is what, for me, having a disabled child entails:
- are you going to wake to a wet bed,
- a random epic melt-down triggered by who knows what,
- the daily battle to put clothes on,
- discovering yet another dawn raid of the cupboard for inappropriate breakfast items which totally decimates the weekly shop you did to.the.dollar. for school lunches, afternoon teas and so on,
- waking up at 3am when they’re trying to sneak in some Xbox,
- realising they’ve padded next door, outside, in their pyjamas, at 6am and are just loitering around on the corner,
- the ongoing issue of wiping and I’m not talking benches,
- the complete incapacity and/or unwillingness to dry themselves after a shower. I now have a child with a man penis who still needs help (but doesn’t want it but can’t do it himself) getting dry after his shower,
- navigating puberty with a moderate intellectual disability,
- is that left foot rolling in again, no not really, oh yes it is, will it need a splint, do we need to have surgery again, we need to see the specialist again,
- anxiety with a moderate intellectual disability,
- how to occupy them beyond the realm of Xbox and stalking the neighbours,
and on it goes.
Then there are the big picture worries you basically ban yourself from thinking about – work placement, housing, relationships, a happy and fulfilling life.
Stuff just goes wrong with these kids. Their systems are compromised, they get sick, they get inexplicable ailments, they need surgeries and ongoing interventions and regular reviews. It is tiresome, exhausting and emotional (not to even mention the costs involved) to do this with different groups of people over and over again.
You find that you stop seeing their character and start focusing on the mechanics of it all – toileting, anxiety, boredom. It takes you by surprise when doctors, nurses, friends, neighbours all talk about your son so positively. About his sense of humour and gorgeous nature. Sometimes all I see is the fifty million questions asked over and over, the refusal to dry himself after his shower (now probably the cause of the cellulitis. I KNOW), the constant falling asleep on the lounge and then agro lashing out when I try to move him on to bed and so on and so forth.
It takes other people getting upset at seeing your child have bloods done to remind you it’s OK to feel about all this.
This is what it’s like to have a child with special needs.
The way our society works though does not make any allowance for this reality. We need me to be working to be able to feed, clothe and educate our children. We need two incomes to be able to give them experiences and to be able to cope when and if something goes wrong.
There’s no way you can have two adults working when you have a child with special needs. If you do then, well, RESPEK.
So then the self-flagellation begins – he was your first so why did you have any more, you knew it’d be expensive having lots of kids so why’d you have so many. THIS IS YOUR BED.
But then I think we did not choose for Oscar to have a dodgy chromosome, cerebral palsy, a moderate intellectual disability or a penchant for foods high in saturated fats to be consumed before dawn. So why then are we, why is HE, punished for it?
Services and support for the child AND the parents is imperative. I have it because I have a coherent voice, I tend to like being shouty, a clanging symbol. But for every one of me there are 1,000 others without a voice and it’s just not good enough.
This post wasn’t meant to be about the importance of the National Disability Insurance Scheme but it seems important to mention it here. We, as a nation, are at a point where we can truly ensure no one gets left behind. Where for something as simple as splints for Oscar’s legs do not involve me having to go to multiple agencies with my hands out saying, “please sir, can I have some more”.
I escaped the hospital earlier this week with Chef to go to the Sydney rally to support the NDIS. Our Prime Minister was there, I saw her and her remarkably cute security protocol (well played Julia, well played) for the first time ever.
I don’t care what your political leanings are, but this woman, despite every spike laid on the road before her, has put the NDIS on the table, she has made it happen (from next year in fact). It was flagged by Menzies as a necessity FORTY years ago and she, SHE, has been the one to make it happen. I can’t help thinking, ‘trust it to take a woman to make this happen.’
So yeah, my life is quite a stressful one. I am feeling it keenly at the moment and it does not shine a light on the best parts of my character. Don’t hold it against me.
I know many of you want to help us out, please be assured that being here, reading this, getting it, holding it in your hearts, standing up for someone or fighting for what is right for people whose voice is small or broken is enough. It is enough.