It’s now 9.15pm on Monday the 25th of July; I’ve just sat down after the first day of my son’s rehabilitation programme for his return home from four years in local authority foster care.
I had very little sleep last night, waking up constantly to check the time (in case I missed 10am which – thanks to BabyB – is hilariously unlikely). I was up in the end at 6am, a swirl of emotions ranging from excitement, to fear, to relief. I spent time doing jigsaws with BabyB which calmed us both, before going on a wild and unnecessary vacuuming spree around 8am for which I am confident my neighbours were grateful.
At exactly 10am, I saw a car pull up about 30 metres away, my 12 year old son clearly visible inside. We all went to the window ,waving madly, and watched him carrying the first of his possessions towards his new home back with his family.
It was then that I was hit with a tsunami of emotion; this was real, it was really happening.
No one was standing between us, no one had rang at the last minute to cancel it all, no one was telling me if I wanted my son back I would have to go to Court and fight, again.
The last four years of being desperate to hold my child close to me, desperate to talk to him whenever either of us had anything to say, desperate to ruffle his hair and tell him everything would be ok because his Mam was here.
Four years of not knowing where he was or what he was doing or how he was feeling, four years of obscene amounts of guilt that I had let him down and didn’t have the opportunity – in one supervised contact session a week where our every move was recorded, judged and discussed in meetings – to tell him how sorry I was and to try and make it right.
Four years where I tortured myself that he would feel rejected, abandoned, that his Mam didn’t fight for him – when I knew the truth was diametrically opposed to that.
It was over, it was really over.
I watched as my son approached, a smile playing around his lips as he knew his family were standing at the window waiting to greet him and it struck me…he was walking toward us, towards me. He knew I had let him down, he knew I had made mistakes, yet he still wanted to be with me. At that moment, I felt truly blessed and humbled. I felt exceedingly proud of the young man coming towards me, and I felt extraordinarily lucky that he had given me another chance. I know in my soul I will never, despite all of my fears to the contrary, I will never ever let him down in the ways I have before. I might not always be Mary Poppins, I might get tired, and short-tempered, and pissed off but I know I will always try as hard as I can and honour the gift I have been given of another chance.
The day passed, sunny and relaxed. I took BabyB to the park so the older boys could have some Man Time in their Cave shooting baddies on some godforsaken game machine. We ate doughnuts whilst BabyB had an early lunch, tired from the park and whilst he napped, I took my son to explore his new surroundings. I showed him the delights of the local shops (he was non-plussed) and he helped me solve the age old problem of what to do when you have 27 bags of crisps and nowhere to put them (we bought a bloody big box). I took him for lunch (read: Subway £3 lunch deal because times are hard and Mam’s not made of money) and we people-watched and chatted. When we went home, I hung washing out, and did the dishes whilst I ear-wigged on the boys conversations.
It was normality.
He left at 5pm, tired and happy – full of what he was going to bring “home” tomorrow. We all waved him off, but no one felt the need to linger at the door and window until he was out of sight. We all felt safe enough to let him go, because we know he’s coming back tomorrow – for his first overnight stay.
My cheeks hurt because I haven’t stopped smiling all day. The little things people take for granted (and which I no doubt will again in time to come), holding your child, being able to talk to them, seeing your children interact and watching them smile – these things have etched my soul with utter joy today.
Day One of Rehab…done.