First day of the Christmas holidays begins
with Alice having contact with her parents. This is always a difficult day for Alice, and also a challenge for us as we manage her emotions. We have learnt over the last three years to only tell her that she is going to contact around 15 minutes before we get there.
She gets very emotional and erratic in her behaviour when she knows she is going to see her parents. She flits between being over excited and then being really upset because she is going to miss us. She has supervised contact three times per year in the community.
We have to be quite creative in our choice of venue, and assertive in putting our ideas forward to the social worker and independent reviewing officer, Her parents often come up with ideas that are wholly unsuitable for a child in a wheelchair. Either the venue is too far away or its an activity that she would not be able to participate in because of her disability.
During today’s contact she was going to the local Christmas Market for hot chocolate and going to see Santa in a department store. They arrive with a huge sack of gifts – which normally means tears and tantrums at some point. Alice is totally overwhelmed by the meeting and spends most of the visit on an emotional roller coaster. Her parents struggle with her bursting into tears at the slightest thing. Fortunately she has a good contact worker who is able to help both Alice and parents focus on other things. She has also thought to ring the department store to find out waiting times to see Santa.
The contact worker informs parents that the queue is more than an hour long, and that perhaps seeing Santa at another venue would be better. Alice doesn’t do well in queues. As well as her physical disabilities, she has a brain malformation – which means comprehension problems. Parents are insistent that they want the department store Santa. Fortunately the contact worker uses her initiative and calls ahead to the store, speaks to the manager and arranges for them to go straight to the front of the queue.
During contact time, we always take Annie and Lauren out to a coffee shop. Its a good chance to chat to them and see how they are doing. We can talk freely without Alice feeling like we are talking about her. The girls order their usual hot chocolate, complete with cream and marshmallows, Charlie orders a Gingerbread Latte and I go for the Mulled Apple Cinnamon drink. We have grown to enjoy the time we have to chat, but our attention is always drawn back to Alice – and wondering how she is getting on.
Two hours of contact feels like an eternity. We cant wait to pick her up. The afternoon is spent quietly at home, while Alice processes everything from the morning. As usual, she is very clingy. She is overly affectionate and keeps telling us how much she loves us. She is confused again about her life. She still has no idea of why she is in care. She is trying to piece together the exaggerated stories she hears at contact each time, along with the little she has been told by social services. We are reminded of how fragile she is. We are reminded too of how much we want to protect her.
We reassure her that we love her too, and she soon settles and we can resume our less than ordinary life!
A Less Ordinary Family