Signing Off

Or starting again.

Cards on the table, the past 7 months have been a complete and utter nightmare. I mean, things weren’t good for my physical health anyway, I was hit hard by the CFS and the return of the school routine meant that I suffered a dip which means the house takes a nose dive. No one was getting food poisoning, everyone was fed and watered, bills were paid, clothes were washed but rooms were chaos and my living room was crazy with crafting and outgrown uniform and, you get the idea. Our eldest wasn’t quite 16, the baby not yet 2, my priority was keeping the kids doing what they needed to do. I couldn’t do the house too. The Mr is only 18 in house training terms – a work in progress, if you will.

I digress. One afternoon, the weather still wonderful, the mediums wanted to play, the baby had a 4 o’clock call with the breast and the bigs were being bigs – “homework” was being completed. I saw the Dare Devil pass the living room and going upstairs to the bathroom. Normal, everyday, ignorable. A few minutes later the Fashionista and the Protester come running downstairs “Mum! Mum! Can you hear him?” 

No was the simple answer. DD was upstairs, what had he done? Only now he was downstairs. In the garden. Having avoided the stairs…

My crazy, climbing, clingon (as was) had taken a fall from the upstairs bathroom window. It’s a 10, maybe 12 foot drop. My heart was in my mouth and my stupid body was frozen. The Protester carried him in to me, whimpers and unshed tears; no blood and all limbs moving, relief flooded me. I rang for an ambulance, I rang The Mr, I rang The OutLaws. Nearly 90 minutes I held him as still as I could in my lap, talking to him, playing with his floppy mop of curls, telling him about my day and anything else I could think of to keep him with me. He told me he hadn’t hit his head but he’s 8! What does he know? My heart broke as he went off with Dad in the ambulance. I could barely walk, I wasn’t the right person to support him. 

Short of it, he was absolutely fine. A tiny crack on the inner side of the pelvis so a bit sore but other than that he practically managed to walk away from it thanks to some fancy hand holds and swinging rather than dropping. Jeepers, I love that boy!

The long of it. The house was a mess, our 8 year old was able to fall out of a window, flags were raised. Anyone who knows us would say that is a bit extreme but not everyone knows us, unfortunately. 

The Social Workers turned up the following evening. I was at home with The Smalls and because of how my body handles stress it was as bad as you might imagine. I all but freaked out when they left and all of our wonderful friends and family rallied around. The Mr’s week off was put to very good use, I reached out to my own Mother (who has been a trooper even to this day), battle lines were drawn. 

The system is flawed, it’s hard work to navigate, and you really get left in the dark. Immediately there was talk of child protection and despite not one other issue Social Services forged ahead. I can see why, I really do, but I loathe the not knowing and that was where I was left. I had to chase, chase, chase. I was proactive, writing my own “reports” on each child, summing up our flaws and trying to big up our good bits. The day of the Child Protection meeting I was certain I was going to be sick. I hadn’t slept in weeks, I was on hyper aware, the whole family were permanently tense. And then they cancelled. That was my breaking point. How could these people be the best judge of how I run my family when they can’t organise a meeting? Or at least have the decency to tell us before I had a hideously long walk to get to the Civic Centre with no parking. More emails, more chasing, another date set. 

They worked out that we had 80 years of parenting experience and this was the first time we appeared on their radar. Their concerns were my organisational skills (clutter), a lack of interaction with the Health Visitor and getting everyone counselling because. Yeah, just because. One was too selfless in her thinking, one not concerned enough, one so absorbed in their own journey which in itself was also a cause for concern – because being transgender is a big “we haven’t dealt with this before” issue for Social Services down our way.

I would have laughed if it hadn’t been for the tears rolling down my cheeks. None of it made sense to me. My house smelling of cats was their number one problem, apparently The Smalls weren’t talking as expected but I think my prepared list of words they can say put a big footprint on that. Listen people, if a 2 and 3 year old don’t want to talk to you when they’ve only known you five minutes that doesn’t mean they are somehow abnormal (count to 10, count to 10…)

The children were now part of a Child In Need plan and we would have meetings with 2 new Social Workers. Finally, 7 months after “The Incident”, our case has been closed and the relief was overwhelming. We expected and anticipated it and managed it as best we could. The OutLaws stepped up and helped with the school runs and looking after the Smalls so all I had to do was rest. I slept for 30+ hours in a 48 hour window and it was so very needed. Oddly, I don’t feel like I’ve recharged as much as I might have once hoped but I do feel like the weight has gone.

In conclusion;

>It wasn’t as awful as I feared

>It was as “red tape” led as I expected

>For some families, this could have broken them

>If I never see these four women again it wouldn’t leave me heartbroken.

>I am now less likely to tell others that it will be okay and that they’re only there to help

>They don’t help. They issue demands and give no thought to how people are going to “fix” the problems they have found

>It takes it’s toll on everyone
My son did a ridiculous thing and I was all but blamed because I should have been properly supervising him. They want you to do the impossible. As a disabled mother, I already feel guilt day in and day out. All the things I used to do without thinking have now become the most tiring  of experiences; just getting off the sofa takes a great deal of physical effort, a bucket load of pain, and a few internal choice words. I am no longer the easy going, carefree parent I used to be for the first four but instead, I am a worrier, a hesitator, a person constantly on guard and someone who has been forced to rely on others. This experience has made my motherly paranoia 10x worse and they will never understand the damage they have caused.

Social services can and do make a tremendous positive impact on families and often, quite literally, save lives. They are not infallible, they are, after all, only human and this means mistakes can and will happen. Granted, the mistakes for our family were made because of the system and not through malice but I think that makes us the lucky ones. Two women walked into my home and immediately made assumptions which I can’t blame them for. I *think* we are one of the good families, one of the switched on, educated, engaged families. There are others out there who are falling short for similar reasons as our own but I fear the children in those incidences will live with the repercussions for a very long time.

My boy thought he had been bad. He still feels that for those 2 weeks where it was “recommended” that he stay with his grandparents he was being punished. By me. He’s eight, he has no idea of what the real reasons were or that my lack of visitation was because I couldn’t move and not because I was angry with him. Our bond has been shaken and I don’t know if it will ever be the same. Some families have been through this and didn’t make it out the other side. My heart breaks for all of those families. I lived in daily fear of my children being taken and it took an army of people to make sure that I made it through. When people talk about social services now I get it. I understand that even if you have done nothing you still have everything to fear. These strangers have complete control over your children and depending on how their local enforcers view things could make life take a terrible turn.

I wish it wasn’t so. I wish we all spoke openly about our experiences and therefore forced accountability to be out in the open too. Social Workers don’t want to take away children, they don’t want to break apart families but the role they play in society means that is exactly what they do. 

When the original knock at the door happened I was totally taken aback. I asked them if they could hold off, could they come back tomorrow, it’s already 6:30 and the babies need their baths before bed. “Oh no” they said. “It won’t take long” they said. “Better to get it done straight away” they said. I was a disabled mother caring for two young children whilst her husband visited with the older children as he stayed at the hospital with their son. They shoulda woulda coulda left it and come back the next day. Too late now. Nothing can change anything for us but perhaps next time they will do things differently and will still manage to do the best by the family they encounter. 

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