‘That letter’ and non-standard mothering

So here’s the gig. LB is 18. Increasingly unhappy at school. Deteriorating in emotional well-being. The space for him to be happy seems to be steadily narrowing. Like those rooms on Tomb Raider with moving walls, or the ledge Batman stands on.

We work full time. Luckily with flexible employees/jobs that allow Rich to leave work at 1pm to collect LB from a residential school trip in Devon when it goes tits up, or one of us to be home at 3.15pm most of the week, with some help from family. This also means that we spend quite a lot of the weekend working.

We have a care manager. Or we did, briefly, until she organised the 2 hours of direct payments five days a week to cover after school ‘adult child care’ and discharged us indefinitely. ‘Successful at panel*’, she called it. Trouble is, ‘adult child care’ ain’t readily available. And two hours after school doesn’t solve the increasing problem LB has coping with school.

Things are not going well.

I met with a good friend this week who has a 25 year old daughter in a residential setting. She always amuses me with her refreshing, no nonsense, cut through bullshit, type approach to her and her daughter’s social care experiences (which have been up and down). This time she turned her focus onto LB. It was time to write ‘that letter’, she said, as we noshed on the early evening menu and glugged house white.

If we didn’t write ‘that letter’ to social services, saying we wanted LB to live independently when he finished school in summer 2014, he would get lost from the system. We needed to have ‘that letter’ on file. So it’s recorded. We didn’t want to be scrabbling around in crisis, in five years time, desperately trying to engage with social services and no space to be given any choice in his living arrangements.

This week I’m a respondent at a workshop on ‘Changing Models of Motherhood’. The session is about ‘non standard mothering’. I’m uncomfortable with that term for all sorts of reasons. I want to call it ‘different’, ‘hindered’, ‘frustrated’, ‘hampered’, ‘unsupported’ mothering. ‘Non standard’ implies a benign, though less valued, type mothering but one that is somehow still within the gift of the mother/child relationship.

LB’s current distress relates to external factors and is compounded (or created) by a lack of appropriate, timely, responsive rather than reactive support. I don’t want to write ‘that letter’. For me, it goes against what I consider to be ‘good mothering’, non standard or whatever. It seems harsh, punishing, unfair and I worry it will expel him to some, as yet unknown, space. A kind of containment. ¬†Experiences of social care so far have been pretty mediocre to downright crap. For example, the council funded sessions of peer buddying to take LB out and about, and the care agency sent a man in his fifties because there were no other staff available. I know that the rhetoric around choice and personalisation is hollow. There ain’t a meaningful choice.

So, writing ‘that letter’ fills me with dread. I know its got to be done. But I still don’t know why it does. It shouldn’t be this crap.

*And I still don’t know what ‘panel’ is.

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