Only Wednesday and already I feel wiped out. Today I had the CSS Disability Action lady. Who is lovely, and drinks tea, although I am a little uncertain about what exactly she does. She says it doesn't matter what we talk about. I think "well, surely it DOES at some level, because this is my time we are spending. I mean, if I want to talk amiable nonsense I can go to church anytime." (Note to self: must NOT repeat when I meet the Bishop). Gradually I am starting to see that what she does is know stuff: like where the best swimming school would be, or a fenced-in playground, or what holiday activities are on offer suitable for my kids. So this is good, certainly worth a monthly coffee. It's also going better than yesterday's mammoth meeting, which was two occupational therapists and a child developmental co-ordination worker. We spent two and a half hours drearily going through all the different ways in which my boys failed to make the grade, from social awareness to self-care skills like getting dressed. Just after they had gone I realised that I had put my own top on inside out, and spent two hours discussing my kids' delays with a label flapping on the back of my neck. Hmm, maybe that is why they asked so many family medical history questions. I can imagine them surreptiously discussing the case in the car "So...we need to work on self-care skills, should we start with the mother?"
I hope they're not planning to teach us anything, because I'm shattered by the combination of meetings, and in particular I feel wrung out emotionally by the boring, depressing job of ceaselessly reiterating my children's failings. I have heard in some distant universe of parents who bore about their kids' successes. I guess they are not the kind of parents who have three meetings in a week where people say cheerfully to you "Now, let's start with X, could you tell us where he's struggling?" It's particularly dispiriting because all of these meetings had sort of nebulous outcomes like "well thank you so much, we'll go away and discuss what he needs, and then we'll write a Plan."
The Plan is spoken of with such reverence that I start to feel a superstitious level of awe and anticipation at what it will contain. Clearly all our family's "ishoos" will be solved overnight by this magical piece of paper. I expect it will contain useful, attainable and practical targets such as
1. Ref: Child A and C. Cure autism, paying particular attention to social, sensory and behavioural problems.
2. Ref: Child B. Global Developmental Delay. Speed child up.
3. Ref: Mother. Teach her how to dress self. (Note: this target may be too ambitious)
Whilst we wait for this magical Plan to unfold, we do make some useful decisions. The OTs will start looking into specialist car seats for the younger ones and a referral to a urologist and Continence services. Which are not the kind of achievements I imagined myself getting excited about when I started this parenting lark, but heigh-ho. I am sure it is somewhere in the Plan.
I am hoping that this flurry of meetings settles down soon. I know I should be grateful, for all the help: I am, truly, but it is hard to see the wood for the trees when for the third time in two days someone says brightly to you "Can you just explain again why your boys are dangerous in public places?" So last night I took my eldest out at 6.45 pm, down to the beach. My reasoning was that I wanted to do something fun and uplifting and enjoy my children, remember why they were amazing. So down we went together. He got changed into his wetsuit and splashed in the sea. Then he drew pictures on the sand with his feet, and finally, with ten minutes to go before we needed to get home, we walked down to the end of the beach to show him the fossil forest that was left there 200 000 years ago, when a volcanic eruption solidified treetrunks to stone.
It's a moving sight, and brings me a sense of peace. I look across at the volcanic island across the bay, and feel a lot better: sort of back in the right place, somehow, as if the mountain and the water have settled my soul again, after the rufflings of the day. I must do this more often, I think. We walk back to the car. My son scampers beside me, first worrying that the crabs might bite his feet and then asking if he can crawl like a dog. I help him out of his wetsuit and into his clothes. And I am happy, simply and unproblematically so. The lists of professional meetings recede into the emotional distance. This is the right place to be, I think.
And that's what's useful about this marathon of meetings, I think, they enable me to suss out the local support landscape, so that we aren't pent up at home, but can get out and enjoy the view. That's my plan, anyway. Now if you will excuse me I will go and practice putting my T-shirt on the right way around.