Skip to main content

Day 1: It's all about the friends...

It has begun. Day One of Ninety. I'm using full words rather than digits to make it look as long as it feels. It's been an odd, reflective couple of days, and tonight we are with my husband's family and I would really love a drink.

My own family live on the other side of the world, in New Zealand.  I boarded a plane more than twenty years ago, and broke my mother's heart by cancelling the return flight. No doubt at least one of my children will do the same to me in years to come, although I may burn all their documents and empty their bank accounts in order to keep them close. (I can say this now that they are asleep, but a few hours ago, as they threw sand at each other and on strangers on the beach, I'd have been happy to book them one-way tickets to anywhere.) I feel the distance from my family more each year, as I begin to understand exactly what I left behind. And I feel far, far away from them: my parents, my brother and his wife, and the cousins my children will never know.

All the same, in recent years I've realised that although my family is at the heart of who I grew up to be, there are other bonds in my life that are every bit as crucial. They help me to make sense of things, or make me feel less bereft when there is no sense to be made. I hope that this is mutual. Other than the life-changing connections you make when you choose a partner or start a family, most of us belong to a succession of 'tribes': people you find at various stages of your life who really 'get' what you are going through at the time. You may drift from tribe to tribe as people's circumstances change or needs evolve, but if you are exceptionally lucky, some people drift with you. And when you've stuck with each other long enough, you know it's pretty likely to be permanent. I could count these people on the fingers of one hand, yet feel ridiculously lucky to have so many of them.

In case this doesn't make sense, here are some of my past and present tribes:

  • Uni tribe   French degrees brought us together, and The Celtic Arms. There was a broken engagement for one of us and a relationship ended by a partner's suicide. And oh my god, there were raspberry buns and cider and wine and M&Ms and the knowledge that at least three other freaks in New Zealand wanted to read French literature.
  • Publishing tribe  The job where I fitted, and so I stayed. A whole building full of print junkies, who had been trained to talk about 'business' and 'products' in job interviews rather than professing their deep and undying love of books and hoping that would be enough. And yet as soon as the contracts were signed, we were swooning over the newest titles in print and hanging out in Waterstones in the name of 'competitor research'. Everything at that company was a bit rubbish, but we were in it together. And there were manuscripts. Heaven.
  • New Mum tribe  The tribe where limits fall away. Nipple pain, nappy contents, peeing yourself if you run downhill -- it's all up for conversational grabs.
  • Twin Mum tribe  Like New Mum tribe but with even less sleep and double the pregnancy hormones for twice as long. And with endless back pain and sad farewells to trampolining. (Yes, that's YOU, my long-lost pelvic floor.) It's PND-tastic and if you actually manage to leave the house to see somebody, she (you wouldn't bother moving for a man) must be pretty important. This, though, was my first experience of the virtual tribe. Nobody seemed to have had enough sleep to set up a facebook group at that point, but we bonded over google groups. How to get crayon off a tv, how to get poo stains off the sofa, how to get them to stop biting each other, or just feel less ashamed when strangers noticed the tooth-marks... At the time it felt like Blitz Spirit, but in retrospect I see those as simple, carefree days.
  • SEN tribe  Before I realised I was a SEN Mum, I just thought I was a Crap Mum. Then I met people like me with kids like mine and issues like ours and understood that I was home. In our facebook group you can be Proud Mum, Grieving Mum, Triumphant Mum, Sad Mum, Frustrated Mum, Depressed Mum, Desperate Mum, Drunk Mum and most definitely Sweary Mum and there's always someone around to empathise. 'Your son thinks he's a cat? Mine did that! My friend's son thinks he's a horse!' You child tries a new food and everyone is cheering with you. There's a lump in the toe of a school sock and every member recoils in horror. It's a whole new world where our kids belong, and so we Mums belong.
And so back to today, Day One. I have to admit to tears today, as The Cat (the autistic twin) failed to cope with the journey to Norfolk, then he failed to cope with the big family group, the new environment, the sleeping arrangements and the noise. This stuff is standard for us, but we lose control of his environment when we're in a large group and there's only so much we can do to help him. It's also a stab in the heart to sit and hear about the wonderful things people are able to do with their summer holidays, when for us every day out of the house involves lengthy preparation and special accommodations, as well as the distinct possibility that we will have to abandon our plans and rush home if something smells wrong or isn't as expected. We'll be okay this weekend, I hope, but maybe not, and stress levels are high. Being away from my tribes makes me feel different and alone and in definite need of a drink just to relax enough to be able to string sentences together. Tonight at dinner what got me through was thinking of my tribes, who really 'get' my life and are behind me for my 90daysdry. I love that I have a friend who remembers the raspberry buns and stayed up all night with a screaming newborn Dog (the ADHD twin) so that my husband could go to a wedding. And I love that I have a friend who remembers it's Day One and wishes me a Happy Dessication. And I love just posting a swear word on a facebook group and knowing that my SEN friends get how hard the Cat is finding his weekend away. Fellow weirdos, I salute you, and I drink water in your honour.


  1. Cheers! Tribes are definitely good things. See you soon I hope xx


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Day 52: Holidays SEN-style

October half term. A week without school. A time where many fly away to top up on sunshine before the cold, hard winter really sets in. For those who stay at home, there are meet-ups with other families or friends, day-trips out and sneaky glasses of wine for the Mums who are co-ordinating the whole thing. Luckily there's not much sun at this time of year, so the 'yard arm' does not apply. I'm only on Day 52 though, so there's no drinking my way through this one.

So what will we do this half term?

The Cat will recover from the stresses of school by wearing as few clothes as possible - only underpants are obligatory around here, and even that takes some persuasion. Many autistic children are also diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, and in The Cat's case, his skin is so sensitive that just wearing clothing can make a day harder than it should be. Noise and smells are similarly problematic. So at the beginning of the holidays, and on Saturdays, we have a d…

Day, erm, Almost-the-End: ADD-vance and Not Blaming the Parent

I've just realised how close I am to the end of my 90-day challenge, and would like to write my last few blog posts about the ways that The ADD-vance ADHD and Autism Trust -- the beneficiary of the sponsorship for my challenge -- offers support to families like mine. Because when I first encountered ADD-vance, the idea of self-care was laughable. Did these people not understand that I spent part of my days restraining a violent child and much of the rest of it dealing with wounds or wreckage or the anxieties of two other children? Had they no concept of how hard it is just to get three SEN kids into clothes every morning when two are dyspraxic and one spends the larger part of his life upside-down or in mid-air? Did they not know that I had zero seconds to myself, and that even when the kids were in class, I was in meetings at school or on the phone trying to persuade local services to offer us some 'service'?

Turns out they did get all that. That they had all gone through…

After the End: ADD-vance, Honesty and Community

So last Friday was the 1st of December, marking the end of my 90-day drought, and I may have had a drink or two to celebrate! A few friends from ADD-vance came over, and a lovely lady with a big bag of skincare products. (Laura from Arbonne, if you’re interested! Very lovely indeed and another who has used ADD-vance services.) With my kids duly threatened and bribed, I had the kind of chatty evening-at-home-with-friends-and-make-up-and-wine that I haven’t had since, well, the early 90s. If you take out the girlie pampering bit, I need only track back seventeen years to August 2000, when my husband was away for his Stag Do and a select group of friends came for an all-female slightly tipsy sleepover. Either way, I was overdue a girls’ night at home.

The 90 days of my challenge have flown by, especially the last week. There’s so much still to say about ADD-vance, about self-care and about the mind-shift I’ve experienced just by making one small change to my lifestyle.

What I have realis…