SEN Funding Impacts Every Child. Every Single One. Here’s why.

SEN Funding Impacts Every Child. Every Single One. Here’s why.

For the first time in a really long time I felt compelled to write today.  The recent extremely negative article in the Times on Monday 14th October about funding being diverted to SEN kids riled me and coupled with what we are currently dealing with in our family I had to say something.

In the article, an EHCP was compared to a golden ticket.  While I disagree with this statement in the context it was delivered, I have to say that an EHCP is somewhat of a golden ticket.  So many families, so many children, desperately need the funding to increase the support for their children in school that an EHCP provides that I guess it is a bit like winning a golden ticket once you finally get an EHCP.  Right now, my son Dylan is desperate for one.

His primary school is bending over backwards trying to manage his sight loss, autism and anxiety.  He has meltdowns both mute and violent, every single morning and throughout the entire school day.  He is unable to participate in class at all due to the background noise of his peers that he finds simply unbearable, the repetition methods they learn through and the anxiety of being in an ever changing busy environment where even the overload of visual stimulus is enough to make him choose to sit alone, which he hates but is still better than the alternative.  He spends class time hiding in a custom built den with a box of sensory toys.  His teacher does not get her breaks, instead staying with him during breaks and lunchtimes coaxing him to eat just one mouthful of anything.  Would you work an entire day with no breaks?  Sometimes not even being able to eat your own lunch?  The school SENCO and the Pastoral Care Teacher both give up mountains of time to support him, prepare paperwork and work on ways to make his life easier.  His wonderful teacher has to manage her class of thirty while also managing the extra needs of my son.  The other children must have questions; they see what goes on with him day to day and it must be confusing for them and I imagine quite distressing at times.  If you think your child is missing out because of funds diverted to the SEN child in their class or school, then you are wrong.  By enabling SEN kids to have the support they need it is enabling your child’s teacher to do what she or he is there for; to teach, help, support and grow every single child in the class.  By not providing the necessary support, the teacher’s ability to do just that is compromised, stretched and ultimately exhausted.

An EHCP would be a golden ticket, in the sense that it would relieve the extra stress on his teacher and the other staff, it would bring more normality to the other children’s school day, but mostly it would enable our sweet boy to feel safer and calmer and to learn.

Dylan has superpowers you know.  As you start to read this paragraph you may not believe me, but you will by the end of it.  He can only see with one eye and that eye wobbles uncontrollably due to Nystagmus.  He has a Cerebral Visual Impairment caused by Bacterial Meningitis, Encephalitis and Sepsis when he was nine weeks old, which very nearly killed him.  He has Autism that comes with crippling anxiety about his world and it’s demands.  He cannot stand the sight of any food or drink that doesn’t fit with what his brain deems to be safe, meaning he only eats five different food items in extremely limited amounts.  He is small, pale and tires incredibly easily due to the huge drain on his energy levels by the social, environmental and emotional daily demands that neurotypical people don’t give a second thought to.  But he has superpowers; he has a photographic memory meaning he can memorise the layout of a place, the words on a page, the images on a screen.  He craves the understanding of the how and why of everything.  Ions, weather, dinosaurs, space.  He knows more than I could ever learn. At three years old he wanted answers to explain where the sun went at night and subsequently learnt about the rotation of the earth.  At four years old he explained electricity to me.  At five years old he had questions I simply could not answer about why lava burns everything but the ground remains, burnt but not destroyed.  At six he wanted to understand the planets and the stars.  Now at seven years old he ponders about the first ever person and how no one could ever know who they were, because even if you were the first person you would never really know for sure if there was another before you.  He feels noise.  Actually feels it.  In his ears, in his teeth, in his skin.  His hearing is amazingly acute, perhaps to compensate for the sight loss?  These superpowers are gifts, undoubtedly, but these gifts are given in some kind of twisted exchange for the standard social and emotional skills that most humans develop naturally.

As a parent, raising a child is a frightening, exciting, nerve-wracking rollercoaster of emotion and trial and error.  We pay the price of raising these incredible little versions of ourselves with loss of sleep, endless chores and grey hairs and wrinkles and we are rewarded with pride, amazement, big hearts and unconditional love.  I have two neurotypical children and two neurodiverse children.  They are all wonderful and I love them all more than I ever imagined possible.  They all try me, they all cause me stress and anxiety, they all make me feel like the most important person in the world.  They all teach me the meaning of life and love.

As a parent of a neurodiverse child there is more, so much more to carry.  Every time that incredible little boy sobs because the noise hurts his teeth, or screams because something that seems small and insignificant to me is not how he expected and he can’t process it, or a situation causes him so much anxiety he doesn’t know how to exist in his own body anymore and he thrashes and hits and flaps and cries, my heart breaks.  Every time he explains something profound to me or questions something so deep that I’m amazed his brain can process it, the breaks in my heart are repaired. Every time he chooses to hug me, or mimes eating my kisses the cracks are filled back in.

Dylan goes into school early every day, to avoid the rush and minimise his anxiety.  It doesn’t make it easy, but it reduces the stress just a little.  This morning he woke up stressed, did not want to go to school and after a battle to dress him and get him to school, I left my baby screaming, crying, kicking and punching while his teacher held him to keep him safe.  I had to leave, had to let her cope with him while I took his little sister into her Reception class, where she was the last one in yet again.  The hardest thing in the world is walking away from your child when they are in a state they cannot control.  I delivered my daughter to her class and then cried on my friends in the playground this morning.

Unfortunately, in order to get a ‘golden ticket’, your child has to be seen to be struggling, the school has to be seen to be doing everything in their power yet the child still to be struggling.  Your child has to be unable to cope and this has to be evidenced before the powers that be will even consider an EHCP. Every ‘reasonable’ adjustment has to be made before they will even consider providing the school with the funding that would enable them to employ a member of staff to support your child or to purchase extra resources for them.  I could have calmed him, could have stayed and sat with him and played out our ‘meltdown routine’ over the next hour, but ultimately that wouldn’t help him or school.  It would have helped in this instance, but only this time and made it harder for them to provide the required evidence to support the claim for help.  His sister needed me too, she says when he screams he hurts her ears and when he hits out she is often caught in the crossfire.  She needs to settle into school and feel safe there and feel confident that her mum is there for her too.

We are stretched in multiple directions, my husband and I, every single day.  When one child’s needs are managed quite often another’s are not.  For example our eldest son misses out on support with his homework, our eldest daughter has to manage her own meltdowns alone if they coincide with Dylan’s, or vice versa if she is having a particularly bad one and our youngest daughter begs for my attention when a meltdown is in process because she is scared and wants to control the situation by keeping my attention on her.

An EHCP could quite literally be our golden ticket to easing those strains just a tiny fraction, as if Dylan was a tiny bit happier in school it would mean he could be a tiny bit happier at home too.

The saddest part is the teachers and professionals want to help, most go above and beyond to help.  No one goes into those professions to meet budgets, or targets, or because they desire to have the best figures.  They study and work to go into these roles to help, teach, grow and support children but the puppet masters sitting behind their desks in their fancy offices, detached from the real world and the issues they are making life changing decisions about, control the funds with an iron fist and in the end it all comes down to money.  It was mentioned in the article that more and more children are getting diagnosed with Special Educational Needs, mental health issues and learning disabilities.  When will they realise that children don’t need to change, but the system does?  Stop punishing kids for being different, stop isolating them, excluding them, stop insisting they fit their brilliant multi-faceted shaped selves into the pre-determined square holes.  Stop focusing on league tables and results, on exam scores and appearances and start listening!  Help them grow their interests; a six year old with an innate interest in nature might be the next David Attenborough if they could focus on relevant subjects instead of being forced to split their mind between twelve different subjects where only three of them are useful to that child, a ten year old with a capacity for understanding anatomy might go on to develop cures for the world’s diseases if they were simply allowed to focus their learning.  These kids are our planet’s future and should be treated as such, both neurotypical and neurodiverse.

So, whether you think an EHCP is a golden ticket or not, the bottom line is the funding for schools is necessary.  Helping the SEN kids impacts the ‘normal’ kids too.  It makes school better for everyone; children, staff and parents alike.  Neurodiverse children need it.  Neurotypical children need it.  Children need it.

Define unconventional?

Define unconventional?

So recently a lady by the name of Adele Allen has been propelled into the public eye after announcing that she wants to raise £100,000 to move her family to Costa Rica. Adele and her partner yearn to live an ‘off-grid’ self-sufficient lifestyle with their two young children. They are, now very publicly, anti-vaccine,  against traditional education and schools and they don’t use or believe in modern medicine. They give themselves and their choices labels such as alternative parenting, unconventional parenting and seem to favour terms like free range children. 

Now this lady has chosen to go by the name of The Unconventional Parent, which as you know if you are reading this, is the name I chose to go by when I started this blog a few years back. I don’t mind her using the same name however she has accidentally published my website address on her fundraising page instead of her own and the fact that our Facebook pages have the exact same name has directed a lot of traffic to my page and site! A fair amount of those people have decided to continue following my blog despite it being a far cry from the one they intended to find. This is most complimentary, so thank you. 

In light of this I have some issues I would like to address, hence the reason for this post. Firstly I feel it’s appropriate to mention that I couldn’t be more different from Adele, both in my lifestyle and my parenting practices. I love technology, modern medicine and all the wondrous advances our little species have made. I am grateful for all that I have available to me. I have four children; an eleven year old daughter with dyspraxia and severe dyslexia, an eight year old with a newly diagnosed hole in his heart, a three year old son with autism, vacant seizures and partial blindness thanks to a severe brain infection – bacterial meningitis and encephalitis – when he was just nine weeks old and a fifteen month daughter who so far is thankfully doing just fine. 

Adele and her partner state that they do not believe in modern medicine. They have also stated that should their children get meningitis they would, and I quote, starve it out of them. Consequently I would like to ask her the following questions in the form of this open letter…


If you found your nine week old baby boy to be suffering with a 40+ degree temperature, extremely drowsy and with an unexplained rash would you simply treat him with cool air and monitoring? How about when his temperature increased and he began to scream with an unusual painful cry? Or when he became so drowsy he only woke periodically to scream out in pain? Would you seek help then? We did – both in the first instance and again when his condition worsened. 

The second time the GP sent us to the Bristol Children’s Hospital where our tiny baby boy was rushed into Resus. His little heart was beating at over 200 beats per minute. He was fitting repeatedly. They spent six hours trying relentlessly to save our baby’s life in any way possible. Would you have declined the doctors, infection specialists and nurses help then Adele? 

How about when his little heart simply couldn’t sustain it’s accelerated rate anymore and he was on the brink of death? Would you have turned them away and opted for holistic methods then? 

Or the week long stay in quarantined intensive care with round the clock help to simply keep our baby alive? Would you have let your little boy die instead? 

Or finally, would you have accepted the following three years of assistance from his Neurologist who monitors his brain damage and seizures, his Opthamologists who helped him regain his sight in one eye, his Paediatrian and Behavioural Psychologist who help us manage and understand his autism, violent outbursts and sensory overload meltdowns? How about his Visual Support Teacher and his Mobility Assistant who help us manage his lack of depth perception, 3D vision and all the hazards the world holds for him that are invisible to us? 

Would you still support those parents who chose not to vaccinate their perfectly healthy children when their choice could result in further damage to your disabled child’s already weakened health? Or would you consider that simply survival of the fittest? 

Would you decline the support of school to help your daughter not feel stupid and unintelligent when she is really smart but hindered by dyslexia? 

Would you refuse the offer of a heart scan to determine if there was any chance the hole in your son’s heart could prematurely end his otherwise healthy life?

Unfortunately I fear your life choices, parenting practices and views on raising children are affordable to you purely because you have been lucky enough to not witness your children face unbearable pain and suffering or subsequent life altering disability. I can’t help but wonder should you find yourself in my shoes would you have altered your perceptions and made different choices? Honestly I sincerely hope you would. 

I could not, in any circumstance, allow my children to suffer anything if there was even a single tiny thing someone could do to help them. 

Mostly though, I hope that you remain as lucky as you have been so far, as I would not wish my experiences on my worst enemy let alone a stranger with alternative views to me. 

Yours kindly, 


The Unconventional Parent

There it is. There’s the wall. 

There it is. There’s the wall. 

I woke up this morning and there it was. The wall. I had finally hit it. 

I honestly didn’t think I could face another day of caring for those four little people I have created. Our eleven year old daughter is pubescent and hormonal. Our seven year old son has been unusually poorly this week with an unexplained virus resulting in some time in the Children’s Hospital. Our three year old’s needs seem to increase daily thanks to his partial sight and autism. Our eleven month old has taken to copying her brother’s meltdowns and decided sudden blood curdling screams are a good way to protest when she doesn’t get what she wants. Another day of dealing with all that just seemed impossible at 7am this morning. I mean, how long until the cracks in my sanity really gain some ground and I end up in a corner, rocking? I can feel them there; the cracks, splintering through the carefully cultured patience and calming defusing skills I have relentlessly taught myself these last few years. 

The three year old takes so much of my time and attention that the baby has to wait a lot more than she should (no doubt that’s why she started the screaming), the eleven year old has the freedom and independence of a much older child and the seven year old has a fully established case of middle child syndrome. My husband works his ass off all week then comes home to the chaos of four children all battling for his attention.

Me? I just long for an hour where no one wants to touch me, talk to me, or needs me. At all. No, more than that, an hour without my brain. An hour when I can shut off the relentless theories in my mind of how to help our three year old eat more than just beige foods, stay calm, and deal with everyday experiences without having a full scale meltdown. Stop searching my mental calendar for when I can squeeze in an hour to play video games with our seven year old because he’s been asking all week. Cease psychoanalysing our eleven year old and her overflowing hormones. Let go of the fear that the baby will mimic her autistic brother’s behaviour and become that kid in the supermarket with no actual issues except a penchant for dramatic screaming tantrums. 

You see I could grab an hour off here and there and go for a coffee, catch up with a friend, wander around the shops. But it’s all still there in my head. How do you turn it off? 

My husband left for work this morning and I just led there. The baby was trying to escape the bed, the three year old wanted his cartoons on downstairs. So up I got. Began the routine. 

Then something magical happened. All four children were sat together, nicely, in the lounge. I took a chance and went for a shower. Those beautiful little creatures not only played nicely but they took care of each other. No arguments, no screaming, no crying. 

I took my shower, dried my hair and got half dressed before the three year old appeared, wanting to watch his favourite cartoon on his iPad. It was amazing. Just what I needed right at that moment to get me through another day. 

There is hope. There is. I’ve got this. Keep going. Stay strong. Keep going. Keep. Going. 

Thanks kids. I love you.  


Fancy a bite of my plasticine?

Fancy a bite of my plasticine?

You’ve all seen the memes (I hate that word) that read ‘when I was a kid I played outside until the street lights came on, dug in the mud and played in the woods’ etc etc and such like. Most of us around the 30 mark and above can relate to it and fondly recall our childhood memories of minimal technology and imaginative play. 

These days however we live in a much more dangerous world; full of germs and bad people and injuries waiting to happen. As a result of this we cocoon our children in safety and risk assessments, striving to remove such hazards before our children have to even consider encountering them. Modern day children are safe and protected without even having to think for themselves. A click of a button tells you where your child is by tracking their smartphone, a pocket sized bottle of hand sanitiser removes all germs in one foul swoop. A detailed risk assessment that every child caring establishment is required to make covers all the broken branches, steps, trip hazards and possible exits so the children can play safely.

Now don’t get me wrong I totally track my eleven year old daughter’s smartphone when she doesn’t pick up my call after school and I recoil in horror at the thought of any of my children unsupervised in a public toilet (oh my gosh the germs and the other people’s pee and the grossness! I can’t cope). I really appreciate the risk assessments my childcare providers take time to complete so that my partially sighted son only hits his face/head/body a minimal number of times each day. Even so I have to question is it necessary to push our concerns and precautions to such extremes? 

We survived didn’t we? I know a couple of my friends broke bones and one or two must have picked up a bug here and there from our outdoor antics but we survived? Quite well might I add! Our experiences surely contributed to the well balanced common sense we all use to make sensible, reasonable decisions when it comes to our own children’s care. 

What concerns me is that we are too obsessed in modern times with sheltering our children from the horrors of life that many of them will not grow to have the same standard of common sense as their elders. A friend recently pointed out that we already have a generation of graduates with an inflated opinion of entitlement and deflated ability in common sense. What will this next generation of kids be like? Too scared to experience life in case they catch a cold? Incapable of making decisions that should be second nature to an intelligent species like us? 

My husband travelled to Eastern Europe with his band a year or two ago. He was amazed by the low hanging, head height barbed wire and open manholes he saw as he walked around. He asked his guide why there were no signs warning people of the dangers and clearly very little health and safety considerations. The guide’s reply was quite simple; he looked at my husband with some confusion and said “if you’re stupid enough to not look where you’re going and you fall in a hole then it’s your own fault, no one else’s!” This is both obvious and true. In modern society we are all too quick to blame others and immediately stake claims of damages, negligence or fault. Health and safety has definitely reached extremes in our society. Do we want to pass on this mentality to our children? Or would we prefer that they develop to be the intelligent, observant and sensible species that we are designed to be? We are after all the most intelligent species on our planet, right? We are also the only species who requires a sign to tell us the floor may be wet by a water fountain or that there’s a gaping hole in the floor. I mean we obviously wouldn’t see the hole if it wasn’t for the sign so we’d all take no precautions and totally fall in it. We are not using our brains, we are just waiting for someone else to tell us how to do everything. Our children are learning this same behaviour from so young that they accept it without question.

It’s a scary prospect but most of the time if you allow children to have the relevant information they usually make good choices. Granted, once in a while they may choose to play in the rain with no coat or eat chocolate cake for breakfast but what harm would it do, really? They’d soon make a better choice the next time once they are cold and shivering or nauseous and tired from the post chocolate cake sugar crash. They would learn to make the link between a cold, wet day and a warm, dry coat or a delicious piece of toast and jam and not needing a nap by 10am instead of just learning that someone tells them to so they must, without understanding the reasoning. 

Then again, what do I know. I played in the mud and the rain, fell off a great many things and tried to eat plasticine as a kid so my brain is probably fried. 

Divide and…

Divide and…

Parenting; the one thing that can divide even the strongest of relationships. Not completely, obviously, I mean I’m not implying that all relationships are doomed once you produce offspring. However, it does seem to be one thing that can cause a passionate divide in a couple. 

It seems to be the belief of both parties in a parenting couple that each one has it harder, or alternatively that the other has something good that they themselves do not have as much of. Please note that I am not saying either party wants to swap places with the other, simply that something, albeit usually small, about the other person’s life seems sweeter perhaps.  

For example, the parent who stays home the most may feel that the other parent has more time to themselves without the stresses of young children while the parent who goes out to work more feels that the other has more quality time with the children and is lucky not to suffer the stresses of work. Neither person is wrong in my humble opinion; having been on both sides of this particular coin at various points in my life I feel I can defend and argue both viewpoints.

So, my train of thought behind this blog post is simply questioning why it has to be such an opposing situation? Why do parents, who are ultimately happy with their circumstances, find themselves driven to fuel this age old argument? It gains nothing and simply leaves both parties feeling that the other doesn’t appreciate all they do for the family when that is not the case. In fact that usually couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Surely it would be so much healthier for both parents to just acknowledge and appreciate that both positions are hard, tiring, mentally and emotionally draining but also rewarding and of course, necessary. So why is that so hard to do? I would like to think it’s because of the level of emotion involved in such matters. Love is powerful and turbulent after all. 

I guess all we can do is try to be better. Be more selfless, more compassionate, more understanding. Put our faith in the love and bond that is family and hope that it prevails over all obstacles. Because if you’re lucky enough to have family then you have it all. 

Patience and Potty Training

Patience and Potty Training

Our third child will be three in just thirteen days. He was very ill as a baby, suffering Bacterial Meningitis and Encephalitis at just nine weeks old which nearly cost him his life but thankfully only cost him the sight in his left eye and some problems with fixing and focussing. Our beautiful boy was also late eating and late speaking but he has made up for it in leaps and bounds.

I was told a few months ago that our son should not be wearing nappies at his age and that the new owners of his preschool may not be too pleased to have him return in September in nappies, as apparently nappy changing takes staff away from an otherwise strict ratio of staff:children. I have also heard other stories from friends and fellow mums of other parents and childcare workers criticising those who allow their children to remain in nappies past two years old. I have even heard tales of parents attempting to potty train children as young as one year old.

In my humble but somewhat experienced opinion this whole sense of ‘the earlier the better’ when it comes to our children’s milestones is ridiculous. I believe it places unnecessary pressure on everyone involved with caring for the child, especially impressionable first time parents.

Why does it have to be a race? What are we, as parents, racing towards? Where is the finish line? School age? Teenage? Or adulthood? And what the hell is the prize? Rushing through your child’s delicate and amazing development, pausing only briefly to celebrate each achievement with a quick Facebook post and obligatory picture before commencing training for the next milestone? The stupidity of this astounds me and genuinely makes me sad.

So, in demonstration of my views I would like to share the following experience with you; our son has worn nappies both day and night since birth. We have not attempted to ‘train’ him to use the toilet. We have explained the toilet and allowed him to witness his parents and older siblings using the facilities in a hygienic and explanatory way. We have explained that big boys and girls wear pants and not nappies. We have allowed him to wear pants each time he has asked, less than a handful of times over the last year, but each time has been unsuccessful very quickly and he has simply not been able to identify the need to ‘go’ until it is already in motion. Each time he has cried his little heart out and asked for a nappy. We obliged.

Today he got up and while choosing his clothes for the day announced that he did not want to wear a nappy and instead wanted to wear his digger pants (they have a cute graphic of a digger on the front). We of course said yes, as always, but explained that there was no need for jeans under the guise that we were not planning on going out, but in truth because no jeans makes for easier clean ups!

It’s now just after ten o’clock in the evening and our little man has been safely tucked up asleep in bed for two hours now, albeit in a nighttime pull-up. Today’s score? Just one small accident early on, two pairs of pants and every single wee for the rest of the day successfully requested by him and done on the toilet (the real one, not a potty) with no panics or tears and even time to spare. After two years, eleven months, two weeks and one day the penny dropped, the switch flicked and our little boy gained control of his bladder. All by himself.

Today’s lesson? They all get there in the end but none of them before they are ready. Anyone that tells you otherwise has simply honed the skill of reading their child’s involuntary body language and chasing their child with a potty. Take your sweet-ass time and enjoy your child, they come with enough stress without adding make-believe milestone deadlines to your load. Give them the information and opportunities and they’ll let you know when they are ready.

It may not be rock and roll, but hey, it’s where it counts the most. 

It may not be rock and roll, but hey, it’s where it counts the most. 

I moan. Who doesn’t? I’m a mum with a busy life, a hardworking husband gone for eighty percent of the week and four crazy little people – two of me, two of him – running riot. I think it’s human nature to seek out the occasional negative. It helps to make the good times shine bright right? A friend once enlightened me to an old Jewish saying that goes something like; “Without the darkness you cannot appreciate the light.” I think that just about sums it up right there.

However, it is all too easy, as a busy mum with a busy life, a hardworking husband gone for eighty percent of the week and four crazy little people – two of me, two of him – running riot, to forget about all the light sometimes and only see the dark. In these moments I moan. In my head mainly but also to my closest friends. This post is to serve as a reminder to future moaning me that I do not in fact, have it bad at all. Not by any means. 

It’s officially day two of the summer holidays and I took our four minions out to an adventure and wildlife park for the day today with a couple of my lovely friends and their minions. It was a brilliant, fun yet long and exhausting day. We have another such day planned for tomorrow. 

We got home tired and dirty, I unpacked all our luggage from the day and put tea on. Then I ran a bath for the smallest two. My husband walked through the door shortly after, conveniently as the oven timer announced his chicken burgers were ready. Without even stopping he dished up his dinner then sat down to eat with our freshly bathed fifteen week old baby so I could continue with other chores. After that he got the two year old out of the bath, dried and dressed him, put him to bed along with our older two and then brought the baby back downstairs. He then insisted that I sit down and relax with the baby while he went to the supermarket to do our big shop, a task that I had mentioned I didn’t have time to do in the coming days due to our plans for various day trips and adventures so I was intending to go tonight instead. As I type he has just walked through the door with all the shopping and put the kettle on. He’s now putting the shopping away. 

I said ‘You’re my hero’. His reply? “Nah babe, I’m just an average man trying.” I grinned and he added “Oh and I’ve changed the music in your van, it’s like your previous choice but even better, you’re going to love it.”

This man rocks my world. It may not be rock and roll, but hey, it’s where it matters the most. The next time I moan, someone please slap this blog post in front of my face? 


Eau de Vomit, Screaming and Bubble Wrap

Eau de Vomit, Screaming and Bubble Wrap

My hair smells of baby vomit, it sounds like there is a small scale riot taking place in my lounge and my laundry piles resemble the New York skyline.

Our two year old son is marching back and forth across the lounge, intermittently pausing to join his seven year old brother in a wonderful game of jumping up and down on the large sheet of bubble wrap laid out on the floor. Our ten year old daughter is sprawled out on the sofa, headphones on, oblivious to the ruckus happening around her. Our nine week old daughter is quietly regurgitating possets of milk onto my shoulder while I’m desperately trying to complete the obligatory end of day kitchen clean and general tidy up. I feel a little like I live in some kind of modern day asylum where all the residents go about their day like it’s just normal, real, every day life but from an outside perspective they are all acting crazy.

My husband is due to walk through the door at any minute, laden with takeaway fish and chips in place of the home cooked meal I didn’t find time – or enough child free limbs – to make. You know what?
I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I have four children and a very hard working husband. The latter means that I spend a lot of time alone with our children. Some days I am an outstanding, almost OCD level cleaner, other days I am a parenting magazine-worthy nurturing mother or a Michelin starred chef and occasionally, when the planets mysteriously align, I am all of the above all on the same day. More often than not however, I am the frazzled, scatterbrained asylum patient who lives under the illusion that she is in fact not a patient at all, but a Nurse in charge of the other patients. That is fine by me.

My children are happy, healthy and free, my home is beautiful but lived in and my marriage is solid and full of love. These days I hear far too much talk of competition between mothers, criticism being carelessly delivered to the most vulnerable of parents and ridiculous standards demonstrated through rose tinted representations on social media. Screw that.

Time flies, children grow in the blink of an eye and you look in the mirror one day to see you’ve aged ten years when your mind has barely aged one.

Enjoy it, appreciate it, embrace it. Every sick-covered, noisy, insane second.

Sweet night, sweet serenity. 

Sweet night, sweet serenity. 

So here I sit. 4:04am. Those big blue eyes stare up at me in wonderment. My eight week old daughter is in my arms, writhing and wriggling as she struggles to digest her extra thick anti-reflux milk. It seems hard for her little body to deal with the eagerly ingested five ounce feed. She is beautiful.

Last night she woke at 1:30am, just an hour after I had managed to fall asleep  myself. We were both still awake at 4:30am. A hard night yes, but nonetheless I wouldn’t swap it for the world. Luckily it’s half term so there was no 7am wake up call or school run to do meaning I could at least salvage a couple of hours rest this morning.

I find it’s these times, when our busy chaotic household is sleeping and the conversations, laughter and tears have all faded into sighs of slumber, when I snatch a little quiet time with my thoughts. It’s a valuable thing to have moments of peace of mind, especially when you have four crazy young children and a creative whirlwind of a husband.

I find clarity comes at night. When all the background noise dulls to nothing more than birdsong and the soft breathing from my littlest and biggest loves either side of me, I process the day’s events, remembering the hilarious moments afforded to me by our very own bunch of mini comedians. Revisiting the tears and the tantrums when they inevitably clash with each other. Reminiscing about the cuddles and I love yous.

I assess my parenting; how did I do today? Did I handle that tantrum ok? Did I make it worse by not being as patient as I could have been? Did I respond to each of the extraordinary stories they tell with enough enthusiasm? Did I feed them well enough? Did I teach them valuable lessons and allow them to embrace the world as children should? Did I give each member of my little universe, including my husband, sufficient attention? The answers are not always yes.

When our daughter was new I struggled with this. The extra demands on my time and energy were near impossible to take in my stride. For those first few weeks we all suffered in different ways while our family unit adjusted it’s balance and found its new axis. I went through a period of beating myself up about this. I felt like I was failing. Failing as a parent, a wife and even as a person.

As the weeks have moved on so has my mental state. Now as I sit here watching those big blue eyes and tiny fingers exploring as she feeds, I find myself feeling a rather proud sense of achievement. I kept four mini versions of my husband and I fed, watered, safe and happy today. I took them outside into the world and gave them opportunities to discover and explore. I laughed with them and played with them. I encouraged discipline when their behaviour was inappropriate. I talked with them. I cuddled them. I helped to each one of them to grow just a little bit more today.

While writing this tonight our two year old had a nightmare. Apparently he doesn’t like the wolf and said wolf is incredibly frightening. He clung to me desperately and sobbed while I reassured him that there really was no wolf and that he was in fact safe and warm in his bed. His little voice in my ear and tiny arms wrapping tightly around my neck tell me all I need to know about my parenting. He is safe and loved in my arms. No big scary dream-wolf can harm him there.

Therein lies the answer to all of my questions and critiquing; today my family knew I loved them. I find my peace and shut my eyes, ready to do it all over again in just a few hours time.

Socially Unacceptable

Socially Unacceptable

This weekend I had my eyes violently opened to the underlying horrors of social media.  I discovered in the cruelest fashion how easily these virtual bubbles we exist in online are burst.

Someone stole what we thought were private photos of our son.  Not only did they steal them but they spent well over a year creating a whole online life for themselves where our son was in fact their son.  They created a birthdate, labour story and name for him.  They posted regular updates and pictures including photos of our son receiving treatment in hospital while fighting for his life against meningitis and encephalitis.  They commented how brave he was, how scared they were, how blessed they were that he had beaten it.  It made me sick.

We discovered the photos on Instagram at first after a friend recognised our boy in a picture which referred to him with the wrong name.  This friend contacted me to query it.  From this we discovered two Facebook profiles posing as a couple, going by the names Laney Wilson and Ryan Clarke who claimed to be our son’s parents.  There were several photos of our son, even a photo with part of my face in and one with my husband’s heavily tattooed and very recognisable arm!

From here we discovered that the profiles’ friends were also using photos of four of our friends’ children in the same way.  One profile by the name of Carla Clarke had memorial photos of a child we know is alive and well as he attends our son and daughter’s primary school.  These photos were captioned ‘sleep tight little angel’ and included birth and death dates. All the children were around the same age in the photos and all were blond, pale and blue eyed.

We immediately reported it to the police but unfortunately there is no crime in what they have done.  We have reported it to Facebook and Instagram and the profiles have all vanished.  We do not know if Facebook and Instagram removed them or if the person(s) behind the profiles discovered they had been caught out and deleted them.  Sadly, I suspect the latter to be true.  This means the photos of our children are still in their possession.  This chills me to the bone.

We have circulated this story as much as possible online and as a result we have discovered that the adults in the photos on the profiles are also victims of identity theft and not the people named on the profiles.  These poor innocent people are equally as shocked and horrified as us and now run the risk of being recognised as these sickos.  We also discovered we are all linked through our local pub indicating the distinct possibility that the instigator could be someone we know.

To rub salt in the wound, I felt it necessary to delete some of the posts I had shared on various public groups as I began to receive abusive comments from strangers implying that I was simply seeking attention and looking to sell my story for financial gain.  I also received comments calling for compassion for the person behind the profile, with the reasoning perhaps they had lost a child themselves.  Anyone sane who has gone through the trauma of a seriously ill child as we did, would never even dream of stealing someone else’s experience and pretending to suffer it themselves.  Through their actions they have brought the worst time of my entire life freshly back to the surface of my mind and made light of it.  Made the pain less valid, the emotions that I keep in such a tightly locked box seem exposed and somehow made our experience feel fraudulent.  They have exploited our disabled and partially blind son.  This is something I can never hold compassion for or even consider forgiving.  As a result of these comments and with the stress of the situation I felt I was only succeeding in making all of us involved vulnerable, instead of raising awareness as I had intended.

After tucking our three older children into bed last night I spent the entirety of yesterday evening with my four week old baby girl snuggled in my arms and my laptop in hand, adjusting the privacy settings on all my social media photos from ‘friends only’ to ‘only me’ in an attempt to prevent this happening again.  As someone who loves to share my family adventures with my friends and family online I am deeply saddened to say my confidence is shattered and I no longer feel safe sharing our precious moments with our loved ones in this way.

The moral of the story?  The horror stories and rumours are true; social media allows the weirdos of the world to be dishonest to extremes of their desires and no matter how disciplined you are with your privacy settings, nothing online is ever truly private.