Sunday, 28 February 2010

Parenting in the face of Prejudice

This has been a tough week. It has involved justifying myself and my family in a way I haven't had the misfortune to for some time.

For reasons known only to themselves one of the parents at H's school has seen fit to persistently complain about our use of the Disabled Parking space at school. This is frustrating and infuriating on so many levels.  

First, I have the only disabled child in the school and am not preventing anyone eligible from using this space. Second, I HAVE a Blue Badge, since H would regularly run off, requiring third party intervention more than once and impressively bringing Colchester High Street to a standstill on more than one occasion. He has been a clear danger to himself and others and his paediatrician recommended I apply. Third this misguided person has not had the courage to discuss my use of this space with me, or even with the Head in person, but has instead resorted to anonymous emails from an address not registered with Parentmail and leaves his/her ignorant ramblings unsigned. 

This isn't the first time this has happened to us or my friends with Autistic children and will most certainly not be the last but that doesn't make this outdated, narrow minded bullying (for that's what it is) acceptable.

Now I'm totally thrilled for this person that their life is so free of other stresses and worries that the location of my car is uppermost in their mind, although I do find it rather sad that they clearly have such an empty, unfulfilled existence that remotely bullying parents of disabled children pushes their buttons. But what *really* upsets me is their obstinate assertion that my child is not disabled. Of course, assuming they have any knowledge whatsoever about him and his multiple, complex diagnoses, our life and how challenging just getting him to school is (let alone keeping him there) what gives ANYONE the right to judge someone else's child in this way?

Our modern, inclusive society promotes cultural and religious toleration and understanding and encourages empathy and consideration for those less fortunate. So it is distressing and depressing that so many still consider only physical, "visible" disabilities to qualify for support. I have friends who have been approached in supermarkets and loudly offered advice on parenting their "unruly" children and have been told myself I should "not have been allowed more children because I cannot control my son" and these views filter down to their offspring who frequently tell me when I am helping in school that my son is the "naughtiest boy in the school" and their "mummy says he should be made to leave and go elsewhere". 

Those who bully the parents of Autistic children (or any others suffering invisible disabilities) should take a long, hard look at themselves and thank God their little ones do not have a daily battle for acceptance, understanding, and the liberty to be themselves in a world they have as much right to exist in and be part of as any other child. Life is not a level playing field and allowances should be made for those less fortunate, and a little sympathy meted out for their parents - for whom life is never going to be plain sailing.  

Thursday, 11 February 2010

"Delete your life - Yes/No/Cancel"

What is it with mobile phone software????? Is it THAT difficult to get a software engineer capable of producing pc compatibility software of at least A level standard capable of synchronising date between phone and computer? In an age where mobile phones are becoming ever more sophisticated there is an unmet demand for adequate software to effectively (and securely) link phone data with pc data.

It may be that Apple has solved this problem. Indeed everyone I know raves about the iphone - but for those of us with no hope of obtaining the nirvana of mobile communication there is this little issue of phone to pc connectivity. This week I bravely (incredibly bravely, had I known what this week had in store) followed a friend's advice (you know who you are Simon) and strode bravely into the 21st Century, embracing the electronic calendar. Now I'm a paper and pen kind of girl and whilst I am also admittedly something of a closet geek I love my diary. So this leap of faith was quite the milestone, and I carefully transferred the contents of my dairy in an electronic experiment.

All appeared to be going well until today. I quite appreciated the drop down to-do list for each day, which is quite extensive for our family and saved carrying around a bunch of notes. However, the problem came from the phone deciding to revert to monthly scrolling rather than weekly. I assumed I had forgotten to enter a few appointments and entered them accidentally in March, rather than April. I quickly realised my mistake and went to delete the duplicates. I selected a day... and the phone benignly enquired whether I would like to delete all entries. Not "would you like to delete ALL entries, your forthcoming commitments, your children's appointments, essential to-do lists and in fact, your entire life for the coming month, but just "delete all entries" - for that day. Or so one would assume. In a split second I watched the entire calendar disappear. There wasn't even a to-do list left to add "stiff drink, revert to old diary" on.

Fortunately I had backed the thing up, but it didn't end there. To retrieve the back up, I had to allow the phone to accept the pc as master, for Calendar AND Contacts. This was not what I had in mind at ALL since I have two separate contact lists, one of emails and the other mobile numbers, which I prefer to keep separately. There was no option for a tertiary level of thinking and I gave up.

Computers are only as clever as those programming them, and I have now reverted to my paper diary. Either my life is too complicated for an electronic alternative or those responsible for the trashy pc to phone software which came with my mobile have only a handful of contacts and one or two entries on their system. The latter is probably true of most software engineers (incl the one I'm married to!) but until my own life is that simple I'll stick to paper and pen and the knowledge my life will not suddenly vaporise at any given moment!

What are you giving up for Lent?

So next week sees the start of Lent. Not a part of the Church Calendar I have ever strictly observed, but this year I'm giving it my best shot. Some carefully considered acts of penitence and sacrifice might well improve my chances of a less stressful rest of the year! So here is my list of good intentions:-

1) Give up reheating cold cups of tea. I know it doesn't work, nothing is worse than reheated cold tea and the chances of remembering to remove it from the microwave let alone drink it are slim.

2)Stop worrying about going to bed early - the sense of failure when it doesn't happen is far worse than the lack of sleep.

3)Accept the kitten will always reach the defrosting bread/cakes on the kitchen worktop (or any other food item left out in the kitchen) before I do and give up expecting otherwise. Miracles do take a little longer, even in Lent.

4)Give up worrying what other people think because the chances are they live on another planet/parallel universe/have no children/haven't heard of ADHD let alone Autism

5)J is going to attempt to give up video games... although he doesn't know this yet. Fortunately Jesus never had to suffer such temptation since the Devil was lacking video games in his arsenal, this will be a tough one I assure you.

6)Feeling guilty. Any parents reading this will know only too well that with the arrival of a little bundle of joy also comes a sack labelled "guilt". The more the child grows, so does the guilt. The failures of parents are extolled in parenting books, newspaper columns, magazines and even now in schools as they strive to "teach" parents as well as the children to tick the necessary boxes for next years OFSTED inspection. In actual fact, the vast majority of parents do a damn good job with scarce resources (sleep) and limited sympathy (the world at large in today's social climate) and jettisoning the guilt is a major step forward. With four sacks of guilt to carry my back is seriously suffering, and the osteopathy bills are no joke.

7)Sweets. I don't really even LIKE them. It's just a sugar fix, something to grab on-the-run and everyone knows sugar is nature's analgesic. Little more than a sticky plaster on a stressful day this one should be easy.... or easier than...

8)Caffeine. Don't even go there. Life without Caffeine is beyond the pale and the subject is totally off limits.

9)And as for my biggest weakness, the internet, I would be in such a state without it that everyone would give up on ME so I think that one will have to stay!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

My little project!

As per my post here  I thought you might like to see the result! I have now published my most recent project, for our local PreSchool and Wraparound Care, at Woodland Corner.

For all fellow Fiat (Multipla) owners

There is a reason the Fiat Multipla has never had a huge following in the UK. Despite Fiat's best marketing efforts and the fact that the Multipla is possibly the best people carrier around in terms of space inside without being an enormous tank to drive and park, its loyal following has failed to grow over here.

It all comes down to the weather.

Fiat is, of course, an Italian company. And it doesn't snow in Italy. Not usually anyway. I think the car's quirky design is the ONLY reason for its limited popularity here, without it it wouldn't stand a chance. Take the handbrake cable. Any discussion forum on-line will have at least one thread devoted to the problem this experiences in sub-zero temperatures. It freezes. Completely. You can release the handle in the cabin but the brake stays on. Even when you *think* it's released and drive away you are in fact dragging the rear wheels behind you, as R experienced recently much to his embarrassment.

But by far THE most hysterical weather-induced fault HAS to be the discovery that the motor controlling the boot lock (only Fiat would have a MOTOR to open a door for goodness sake....) shorts out in the cold. In the past we have experienced this as the boot completely locking up and you cannot open it again until the weather warms up. Seriously. But the recent cold snap produced a far more interesting situation - any electrical event in the cabin causes the boot to OPEN. This may not sound very amusing but imagine innocently driving along, reaching out to turn on the radio....... and the boot opens. Of course, that's not so bad if the boot is empty. Not so if it is full.

I'll leave the rest to your imagination!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Thought for the day...

Alice came to a fork in the road.  "Which road do I take?" she asked.
"Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat.
"I don't know," Alice answered.
"Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."
~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

But does it??

Is it possible to know which way you DON'T want to go, whilst being uncertain of the "right" choice? Like choosing which job to take, finding the "right" school..... a new home.... or a holiday. Sometimes choice would appear to be a bad thing even, paralysing you into a state of paralysis by the very nature of its existence. We certainly have a lot of choices to make right now! But one thing's for certain....

If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.  ~Russian Proverb
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