It’s 12.22 in the am, I haven’t had my tea yet, I have a nasty headache, I feel sick with hunger and I’m shaking with tiredness as I’ve just sat down after working solidly since my youngest son (known as BabyB) went to sleep.
This isn’t a new occurrence, every night but three has been like this since I was given the news five weeks and two days ago that the local authority were in agreement that my 12 year old son could return home to his family after four years in foster care.
There had previously been a concern that I would need to move to a larger property before this could happen as there is currently already me, my eldest son, my youngest daughter, BabyB and a hamster crammed into a two bedroom local authority maisonette. There was a real worry about how long that would take as I wasn’t initially deemed a priority by my local authority housing department and my son was starting to struggle with the concept of being able to come home, without being able to come home.
However, after a conversation with my son’s social worker and team manager, and after a weekend of furrowing my brow, worrying, pacing, and furiously sketching out plans…I found a way to make it work.
And…after two solid weeks of clearing, car-booting, Gumtree-ing, eBay-ing, putting-stuff-in-loft-ing, de-cluttering, countless trips to charity shops laden with bags of items for them and rearranging anything that would stand still long enough to be rearranged…
…after a further two weeks of putting up shelves, buying things like “over-door hooks” and key hooks in an effort to save space, building furniture I had bought with the proceeds of the car-booting, obsessing over storage and taking to going out with a clip-on tape measure attached to my jeans, buying screws/grouting tools/hooks/masonry nails whilst wearing a dress and trying to at least appear feminine, gardening (read: hacking at the undergrowth I had let build up for four years whilst swearing under my breath and achieving astonishingly impressive scratches, bruises and rashes), reviving old furniture, getting someone else to come and put the shelves back up that I had put up as they’d fallen down (ditto coat hooks) (ditto DVD storage), a Major Organisation Spree (which included much decanting of items into pots and bags with sticky labels advising the reader of the contents) and the mother of all cleaning sessions (still ongoing…I have a bottle of Flash-All Purpose Cleaner wedged into my waistband at all times)…
…after two tins of gloss paint because I felt compelled to re-do all the gloss work in the entire house lest my son judge me and decide he didn’t want to come home because Mam’s DIY skills left a lot to be desired, a tin of black paint to make old furniture Teenworthy, two tins of woodstain, several tester pots of paint to “touch up” my previously piss-poor efforts at decorating when I moved in four years ago, two rolls of wallpaper “so the fireplace looks pretty” (NB: we don’t have a fireplace), a tin of varnish, five tubs of grout, two tubes of bathroom sealant, the purchase of a “squeegee” so I could wash windows like a pro…
…after taking delivery of a second-hand sofa bed, a second hand corner sofa, a triple bunk bed, a second hand desk (£4 on Gumtree!!) and four IKEA Kallax units complete with 24 boxes, all of which I have painstakingly organised so everyone has room to put their bits in (thank you to North Tyneside Council)…
…after finally being able to do the fun bits like buy cushions, fairy lights, girly pictures and her name in wooden letters with fairies on (note: her nickname, not her full name as the buggers charge per letter) to make my youngest daughter’s part of the room special, put up various Thomas the tank pictures/stickerarounds/cushions/bedding/rug to make BabyB’s part of the room special, reorganise and help make my eldest son’s room (which he is now sharing) still feel like his own space, and buy posters, pictures, lamps, bedding, cushions, a mini fridge (!) and his name in binary code (don’t ask) for above his bed for my 12 year old son to come home to…
I’ve worked extremely hard, lost half a stone in weight, barely slept and barely ate. I’ve put ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself and set my targets almost impossibly high. But it’s finished.
Some of these things needed doing – that much is true. There’s no way you can cram four children, their mum (and hamster) in to a two bedroom maisonette without dong a bit of preparation work. And, naturally, it’s important that each child has their own space and that it’s nice for them. It was also really important that things were done before my son came home so that when he did come home, I could focus solely on adapting to this major change in our lives.
But I could have left a lot of things and instead chosen to rest more and build up my resilience for my son coming back. Part of me is angry at myself for not doing just that, but I understand why I’ve done it.
I’m scared. I’m terrified. Of messing it up again. Of letting my son down again. Of letting any of my children down again. When you have had your children taken from you and a whole local authority tells you, through the guise of care proceedings, that you are not “good enough”; it absolutely annihilates your confidence as a parent. On the surface, I will say “I’m a good mum”, but in my gut, I’m not so sure. If you’re told you’re not good enough that many times, you can’t help but think “they” must be right.
I have an ongoing issue that remains unresolved with senior management within this local authority at present, related to my post “A note on power…” and it is sapping my strength because it is unresolved.
And I’m frightened that my son will change his mind. I’m frightened that he’ll reject me and want to go back to the foster carers. I’m frightened he sees them as his parents, and not me. I’m frightened I’m not good enough for him.
I’m lucky that my son’s social worker is on hand, and she’s excellent – a real credit to her profession. I have talked to her and been honest with her about my fears. Both her and her team manager have been supportive and I know they are rooting for us. After the past experiences, and the current situation with senior management; that means a lot.
I’m also lucky to have brilliant friends around me who I know I can lean on. I’ve met the most incredible people through my journey in the past year as “Surviving Safeguarding” and I feel my circle of support is like a fortress.
I’m lucky that I’ve undertaken a lot of therapy and counselling; I know myself and I’m brutally self-aware. So I know I’ve done a bit much, I know I’ve put a bit too much pressure on myself, I know I’ve not taken as good a care of myself as I should have done and I know that I now need to be kind to myself, look after myself, forgive myself and take it easy. I’m going to bed tonight feeling trepidatious, but also relieved that the work is done and I can just enjoy my children now.
Most of all though, I’m lucky that I have the most amazing children. They are my motivation to stay strong, and work hard to be a “good enough” mum during this new chapter of our lives.
We start our rehabilitation programme tomorrow morning at 10am. I’ve decided to write a diary of my son’s return home, partially so that we have a record of such a special event, partially for me so I have an outlet, partially to help other parents in my position feel less alone, and partially to educate social workers on the reality of rehab. I may not write an entry every night, but I will certainly be updating regularly.
For tonight, I’m signing off with a (very very weary) smile.