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I’m not ok.
That is really difficult for me to write, let alone say.

I am not mentally well.
My mental health has been slipping now for months and to be honest for many of you who are closer than others that it isn’t really a surprise for any of you. My Dependant Personality disorder is being hit and I feel like I am emotional unstable a lot more than I have been for a very long time.

Regular readers of my blog would’ve read the few times I have been on and opened up and said what has been going on here and what we’ve been going through on a daily basis.
It IS abuse. There isn’t an excuse for it.

I have heard and seen so many people stick up for it. Abuse is abuse. It doesn’t matter the age of the person doing it. It is abuse.
If someone is living inside your property and is in a relationship with you (unspecified conditions, just a relationship) and they are abusive to you then it is domestic abuse.

If they are within the peer group (open guidelines) and they live in the house with you then it is abuse.
It could be a form of Gaslighting (manipulating someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.) “Techniques & Examples of Gaslighting in a Relationship: making the victim question what happened with statements like, “Huh? that's not how it happened!”

If it is within the peer group and they live in the house with you and they are physically threatening or hurting you then it is abuse. If someone is using “Coercive control” (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical violence) then it is a form of domestic abuse. If someone is in your peer group and they live in the house and they are psychologically and emotionally hurting you (Constantly criticising you, undermining you, making you feel guilty and telling you what you can and can’t do) then it is a form of domestic abuse.
Now this is the list of types of abuse that come under domestic abuse. I would include sexually abusing a person but for the purposes of this post I won’t include it but in no uncertain terms am I dismissing it.

Now, if we then find that there is a generation split, for example, a parent does these things to a child then it is child abuse. If a child does it to an adult then it is parental abuse.
These are just the very clear and precise definitions of abuse.  Most can be Googled and checked if you wish. Some are specifically listed with the citation above.

In terms of myself, I am a victim of parental abuse. All that is listed above (apart from the sexual abuse) is what is happening towards me from an 8 year old child.
Hannah and I have been in a relationship now for 2 years and 4 months and this has been on-going. We have been having help by professionals for 9 months because at that time I couldn’t cope anymore. I needed help.

For a long time I shrugged it off. For a long time I thought there must be a hidden additional need. For a long time I thought he would learn, adapt, change and show me that it was all worth it. I was wrong. He is stubborn and strong willed and hasn’t changed a word or action in the time frame we have had.
All of this has broken me. I am not the man I was 2 years ago. I am not the man I was one year ago.

My mental health has got to the point where I am continually unstable emotionally. Everything that I used to do to maintain my mental health has gone.
I used to draw and paint when I needed to level myself. I would sit and play at the piano to feel like I had something that few people could do. I would watch films and read books to have that little something to get lost in.

However, a crucial part of abuse is listed above: a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control, constantly criticising you, undermining you, making you feel guilty and telling you what you can and can’t do.
Everything I try is hit with abuse. If I can’t do the things that reinforce and strengthen my mental health then it is bound to fail.

I have been aware of this and subsequently spoken to the different mental health teams. I am too far gone and have too severe mental health issues to have CBT or talking therapy and I am not in the frame of mind that makes me critical to have the help that I technically need. I have my techniques that were previously taught to me and that should be enough.
It doesn’t seem to click that because I can’t do those things that my mental health is failing.
I feel most days like a shell of myself and I have no idea what to do. I know there is no real fix, especially with how our life is and what is happening. I know there is nothing anyone can say other than “I hope you feel better” or “I hope something changes soon”.

I suppose for me, I wanted to write, voice what is going on and how it is affecting my mental health and not, as many do, keep mental health difficulties a secret. I am not ashamed that I am struggling. I think any abuse victim would feel like this. I am a bit upset that I am losing the mental health battle after spending so long fighting it.
Hannah is great and she tries extremely hard to give me time, space and a place to do these things but A’s behaviour is relentless and it always has a knock on affect. Those who follow my social media will know that I have managed to find time to do some art work this last month.

I recently had a heart to heart with the new social worker about it all and she did seem to understand. She also had a chance to see the art work that I have managed and wants me to be able to do it.
We also have 5 weeks of the summer where A is at his dad’s so we can get some respite. Hopefully then I can get a little boost. So, I suppose, something is better than nothing but it is difficult reaching out for that life preserve when you feel like you’re drowning in deep dark waters.
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It’s been a while since I have posted here, again. The idea of the last post was to conquer the hidden aspect of what was and is going on inside our home. I thought that voicing the “secret” that has been tormenting us would help. I was wrong.
I had the willpower to write, express my views and hopefully use this new strength to carry on and not let my dear and wonderful blog die. I was wrong.

It is now July and we, as a family, are still exactly where we were. We have social services still dealing with us and we are nowhere near the family life that anyone would particularly want.
The hope, in the previous post, that the “new” social worker would help and support us quickly disappeared.

Rather than dealing with the abuse in our lives she looked at the other children and not A. She felt that Hannah and I needed to go on parenting courses despite the fact that we have previously done them multiple times and have done EVERYTHING that they courses suggested.
But, what do we know? They’re the professionals. We met with the parenting course professionals and the outcome was exactly what we predicted. They listed everything we could try. We showed them all we’re are doing or have done after months and years of committing to these different tactics. Their response: “Well it might not be useful but you could at least make some friends”. We need help, support and guidance not more friends.

The social worker seemed to avoid doing anything with A. His school said he “wasn’t the worst child in the class so it’s fine”. They deemed his behaviour in school as minor and subsequently that it isn’t something that he does outside the home so our cries for help were ignored and we were deemed “bad parents”.
We tried everything, only to be told it was wrong. Everything we tried was thrown out the window and the social worker took our house rules down and said that A didn’t need to follow them.

He played her perfectly. He said he didn’t “understand” the rules and made out that he was isolated, ignored and even went to the extent to say that he is fearful of living with us because we hurt him. All lies. Yet, understandably, she had to take it seriously. She left us like that and wouldn’t return for 5 weeks.
The outcome: 5 minutes after she left we had A saying “I told you I would get the rules taken away.” Then turning to his mum and then saying “Now she’s gone you have to give me what I want”.

However, she didn’t return 5 weeks later. 6 weeks later we find out that she left and we have to have a new social worker. 6 months of fighting and we had to start again. The new social worker had to meet, chat and evaluate all over again. Yet, now he had power. He was under the impression that lying and manipulating adults and getting what he wants were achievable.  
It wasn’t all bad though.

We had “new” information from A’s school. His teacher left and the truth came out. His record is full of incidents despite the previous dismissal of it. His new teacher saw that his attitude and behaviour SHOULD be treated individually and subsequently he is a problem in school with weekly, repeated, negative behaviour which is leading to him having detentions.
This, thankfully, shows that it is HIM and nothing to do with our parenting. This is his attitude and belief and has nothing to do with what we are doing.

On meeting our new social worker A decided that he would try and manipulate and control her; the confidence of the belief from the last social worker made him feel like he could.
For us, this aided our battle but it equally doesn’t win the war. The social worker believes us. She sees the problem and how we are truly struggling. Yet, we only have one hurdle that will stop our victory; what can we actually do?

The behaviour and attitude isn’t an additional need so we can’t get any help. We have gone through the appointments to be told that. He chooses how and when he wants to do it and will hide it to make sure that certain people are not aware of, in his words, “his secret”. The social worker has told us that she, following from the last one, has a limited time with us before she has to let our case go. That includes the time in the summer when he is staying with his dad so we can have some respite. So, in all he will have maybe 8 to 12 sessions with her to help him; something the social worker has even admitted might not achieve much.
So what do we do? What can we do? It is just behavioural. It is a choice he makes.

In his words, “I want what I want. I shouldn’t be told off. No one should tell others what I do. Everyone should do what I want. I want my tablet every day and all day. I want to go to bed when I want. I want sweets every day. I want mum all the time. She should be with me. Martyn has to stay in his room so I can have all of this. I will punish you until I get it” (He used to say that he wanted me gone but changed when he realised that he couldn’t take MY house from me and that he, Midge and Hannah would have to leave and for a short time he would have to live with his dad as Hannah has nowhere to go)
This belief and attitude are from an 8 year old boy who hasn’t once changed anything he is saying in the last 4 years; way before Hannah and I started seeing each other.

He hasn’t accepted the situation or changed. He sees his family as him and his mum and in his words “won’t stop until I get what I want”. For the moment we can fight it because he is 8 but he is already voicing that we won’t be able to stop him when he is older, bigger and stronger.

We will soon have no support. We have no new ideas. Nothing has worked and I feel that soon we will have to make a decision to protect all involved because no one deserves living in a world of abuse and tantrums.
Being a child who was adopted because my birth mum chose her partner over their child is horrible and damaging. I wouldn’t want that for him. So is the only option us breaking up? Finding hope in the idea that the only way to actually protect ourselves and our family from abuse is to break and give him what he wants?

This is where we are. This is where we have been for months. This is why I haven’t written because I honestly don’t want to make it real by making it public but I can’t let something that I have built up and love die because I’m too scared to share the reality of our life. We need something to change.
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There is a moment when you deal with professionals where their opinions make you feel like you are massively wrong and feel bad for thinking the way that you do.
This entire process with social services has been stressful and invasive at times. The one thing that we have tried along the way is to be totally honest and transparent to the events, actions and situations that have been happening. The problem is the belief in what we have been saying.

We have an 8 year old (the 7) who is demonstrating actions that are abusive, concerning and not typically expected from a child and one so young. It isn’t that we are lying but the concept of domestic abuse and purposeful manipulation doesn’t seem to match to the idea of a young, blonde haired and blue eyed 7 year old boy but that is exactly what is happening.
Luckily, we have video and photo evidence of it all as well as witnesses who have seen it. This has been great for us to really show the validity of our case.

The real problem then isn’t necessarily convincing these people of what is happening but more that we KNOW exactly what is going on.
I kind of see this the same way as my disability. In many general medical situations like GP’s and hospital the professionals tend to say “Well the truth is Mr Kitney you probably know more about the disability and the medical responses than we do”. It would make sense, I, for the last 22 years, have experienced every aspect of my disability and its degenerative points. I have regularly spoken to the specialist about all the different aspects and how it relates to my health. Therefore, I would have a greater understanding of the specialist aspects of my medical condition than a general practitioner.

So if we use and understand this concept then it is easy to realise that we, as a family, are more understanding of the abuse and manipulation that is going on. After all, we are the ones who are living in the middle of the storm. So why would they feel the need to presume that they know more?
After the report was given and we had the Children in Need meeting there was a certain level of “achievement” in the on-going process. A, at the time, had shown a level of improvement. He had started to acknowledge, chat, respond and interact with me. He seemed to be behaving better around the other children. His outbursts seemed to be limited to less than a handful over a 2 month period compared to weekly. Finally, his manipulation through emotional blackmail and self-harm had only one incident.

The thought process was that the involvement of social services, the strategies that they and we had put into place and the play therapy had combined and tackled the abuse that was happening. We, however, were wary. We had a period of time last year over a 4 to 5 weeks where things dramatically changed after we took a real hard stance on A’s behaviour. However, by the end it changed back and he told us that he was only pretending to be nice. He used what we put in place, adapted and pretended to consider and change his behaviour only to change back when he thought he was “safe” and wasn’t going to have any comeback.
This thought was always in the back of our mind, we knew that his issues and behaviour was controllable and ran deep within him that really only professional and long term support could tackle but alas we got told that we were wrong. We were being pessimistic, negative and not looking at the good progress that we and A had made.

The more it happened there was a part of me that started to believe they were right. Until 3 weeks ago.
3 weeks ago the odd little behaviour trait started to come back out. It wasn’t directly noticeable at times but there was some low level actions happening. Over that time it has increased and in some case has gone back further to what we were dealing with over a year ago.

It seemed to coincide with the “goodbye” happened with the assessing social worker. Could it be a coincidence? Was something triggering A again to start back up? Did something change for him? Or, had we changed and stopped being so proactive and it’s allowed him to slip back?
We managed to chat to him only for him to admit that he had been pretending again. We tried to ask why he had stopped and changed again, pinpoint the reason why this behaviour has started up but all he would tell us was "because i can and want to". All that was clear was that we were back to square one and in some cases further back than that. In the middle of exploring this we found out further information about his manipulation to other family members and his very clear understanding of how he manipulates or in his words “pretends and lies to get what he wants” as well as exposing a manipulation technique he has used to get Hannah into his room in the middle of the night that we, up to last week, had no idea that he was doing it.

In many ways I feel so let down in the social services for being so positive and trying to convince us that it is all good now. I feel let down that I had started to believe it rather than relying on my own understanding of what is happening around us.
We have a new social worker working with us who seems to be able to see exactly what is going on, what he is doing and is capable of so I am holding out the hope that we can work together to at least tackle the long term behaviour that is lurking in the low points.  Until we can get that long term support and treatment to him it is back to being on defence and muddling through.
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I have spent the last 22 years finding ways to deal with a slow but degenerative condition. There are many different ways Muscular Dystrophyaffects my day to day life and one aspect is my clothing.

The more certain areas of my body deteriorate, the more my clothing style has changed.

For a long time I was a simple t-shirt, jumper and jean guy in casual situations and a more casual-smart shirt, skinny jeans and a jacket when going out. However, over the years, I have had to sacrifice certain styles in my fashion to suit my body shape and how I move.

One would see this as a great excuse to go shopping but as a person who lives with a Dependant Personality Disorder making decisions, even small ones like choosing clothes, can make shopping a hellish activity.

Recently, I had to make that decision and adapt to both my clothing and my body but luckily Jacamo helped me.

Walking and moving my legs is usually my first priority when choosing clothes. There is usually a battle between wearing jeans and a casual pair of joggers.

Jeans can be a difficult choice for me. Personally I prefer wearing tight or skinny jeans. They fit my legs well and seem to match a fashionable style however, movement wise, they can be incredibly restrictive. If I choose to be in the wheelchair, which seems to be happening more and more, sitting in tight jeans is never comfortable; something I think anyone, abled bodied or not, can agree with.

This has meant that I have needed to change the style that I wear. This time I chose a pair of jeans that are quite loose. Not just around my waist but over my thighs and around my knees. This would aid both walking and being in a wheelchair. Importantly, unlike tight jeans, the pockets are large and deep.

I love a good jumper. It offers the obvious factor of warmth but the added factor of comfort. Hoodies particularly are a favourite of mine. This is where the second change in my physicality is really important on the style that I choose.

For a long time now I have always chosen hoodies that zip up the middle. However, having to hold my walking stick pockets are being used more and more. I find that with zip-up hoodies that once I put items such as my phone in my pockets  the combination of weight and my “awkward” movement means that it only takes a few metres and my zip has pulled itself down and the weight in the pockets create a natural “swing”. I have, subsequently, had to change to hoodies that have a centralised pocket on the front and no zip. It may only be a small style change but one that is important to how I move and feel comfortable.

Finally, my choice in jackets and coats has needed to be changed. This one has been around for a while now and sadly I have usually opted to go without one than invest in a new one. The choice of coats are usually quite expensive and for an ever-changing health condition the decision for a new and long term coat has to be taken seriously.

Coats are usually the most problematic. When walking they need to not restrict my arm movements so I can create enough momentum. They can’t be too tight on my chest for when I sit in a wheelchair, have buttons or zips easy enough for my fingers to do them up and finally, like the hoodies, enough pockets, perfectly placed, to carry items and counter my balance and movement.

So what was my opinion?

The jeans are comfortable, stylish and easy for me to move in. They feel great when I walk and when I sit in the chair. Importantly, choosing both the style and the tone would mean this would be suitable for both casual and more formal events.

I absolutely love my hoodie. I ordered the larger size and it is comfortable, cosy, free moving and the pocket on the front helps to centralise my balance and carry everything I need. It is perfect for both outside and inside the home for any occasion.

As mentioned above, the coat is the biggest and most difficult choice but I feel that Jacamo has great choices to choose from. The one I am wearing isn’t too heavy, there is enough movement under the arms for me to walk with my stick, it is long on me but equally doesn’t pull when I am sat in the wheelchair. I love the style of the buttons on the front and although they were easy for both Hannah and even the kids to do I find them a little tricky but then that is my muscular dystrophy over the design. However, it ticks all of the other boxes for what I would need.

With my health changing and knowing that I have to adapt along the way it is still nice that I can shop and find clothes that feel great, are practical and are still stylish.

What do you think? Am I still rocking the style despite my health restrictions?

(I was gifted these items for free to review. My opinions are my own and I am under no obligations to give a positive review. The choice of clothing, how I move, how the clothing fits and how good I look in the items are my own. Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of my blog)

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It is a new year and the months are flying by and with that we will see across social media that people are giving up this or that for lent!

In fact, it starts today!

As many of you know I do go to Church every week as well as the odd Church activity in the week; don't worry this isn't going to be one of those nutty Christian posts.

So quick round up of Lent:

Lent is the 40 days that lead up to Easter; technically there are 44 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter but you are meant to take off the 6 Sundays and then add on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. This is meant to represent the time that Jesus was in the wilderness where he went through a 40 day of fasting.

So we then tend to try to give something up or "fast" during that period. In principle the time of 40 days is meant to be something that changes your outlook on life; People will often give up social media so they can spend more time with family or they will stop eating chocolate and reap the health benefits from it.

Anyway I digress:

So Lent is a practice that a lot of people take on, being a Christian or not, it has turned into a "New Year’s Resolution" type of thing.

Lent starts, as mentioned above, today on Ash Wednesday so you will see many people talk about what they will be giving up over this time.  There are many things that I 'should' give up and would probably allow me to feel some healthy benefits from.

This all sounds great doesn't it? So why wouldn't I want to give something up that would benefit me?

The more I thought about it the more it occurred to me that the likelihood is that whatever I give up will just continue straight after Easter. So would I truly benefit from it?

For previous years I have taken up a challenge to take something on rather than giving something up; I decided that I would do the same and instead of giving up I would be take up a 40 Day Challenge.

This had both good and poor results. The first year it worked perfectly and I completed the 40 days. The second year life and my mental health hit and I faltered after 3 weeks. The third and final year was a success. Last year I decided to look inwardly at my "Christian relationship" and subsequently took up more activities daily that would build and connect my faith; something that I've carried on throughout the year.

This year I'll be taking up again but not through blogging or personal activities. I've been feeling that I should be looking outwardly. This is when we (Well Hannah) found 40 Acts of generosity.

40acts is the generosity challenge for Lent, created by UK Christian charity, Stewardship. For eight years, 40acts has asked a question: what if Lent could be about more than just giving stuff up? What if it could be a time of radical generosity as well as spiritual discipline?

Over the years, 40acts has become a movement of over 100,000 people on a mission to impact their communities with generosity – during Lent and beyond.

This seemed to fit perfectly with what I like doing. I'm taking something up rather than giving up. It would help me inwardly but the focus would be outwardly without reward or thanks.

Every day throughout Lent (not including Sundays), you get to wake up to a new generosity challenge in your inbox and short Bible-based blog. Each act is designed to sharpen your awareness and give you practical ways to stretch your faith as well as your generosity, with three challenge levels.

There's also family participation with friendly wallcharts as a guide.

As I haven't done it before I'm looking forward to giving it a try and seeing the pros, cons and if it really ticks the boxes of what I'm aiming for.

Christian or not, are you giving anything up for Lent? Or, like me, will you take something up that'll make a difference to yourself or others?
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Today William has hit double digits and is now 10!
It is easy to look back and enjoy the journey that my little baby has turned into the young man in front of me. I could write post after post about him and say how amazing he is.

But I won’t.
I think anyone who has read this blog or follows my social media accounts will know the type of lad he is and how incredible that boy is. The one thing that may be missing is the impact that he has had on my life.

I always wanted children and to be a parent but I don’t think anything would ever prepare me for it. Whilst we were expecting him I dived into lots of books about pregnancy, parenting a new born, babies and generally being a parent. I, like many, had preconceptions of the type of parent that I would be and the styles and techniques that I would use. However, Will, and subsequently James and my Step-kids, had other ideas to the man and dad that I would become.
With that in mind I thought I would write a post about what I have learnt in the 10 years of parenting; 10 lessons for the 10 years.

1. Never trust what you read.
It is easy to look at books, forums and blogs and choose what you like and don’t like. You can try all these wonderful ideas, styles and activities and see if you can replicate what you have learnt. Your child, however, will show you that it isn’t that easy. This information will give you the pros and cons and consequences to the actions but they will never fully cover how the impact that your unique child will bring to it. It becomes almost a poor version of the idea; like seeing a beautiful how to Victoria sponge recipe on Pinterest and ending up with a lopsided jam and cream sponge crumbs. It may still taste good but it is never that picture perfect look.

2. It is ok to not get everything right.
The amount of times as a parent that I have this wonderful plan and it goes horribly wrong. There are times when you don’t even know how it ended up so wrong but it somehow has. It can be the smallest thing, the one thing that could never be planned for or could just be that you have misunderstood or incorrectly tackled a situation. Whatever it is, please know that it is ok to get it wrong. It may feel like you have failed massively but the truth is it just didn’t go how YOU wanted it.

3. You will feel guilty.
Keeping in mind the last point can help you to brace yourself for a heart-breaking and gut-wrenching  guilt. Things, as mentioned above, can and do go wrong and even though you have tried to get it right you will feel this horrible feeling of guilt when it doesn’t. In some way you will fail; you will make a mistake, misunderstand or even find that you haven’t  been there for them when you should have been. It happens and the guilt will come. Please remember though that the fact that you are trying is worth more than anything that covers guilt.

4. You will find that you say things that you never expected to.
You see and hear stories that parents end up saying the most ridiculous phrases and it is true. You can never really appreciate the sheer random sentences that will come out of your mouth. Sentences like “Please stop licking the dog! Just because he licked you doesn’t mean that you lick him” or “Please pull your trousers and pants up and stop naked dancing in Wilkinson’s”. Just picture a combination of objects, add a few actions and finally sprinkle on desperation and you will find that you can and will do it too.

5. You won’t always like their characteristics.
I once told my friend who was a new father that there will be a time when he disliked his son and he lovingly argued that it would never happen. Until, that was, the day when he repeatedly told his son not to keep touching the D.V.D player and his son ignored him and at one point stared with stubborn disobedience and did it anyway. At which point he rang me to rant about how his son really gets on his nerves. The truth here is that you will always unconditionally love and support them but occasionally you won’t always like the things they do.

6. You will never know what personal space is again.
The days where you lazily wake up, have a slow start, whatever you wanted for breakfast, have a nice long shower or bath and have a peaceful night is over. It is always a running parenting joke that a child won’t let their parent even go to the toilet in peace but it is a real view of what life as a parent is like. You can’t open a treat secretly in another room without finding them sniffing and standing behind you. You can’t sleep peacefully without finding them in your bed or, like me, having the child looming over you watching and waiting for you to awake. Your space is now their space.

7. They can make a mess in seconds.
There are children who are really neat and tidy. There are also children that can destroy a room in 30 seconds. Whichever style your child has it will always involve mess. They may be the tidy type but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a mass explosion of toys, crafts and mess before they tidy up. They have the ability to move from one room to another and create an environment of carnage.

8. They think they know best.
It is one of those serve and be served situations. You may work in customer services and know the routine well; you work and know your products but Billy shopper will somehow think he has more retail or product knowledge and as the saying goes “The customer is always right”. Parenting is no different in some ways. Despite their young age they will think they are the master of all. They have spent the majority of their early years learning and experiencing everything around you and subsequently believe they know more than you, even if you spend ages trying to correct them.

9.  The will always love you.
There may be times where you fight like cat and dog, where you are staring at your child and asking why they thought something was a good idea or not recognising the traits that you are seeing in front of you. There are days where you are just watching the clock tick by until bedtime where the day has been long, intense and extremely hard. You are by that point longing for the little bit of space and respite that you can get. The thing is that however hard it is and can be you are their world. They love you and will always love you even when they say they don’t. The intimate bond and love between you and them can transcend the hardest of situations.

10. You pretty much make it up as you go along.
I made sure this was the last one. It pretty much encompasses all of the above lessons and points for me. There is nothing online or in a book that can prepare you for what can and does happen so you make it up and hope for the best. There will be times when you try things and they go wrong and you have to make it up on the spot to try and rectify a situation. You will feel deep emotions that you haven’t experienced before and have no idea how to deal with it so, you make it up and hope for the best. You will say and be faced with situations that you don’t expect and subsequently be caught out and have to make it up on the spot. You will be surrounded by mess, chaos and have a child that confuses you and you will have to think on your feet; often in a tired and stressed state of mind. Every day is a day of learning and you will be faced to make decisions that you may not have been expecting so you try, out of love and thoughtful well-being, to do whatever you can even if you’re not always sure what that it.

All of the above has changed me as a person and a parent. Whatever life throws at you the role of being a parent will change your life in ways that you will never expect. It is amazing to see how I have changed and what I have learnt in the last 10 years. It will be wonderful to find out what the next 10 will bring.
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Months and months of worry, stress over the turmoil that our blended family was having, awkward and hurtful questions and an assessment to support our family that turned into an investigation and what felt like a witch hunt.

Many of you would’ve read in my last blog post that family life has been incredibly difficult. We have tried to use all of our own knowledge, read and investigated any help we could access, tried many different techniques but ultimately we were still concerned over the safety and well-being of ALL of our children and ourselves.

The technical term was Domestic and Parental abuse (Household member determining) and we had a very confused and angry boy demonstrating and initiating abuse amongst the rest. When we had tried everything and all else failed we called Social Services and alerted them of the abuse that was happening after James’ school asked us to try them again with their backing.

What was our final hope seemed to spiral out of control. Our social worker was meant to be assessing us but the process seemed more like an investigation and a witch hunt. The help we were meant to be getting somehow was focused on me and the abuse that I am doing towards the children and Hannah. There was no other premise or evidence to go on apart from the dislike and lies of the above child and historic evidence of my own childhood abuse and adoption and my physical and mental health.

We felt total despair.

We knew that the report was coming and had braced ourselves for what it may be. In every situation we have ever had with the social worker he always ignored what we (collectively anyone he interviewed) was saying and quickly shut us down if we tried to oppose his “perspective”; we needed a way to tackle that.

Luckily, friends have been supporting us and many had suggested and offered to be at the report meeting with us and be an anchor against dismissal and a witness to our fears.
The meeting happened. The social worker interviewed the children individually before he sat with us.

He started going through the new responses from the children and apart from A had increased his happiness scores the other kids only increased theirs minimally but relayed the same difficulty that they’ve been experiencing.

One point came from Will who decided to stand up for himself, Home ed and myself by putting the social worker in his place telling him all the amazing things we do in home ed and the fun social activities that he is involved with. The social worker was surprised; not just the fact that Will was doing all of these things but that he felt the need to tell him about them. It was our time to put across what we had heard from others, what we had experienced and how his impact on us has affected the children.

As expected the moment Hannah and I voiced our concerns he was quick to shut us down and argue with us. Luckily, our friend was there to back us up. I asked to be heard, Hannah asked that I was heard but it took our friend and witness saying that I had the right to be heard for him to be quiet and listen.

He sat, listened and by the end of it he was shocked. This wasn’t his experience, he thought he had done everything right, was upset that he felt that he disrespected and insulted us on occasions and, in his opinion, felt that he has fought our corner but could accept a massive communication deficit.

It took a while but we managed to come to a middle ground where he apologised and wanted to make amends. He gave us examples of how he has fought our corner; something that neither Hannah nor I had felt that he had done. Finally, with time running out, he booked us in for a Children in Need meeting with us adults, an additional and our new on-going social worker as well as the two schools who have the children registered to them and passed us the report for us to read before then and raise, if any, questions or complaints and then he left.

We sat and read the report and we were shocked. It was NOTHING at all like we expected. It didn’t cover anything that he had spiritedly pushed or aggressively argued with. If anything you would assume that our experience and the report were done by two different social workers.

The social worker had listened to everyone and had seen everything that we thought he might have missed. He clearly saw the abuse that A was doing to us and his siblings and he saw A’s attitude towards his Mum, Midge, James and I. He was in agreement that A had transferred his Sensory Processing Disorder outbursts into a behavioural form of manipulation and abuse when he had outgrew a lot of sensory difficulties. He also recognised the fact that he has attachment issues with his mum as well as females in general after recognising that A manipulates other female family members with his behaviour; all something, unknown to us, that A had willing told the social worker.

Ultimately, he actually did his job.
So, what is next?

Well the report clearly shows that we need to show a more consistent and stricter attitude towards A’s behaviour than either ignoring it, being scared of it or pandering to him. To do this we will be referred to some parenting support to help. Due to the fact that it is affecting every member of the family in some form we are being referred to Family Therapy. A is being referred to mental health for children as well as a Paediatrician. The other children are also being referred to the Paediatricians to help with some of their needs and the schools will be supporting them in those hours for pastoral care.

The Children in Need meeting was more of an introductions and summary of everything that has happened, been discovered or witnessed and where we are going.

It isn’t a quick fix. There is no magic wand to fix the very complicated and interwoven issues that faces us but we do, once again, have hope that our family life may have a positive future.
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Well it has been 4 months since I last wrote a post on the blog and many have speculated that after nearly 10 years of blogging that I had finally chucked in the towel.
The blog is and will always be a place for me to express my thoughts; despite rumours, I’m not that bright and the blog is exactly what it says on the tin.

To write about a life that I wasn’t living, hiding away aspects that were difficult, made me feel like I was being disingenuous; something that I try passionately not to be!
Yet, to talk about some of the things that have been going on also felt like a betrayal towards Hannah. A lot of the story wasn’t mine to tell and it could easily be taken the wrong way. A majority of the problems here have been with “A”, Hannah’s youngest.

He has a problem with a lot of people who “interfere” with what he wants to do or people in some form of a relationship with his mum; the majority of it aimed at me.
When your entire days, space and energy is constantly battling a force that a) you’re not used to dealing with, and, b) targeted solely at you blocks the ability to reset yourself into the things that you usually do.

When life was hard and “all else failed” I would dive into a book, write a blog post, spend time on social media, listen to music or draw but these things, at times, weren’t allowed. The music may be too loud, space to think and recover when you are hearing demands, threats and shouting is difficult, especially when they make sure they strategically place themselves outside of the room you are in.
So what do you do?

How do you say “We, even us adults, are victims of domestic/parental abuse and the child is 7” without people making judgments? We have already heard them being made by the professionals who should be helping.
How do you say that a 7 year old has physically attacked me, sometimes with their fists and others with weapons or that they have knocked you over so you’re vulnerable? How do you say that the bullying that happened with James was mostly orchestrated by his step-brother because “He wants him so upset that he leaves and doesn’t come back {to school or my house}”? Or, tell people that you see regular psychological abuse happening when you see him punching, strangling, head-butting and biting himself when he is saying “I am doing this until you give me XXX”, “let me sleep in the bed with Mummy,” “You shouldn’t put me on “thinking time” to his mum or telling us why we’re making him sad until he gets what he wants.

In reality 90% of the above isn’t new. Hannah has had to deal with this before I came around and mostly by herself. “A” has some very mixed up ideas on how to do things and what he believes is true.
In the last 18 months we’ve tried everything. I pulled all of my knowledge from teaching, working with SEN children, child psychology and art therapy and nothing has helped. I was with his mum, a few things changed and Hannah finally had some back-up to tackle some of the more challenging behaviour.

When all else failed we turned to get help. We tried Early Help, Paediatricians, School and Social Services back in July and everything got rejected. In reality “A” is a very controlled child. He will talk very calmly about his aims, the way he wants to punish James and I or “control” his Mum and Sister and he will discuss quite freely why he won’t be caught doing it. His freedom to discuss how he controls people outside like other family members and even the Teachers is quite alarming at times; ultimately, his playing field, his rules, who he chooses and when he wants.
Then we moved James to his new school. The Home and School support worker is amazing. She wanted to know everything about James, his previous school experience and his home life. It was her who finally said “This IS domestic abuse” and that’s when it really dawned on us.  She understood, supported us and said to give everything a go again with seeking help, so we did.

In November Social Services entered our home to investigate. Here was our hope: we can push for a CAMHS, get some therapy help for both “A” and us as a family and finally some ways to tackle some of the more aggressive situations.
He came; he interviewed us, seemed to almost argue that some of these things don’t seem possible for a child so young (Despite 11% of young abusers being under the age of 10) then interviewed the children. It all seemed to be going well.

Then it didn’t.
After interviewing the kids he instantly had a problem with me. He seemed, despite the other children supporting what we had said, taken what “A” had said as gospel, i.e, I was the problem and I didn’t want “A”.

He wanted background history on me, found out about the abuse I suffered as a child prior to my adoption, my nervous breakdown, my Dependent Personality Disorder and that, prior to 6 years ago, being an alcoholic. The assumptions were adding up. He spoke to the boys Mum and wanted to know her point of view, she expressed concern for the boys, retold the stories that they had said and constantly had to bring the conversation back from him disagreeing and blaming me. We have a good co-parenting relationship but for her to say “He really has it in for you” made us all worry. Yet, he won’t speak to A’s dad because “He’s not currently relevant” despite protests that he could support the claim that he has been like this before I was around.
The schools were contacted and he didn’t speak to the people who were in the know so came back a blank for “A”, phoned James’ school and had their feedback. Only for his school to phone me, explain their conversation a little and say “I really got the impression he was out to get you”.

He has even used William’s handwriting as a reason why the entirety of our Home Ed journey is a mask, created by me, for setting him up for dependant life in the future.  
We are now just waiting for his report to come back. We pretty much know what his conclusions will be because, as written above, he has already made several statements that imply his view.

So there we are, back to square one. All the routes have got us nowhere. The behaviour at home is on and off at the moment and we are having a small spell of easier days but we’ve already had those throughout the year.
So, when all else fails…….

You have 2019.
I have always believed in “Every day, only once, good or bad”. Every day I go to bed, say my prayers and start the next day a fresh. That is exactly what I will continue to do. We know the truth, we know he isn’t a monster but we do know he has issues that need help and despite what the Social think I won’t abandon the effort to help EVERY member of this family.
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We are in the school holidays once again and yet parents up and down the country are running out of ideas to keep the kids entertained. If you are looking for ideas for a good day out for your kids then a theme park is always a nice treat. If you have younger children and want to avoid the busy, more adult-focused theme parks then take a look at these ones that are aimed for toddlers and under-10s:

Gulliver’s World

There are three Gulliver’s theme parks in the UK – Warrington, Matlock (Bath) and Milton Keynes. The park is completely designed around children, so much so that adults are not allowed in without children accompanying them. There are some great rides for the older kids, including roller coasters and water slides but none of the big rides that they are too small to go on. For the toddlers, there is plenty to do too, with play areas and at Milton Keynes there is a farm park.

Legoland, Windsor Resort

Even if your kids are not huge fans of Lego, they are going to love Legoland. There are roller coasters, 4D interactive rides, water play areas and game zones to enjoy. There are also educational workshops, such as learning how to program robots. You can stay over at the Legoland hotel and make a real holiday out of your trip. Or if that sounds too expensive, you could take a look at other options like caravans in the local area. There are park homes for hire all around the UK, to help you to have a theme park holiday without the expensive hotel costs. Visit this website for more information.

Paultons Park (Peppa Pig World)

If your kids love Peppa Pig then they will love it at Paultons Park. It is located in the New Forest National Park and has loads of fun activities including rides, play areas, animals and birds, as well as a picturesque surrounding park to explore. Two new rides have just been opened and there are over 70 different rides and attractions to enjoy.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Whilst Blackpool Pleasure Beach has a lot going on for adult groups, it also has plenty for the younger children too. There is a separate area of the theme park especially for younger children and it is free for under 2s to enter the park. Nickelodeon Land has loads of exciting rides and things to do, plus characters like PAW Patrol and Spongebob Square Pants to meet. You can also have loads of fun in the games arcade with penny slots and other fun games to play if the weather is not too nice.

Thomas Land (Drayton Manor)

Drayton Manor is an exciting theme park that is suitable for all ages. Located in Staffordshire, the park has an area for younger children called Thomas Land and is themed around Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends. With over 100 rides and attractions, plus a 15-acre zoo, you will have a very busy day trying to see and do everything at the park.

You will also find a Dino Trail, crazy golf, indoor play area, a Thomas exhibition and a high ropes adventure area. There are even live shows that you can visit for some extra entertainment. In the school holidays, there is a Zoo Club where your kids can learn all about what it takes to be a zookeeper and includes a full day of activities.

(This is a collaboration. I am under no obligations to give a positive review! Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of my blog)
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The two phrases in this title really get on my nerves.
Growing up I had it and you can only assume that it was a sign of the times. However, I see it regularly in different aspects of my life and now see it with my children.

One of my first posts that really got shared and read as a blogger was called Gender Identities in Children. In the post, I shared how the boys like baking, cooking, playing with dolls and even having their nails painted. It didn’t bother me. It has never bothered me. If they like and want to do something then I am happy for them to do so. The way that I have seen it is “If it isn’t harming anyone then it isn’t a problem!”
Yet, for some unknown reason we, as a society, are still sharing with each generation and peers that boys things are for boys, girls things are for girls, that boys and men should “Man up” and men should be “Real Men: A Man’s man”.

I mentioned above that I had it growing up. To be honest this mind-set was flooding my childhood.
My brother is, and has always been, what most would call a man’s man. He liked physical sports like football, cricket and karate. His interests at home were building things, going on “adventures” and mechanics. So much of this then bled into his adulthood. He trained as a mechanic, worked as a builder, collects peoples scrap and is currently “Working the roads”. All in all he is the pride and joy of my dad because he does “man things” and is physical in everything he does.

I, however, was and still am a disappointment. Growing up I liked art, playing instruments and singing, I would read, failed at every sport that they tried to introduce me to and, to my dads’ utter disgust, ended up figuring skating; which, without boasting, I was extremely good at. I stayed on for Higher Education and qualified in numerous things. I then, and again to my dad’s disgust, became a Primary School Teacher who predominantly taught Key Stage 1 and then further along the line became a Stay at Home Dad and, of course, a Blogger.
Yet, my upbringing and early adulthood was met with “Why do you read?”, “Who likes reading?” "Why on earth are you doing a Girls sport like Figure Skating?”, “There’s something dodgy about wanting to work with really small children?”, “You’ve stopped working to do women’s work?” and, finally, “Why do people want to read what you’ve written? Why would people want to read anything?” (Yes, every single one of you, in my dad’s eyes, are idiots for not only reading my blog but others too!)

Growing up in that way was normal for so many people. Yet, in society, these judgements still continue.
Whilst dating and in relationships that I have had there has ALWAYS been difficulty with the “Father in-law”.

They have a problem because I should have a “real job like being a builder”; apparently answering “Carrying the bricks gets in the way of my wheelchair” isn’t something funny to say! Alternatively, “He has loads of female friends. Even his best friends are women. That’s just weird!” Again, answering “It’s easier to stay away from judgemental male idiots like yourself”isn’t the funny thing to say! Finally, there is always a health problem. Being disabled, for many in-laws, is seen as being “less of a man”. I wouldn’t be able to “look out for and care for the daughter”. Also, this time saying “I do look after her perfectly well in the bedroom and I am sure she will tell you that I’m definitely not “less of a man” there” isn’t funny either.
Why on earth is this still even a mind-set? Why are men judging other men on what they believe are “manly” traits? When did being smart, enjoying reading and being a good father become topic for man-shaming?

Despite all of this I have never conformed. It isn’t me. I like who I am and know that I am comfortable with my lifestyle to ever question these outdated stereotypes.
I am proud that my boys don’t conform to them either.

I have previous championed when William was wearing hairbands and was questioned and more recently shared a post about James. James was having hassle for his dressing up. The fear, as a parent, that other children were picking him out deliberately due to his interests and likes was really strong. I, at the end of the post, said I was worried for the start of Year 3.
A couple of weeks into the school term and that fear has become reality. James left his regular packed lunchbox in school so went in with his pink one. He loves pink. Often says that it is one of his favourite colours.

He came out of school upset because a child pointed it out and everyone laughed at him. My heart sank. We then find out that a second incident happened. A child pointed to the lunchbox, whilst it was being put away, covered their mouth and pulled a face because it was pink.
James said that he pulled the boy up on it and was going to tell because it was rude and mean. The boy got there first and asked the teacher, to which the teacher said “No, it isn’t rude or mean”.

I questioned James over all of this and whilst telling me you could see and hear his upset. Not because he was crying but because his old stutter started coming back out. He hasn’t stuttered in years. His Step Brother was there so we asked him. He has confirmed everything that was done and said.
We were shocked. His Step brother did say that the T.A said she had a blue lunch box and “would that make her a boy” only to be overlooked by the teachers above answer.

Why is this happening? How are we still living in an age where children are still gender assigning colours and items?
I know a lot of adverts have a lot to answer for but I think the blame here lies with the adults in the environment and the parents.

Instead of living in a world where we are saying “be yourself and it doesn’t matter what you like” we are still highlighting and pointing out outdated gender stereotypes.
Gender, especially with children, shouldn’t be classified into any category or boxes but within the individual.

Individuals are the key to innovation and advancement but whilst we are still funnelling this nonsense out it is only going to create an on-going cycle that separates people from us and them. Thankfully, I know this isn’t everyone out there and I know many others would be just as outraged at this and have experienced it at some point; I think Tim’s attitude in Parody in Pink sums up that all isn’t lost in society.
I have corrected the viewpoint for James and reassured him that he can like whatever he wants and that pink is a cool colour. I will be speaking to the school about this too and getting to the bottom of why this has been allowed and can be disregarded by staff. That’s all I can do. I just hope that things can start changing so any future problems don’t start arising.

So for now and the future being a “Man’s man” and to “Man up” is the worst possible goal for anyone, young or old.

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