Saturday, February 21, 2009

Not everyone's truth is the same

If there's one thing guaranteed to raise my blood pressure it's the tale of yet another mother who's selflessly decided to keep and look after her disabled child and - give them a medal, someone - now thinks that child is the best thing since sliced bread and writes their disability-enhanced life story in the Mail or The Guardian. I'm pretty sure that usually these stories have their hearts in the right place - showing the population at large that children and people with disabilities are actually all individuals just like the rest of us is good. But still they make my blood boil...

All too often there's a tendency to over-egg the 'Hey, it's a great life' pudding, and I find myself wanting to write in and say, actually, it's not always fun bringing up a disabled child. I love my learning-disabled son to bits, not just because I'm his mum but because there are lots of very lovable things about him - he's enthusiastic, affectionate, polite, funny and often kind. He offers insults and compliments with the same disarming honesty because he doesn't know how else to be but straight with you. Now that I'm not faced with always having to be at his command I see how truly lovely he is and I'm happy when we meet with him at the weekends.

But bringing up a disabled child isn't always fun so why give people the impression that it is? It's not fun if yours is the one who never stops moving, who wants entertaining all day after a sleepless night, when you're dead on your feet and just want to nap. When you have the one who can't walk but is becoming too heavy to carry up to bed at night. When you're a dad needing to take out your un-toilet-trained twelve year old girl. When their temper's uncertain and you're passing a group of young lads who might be okay but equally might rise to the bait of your youngster's anxiety-fueled aggro. When school's cancelled at the last minute and you're suddenly panic-stricken, wondering how to fill another day. Or worse, when he hates the respite place and you just can't bring yourself to send him for that overnight stay even tho' you know that another night without peace and quiet is going to put a load more stress on you and the rest of the family.

How is any of that fun? Is it me? Am I missing something? In our case, my daughter had depression and IBS for the two years before her big brother moved out. How do you put positive spin on that? Despite his overall loveliness, Buster was, as a child, iron-willed and constantly demanding and, as a young person, capable of some pretty bad/physical/dangerous behaviour.

But quite apart from all that, what sort of effect do these writers have on people who are struggling with their lives? The ones who don't always see the sunny side because life's so flippin' hard? Just like talking about someone battling cancer and defeating it can make others who 'battled ' it without success feel worse about themselves (obviously didn't battle hard enough!), those articles can make good, caring people feel like bad parents. 'Hey, you just have to love enough and have a sunny enough disposition and you'll be fine. I managed it, why can't you?' - that's what they seem to be saying.

Makes me cross. Can you tell??

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cheeky boy...

One of my students reminds me of Cliff Michelmore. Reputedly 17, he looks and dresses at least 65, has Cliff's hairstyle and general demeanour, the only obvious difference being a very dry sense of humour. All things considered, therefore, I took it pretty well when he looked me up and down recently and advised me kindly: 'Honeysuckle, don't wear those clothes tomorrow; they're not very 21st century.'

And then he shuffled off to watch some more trains.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Snow days and bouquets

Last week I worked everyday, despite ice and snow and a two mile walk to the train station. On two days I was the only member of staff in the place because no one else could get in. I'm not one to complain but it would've been more comfortable without the power cut which turned off the central heating, but hey ho...

Anyway, Tesco have caused a furore by expecting their snowbound staff to pay back the time. Another place is expecting staff to pay back time even tho' the place itself had closed. (Huh?) I can kind of see the thinking but - Moses! - who'd be a parent of school-age children when the snowflakes start flying?

So, for the future, this is my proposal:

All teachers, by law, have to live within walkable distance of the school they teach at.

All schools which close for a day due to snow, have to open for a different day some other time during the year, because it's hard enough already finding and paying for childcare for thirteen school holiday weeks, when mum and dad only have four weeks holiday apiece, without having extra days tagged on.

All school approach roads will be gritted first. (Second will be the pavements around old people's homes.)

All people who genuinely can't get into work because of either bad weather or school closures get paid as usual.

All those who actually manage to turn up day in, day out without even a word of thanks (and what I find is that those snowed in at home get sympathy for their plight. Sympathy. How does that work? You can't come to work today? You're having to snuggle up with a pint of hot chocolate in front of Pingu? - you poor thing...). Where was I? Yes, those of us who make it in should, in addition, get a bunch of flowers from The Management. Just a gesture, that's all. Just a little 'hey, you did a great job'.

So, is that agreed then?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What do story ideas and hamsters have in common?

They're both nocturnal.

Plots, characters and settings slumber their way through daylight hours. Then at 3 am they wake me up partying hard - 'hey, look at us, we've got streamers, balloons, exotic locations, unbelievably clever twists and a few cliff-hangers! Come and play!'

Well, y'know, at 3am I can't even be persuaded to reach for the obligatory notebook at the side of the bed. And the last smidgeon of a story idea that now remains with me is something about a wronged wife being told by her ne'er-do-well husband that she looked like a white rhino.

I think it needs work before I send it off to TAB.