‘He’s a handful, isn’t he?’
‘You can’t relax when he’s around.’
‘Gosh he’s full on.’
All things that have been said about Pudding lately, and they have made me very happy. Why? Because they were said by two ladies who are long-term childminders and respite carers.
I’ve sometimes wondered, in my more hopeless moments, whether I struggle with Pudding simply because I’m not very good at this parenting lark. Whether I’m getting this help under false pretences. Those who’ve had a lot to do with him, such as Sister (who has now fitted locks to keep him out of Niece and Nephew’s rooms) and my mum, would I assume say no, definitely not. Most others only see him outside the home – strapped into his buggy or playing happily in the park – and therefore don’t get the full glory of his behaviour. So when someone experienced at looking after children (both typical and special needs) says things like the above statement, it makes the whole world seem lighter. It says to me, you’re right to want this. You’re not inventing difficulties.
The standard Short Breaks offer for families who are able to access it is for 100 hours throughout the year. This can be taken flexibly in a way that suits the individual situation – a regular two hours a week for example or fewer longer days.
As is the case with many other families I found the summer holidays particularly challenging last year – 8 weeks break from playgroup seemed to stretch into infinity. So we’re using our short break hours to have a morning every three weeks, and then the rest as longer days in the holidays.
So far it has been working well. Last weekend I had Pudding to myself while Hubby and Twiglet went to visit the in-laws, so a morning break enabled me to get through the rest of the weekend in tact. And the time before that, the three of us went trampolining and then shopping for Lego. Spending family time doing normal stuff without the need to meet Pudding’s constant demands is fantastic. Hard to describe, but it’s like I am released to enjoy myself more freely.
I know all parents probably need a break from their kids at times, but the sort of usual options – encouraging them to play in their own room, or arranging a reciprocal play-date – just can’t work for us.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore my boy, and we have great times together as well, but there’s an element of freedom during respite hours that we just don’t get otherwise. In our longer summer days I’m planning some trips with Twiglet to places that would be a nightmare with Pudding in tow – climbing some rocks may be on the cards!
It’s a hard thing to admit that you need a break from your child, but harder still to soldier on regardless.