Twelve Prickly Strangers
None of us wanted to be there, especially me; ‘If this is a bloody support group, I’m off’. Twelve prickly strangers, corralled together by our children’s common diagnosis, were signed up to a six month training course in 'Therapeutic Parenting' as standard techniques Do Not Apply.
'What are you hoping to get out of this course?'
'No idea. Someone thought you could help, so here I am'. It was a tricky start.
Over time we slowly uncoiled, laughing like drains at each other’s hideous news, astonished, and grateful, to find other people functioning in the same madness. No matter how grim the tale, there was always someone else in the room who had experienced the same thing. There were no magic wands, we were told, no ways to alter what had been stamped on our children’s blueprint. Love alone would not solve anything. All we could do was use our best educated efforts and employ what can only be described as super-human patience.
We learned the techniques, followed the instructions, Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy which, on a good day we could pull off and on a bad day we could only curse.
Some talked too much, some not enough. We turned ourselves inside out and had to trust those around us not to recoil. They didn't. There were catalogues of missed opportunities, fruitless interventions, so many, many social workers and healthcare practitioners, each greeted with a weary cup of tea and sometimes, by some of the older children, with a raised middle finger.
There were times when we felt we were failing our children and we wept acid tears, hopeless, hopeless, hopeless. But there were also times of triumph, of successes shared and cheered. We started to look forward to the sessions, they became essential to our well-being. When it was over we grieved. Each of us wrote a note to every one of the other eleven; something to read on a day of despair. I still can’t get through mine without crying. No longer strangers, some of us still meet several years later and have formed an unbreakable bond. We sit together in an atmosphere of total acceptance, of complete understanding, of love. We are unshockable. We are strongest together. We know who we are.