*Warning – potential triggers or upsetting content in this post*
We all have our safety blankets.
Sometimes we don’t even know we rely on them until they are suddenly pulled away from us and our comfort has gone.
My eldest daughter, with PDA, had a cousin of the same age who she went everywhere with and, unbeknownst at the time, relied heavily upon for social navigation.
Until the day they got separated from the same class and were made to go to separate schools.
My daughter spiralled our of control and was pretty much unrecognisable from her former self.
I had no idea that at the root to the problem was that she had lost her ‘social’ safety blanket.
The same thing happened a few weeks ago when my youngest child, Boss Baby, lost her real life comforter – her Dear Zoo blanket.
Ironically it was lost at the local zoo – although the context of the situation was not so lighthearted.
Boss takes her blanket everywhere. She cuddles it, kisses it, feeds it and even brushes it’s teeth!
Despite it being an inanimate object, she treats it like it really is a human being.
So when it was lost she fell to pieces.
Every simple step of her routine was like the world had fallen apart. Trying to feed her, wash her, change her nappy or get in the car were none other than catastrophic.
She seems to need a safety blanket in order to function with day-to-day demands.
I tried to buy a replacement online but the item was no longer available. I trawled through every site possible, to see if there was one lurking somewhere, but to no avail.
After many unsettled nights, the zoo finally called, and Boss was then reunited with her beloved blanket.
Since then, it hasn’t been put out of sight:
There is a deeper level to this post, which contextualises why the blanket was lost.
You see, we were at the zoo for my middle daughter’s birthday, to celebrate the event.
She had wanted her friends around her house but I knew we couldn’t do it – having visitors now is just impossible. So we agreed to take her cousins to the zoo with the assistance of another adult.
I wanted to make the occasion joyous for my middle child, as a young carer, she has to sacrifice so many things. Like so many children of siblings with complex SEND needs – her own childhood wishes are often compromised.
Birthdays are very tricky occasions to handle and anxieties are always sky high.
There were too many things that hadn’t gone to plan on the day, which resulted in my eldest (with PDA and ADHD), to have multiple violent meltdowns.
My middle daughter was also distraught and I know she felt her birthday was ruined.
A sense of united panic had swept in.
The zoo was closing and I felt under pressure to get out without having a public showdown. Also, the children in our group were being attacked and their safety was at the utmost importance.
I was trying to balance the welfare of everyone, with Boss now screaming and fighting to get out of the buggy, whilst eldest is still throwing blows.
I’m in a whirlwind of frustration, anger, sadness and embarrassment and I know that it will soon erupt – I’m trying to keep a lid on it.
Somehow the zoo blanket was discarded as we were trying to get into the car and to keep the varying needs of the children safe.
Cars were driving in every direction and the risks were high. My eldest kept trying to bolt and I had no option left but to restrain her for her own safety.
At this point she is already manic, the red mist has swept over, and she is not able to make clear choices from a place of logic.
I’m scared, I can’t breathe, every single move feels like I’m playing a game chess – just one false move and it could be disastrous.
All three children are screaming and crying and I can’t console anyone.
I manage to strap eldest in the car and items are being launched – they narrowly scrape past the windscreen.
My face has been slapped, it stings and the younger siblings are witnessing everything – they are petrified and the screams are heightening.
As desperate as I am for help, I have to ask the other adult and cousins to leave the car park – it is a trigger and she is trying to undo her seatbelt to continue attacking them.
We stay stationary in the rocking car whilst onlookers gape as they drive past.
I pass the kids some sandwiches and hope for a distraction, even to allow myself a moment to pause and recharge. It’s not really the time to be having a picnic.
My body is in the car but my mind had gone.
My brain was hurting, aching even, so much pain inside – I could hear their voices talking in the car but I was momentarily void of any emotion.
They screamed had I fainted, why are you not talking mummy?
I couldn’t answer, I wasn’t in control, I just wanted the experience to stop.
As a parent sometimes you just get pushed to your own limits and there is only so much you can take.
I’m forever scared that if my safety blanket is taken away – what if I fall over the edge?
I had to admit in a Child In Need (CIN) meeting how living in a battle ground, whilst trying to navigate a flawing system, has had its affect on my own mental health.
We have agreed to try and find a ‘protected hour’ so that I can have counselling – although finding a time in the week when I know all children are in school is a struggle.
This incident reinforces the need as a carer to look after myself just as much as the kids. I don’t want it to be too late.
My safety blanket is the mask I put on to act brave and strong, so that I can plough forwards as a SEND parent. Inside, it really is a different story.
Over half term I cut back on social media to look at what my priorities are and to start looking after myself better. I know I need to find some better coping strategies as ultimately my children depend on it.
We all have our safety blankets, we just don’t often realise we use them until they suddenly disappear.