Cheetahs In My Shoes

living with the imaginary menagerie and all that it entails

You look like you’ve been told you have a 3rd child…


These were the words that greeted me as I emerged, slightly shaky after parents evening on Tuesday.   I clearly did not look the composed woman I try to give the impression that I am as I had hoped.  I didn’t feel that composed and ended up in conversation with the Head and one of the Governors.  If I had posted that evening it would have been a jumble of words as I tried to process things and now, 3 days on it’s kind of making a bit more sense (ish)

I read other brilliant posts about parents evenings earlier in the year.  There is the shared suffering of the chairs that are just too small and that the mere process of sitting down makes you uneasy.  It’s a long way down to a Reception size chair when you’re nearly 6′ tall and have dodgy knees that then don’t fit under the table.  You’re on the back foot to start off with.

You have your allocated 10 minutes to discuss your child, ask your questions, review their report and come out with a digestible summary that can be passed onto the child, significant others and quite possibly the grandparents.  You also need to be able to process it in a way that means when you come out you can talk happily to other parents about how well your child is doing and leave, with a spring in your step thinking that all is good.

I seem to be the only parent who finds parents evening an overwhelmingly emotional experience.  For me they seem to be a 10 minute judgement of your ability as a parent, partner, medical expert and information co-ordinator.  I need to be a data analyst, work out the probing questions, deliver them without sounding stupid/condescending/aggressive and then process the answers accordingly.  I want to know ‘the plan’, I want to know what they’re looking at ready for next year, oh, and I want to know if they’re happy, whether the child that flushed the PE kit down the toilet has been identified (no) and why it was ever deemed appropriate to let children inflict Chinese burns on each other which resulted in bruises that lasted nearly a week (it was a bit of fun that got out of hand).

With both children having their own additional needs the process is doubled and, due to the helpful appointment schedule, the entire process is to be completed in half an hour.  Half an hour of guilt inducing hell.

I will be questioned (and have been recently in no uncertain terms) by other medical professionals about how the children are ‘doing’ at school.  How their condition affects their day to day ability to learn and integrate into school life.  Each medical professional will then have their own opinion as to whether I am making sure their particular speciality is dealt with in the best possible way.  Sod the rest of them – theirs, that day, will be the most important.

Physios will want the children doing more exercise, the Occupational Therapists will be looking at posture and fine motor skills, the Speech and Language team (if they’d see us like they say they need to but don’t have the funding for) would want more focus on that.  Each speciality believes that if we up their particular requirements the children will ‘do’ better at school.

But how do I know what they would be doing if they didn’t have their conditions?  Would they be achieving more, enjoy school more, be happier? Both of them are sitting in the realms of ‘normal’ and therefore there are no issues that require immediate flagging.  At the moment we need to wait until they start to struggle/fall behind before interventions will be made.  We can’t consider that their conditions mean there is a probability that they will struggle and make sure they don’t fall behind.  We don’t have the evidence for that.

They have a condition that varies from person to person – there isn’t a check-list or a ‘what to expect with a child in your class that has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome’ file.  If they were correct for one child they’d be completely wrong for another.

The one person trying to process all the information from all the professionals is me.  Trying to link up what they’re each saying and report, accurately to the others to whom it is clearly impossible to send a letter.  Their teachers can’t be expected to have the medical knowledge – that’s not their job – but who has to explain it to them?  Compared to other children mine are doing perfectly well thank you – but how would they be doing if they didn’t have the condition?

Add in the fact that they’ve inherited this condition from me – it’s a point that I am usually completely at ease with.  It happens.  We know it.  At parents evening it feels like I am the one that has caused all the problems.  Oh, and if I’m having a bad time, in pain and struggling to function, well, it’s adversely affecting the children and their education.  Get a grip woman.

Except I don’t seem to be able to get a grip.  I come out with the weight of the world clearly visible on my face as I try and work out what I’m meant to do next.  ‘Celebrate the positives’.  OK – the positives are wonderful but they’re almost a relief.  Are they happy?  Most of the time.  Good.  Who’s going to be doing the meds next year?  oh, we can’t tell you that yet…

All I’m thinking about is what’s the next plan, have they understood what I’ve said, am I making a fuss and what’s going to happen next?  Ideally without crying – I’m not sure why I want to cry but it’s welling up…

Oh, and how to get up of these bloody chairs…

Author: Jenny

Life, photos and recipes mixed with family life, additional medical needs and a whole load of imaginary friends

11 thoughts on “You look like you’ve been told you have a 3rd child…

  1. Oh dear, parents evening is hard. I have less on my plate than you but I still feel tiny and foolish in front of my child’s teacher. Thank goodness the cheetah children have you on their side!

  2. I’m not going to try and advise you about something I have no experience of, but I will say this: you are a FANTASTIC mum. You juggle A LOT and still find time for the fun stuff. Remember to spend some time every day just enjoying life and the kids in the here and now – it sounds like they’re doing just fine. xxx
    …and DON’T measure yourselves by other peoples standards.

    • thank you sweetie – it’s really hard though – especially when you’re being quizzed by people who have Dr in their title and therefore believe they are greater than the rest of us x

  3. You are a amazing mummy… anyone who can do all you do and also look after banana people and a house of cheetahs is indeed in need of a big G&T and a medal! This years parents evening for us was fine, but it’s year R is isn’t it, . I know I will mirror your feelings as F goes up through the school, you cannot hep but feel judged even though you’re not. Ginger sends you a big cheer up purrr x

    • the fact it’s both children makes it even harder. The Cheetah Keeper’s teacher this year used to be a nurse so I’ve felt very happy with him being in her care. I’ve found today he’s going to an incredibly sensible, experienced, practical teacher next year so that reassures me. His sister is off to some extremely experienced teachers too who I hope will ‘get it’ – but her evenings this year have been so hard – it’s trying to get the understanding that coping and coping strategies are not necessarily a good thing x and thanks Ginger Cat x

  4. I know exactly what you mean. I think the experience is so variable, depending on the teacher. I felt exactly like you when my Son was in reception. It was before his diagnosis of aspergers and the teacher just kept telling me what my boy couldn’t do and telling us we should get him to practice. Most of what she said was stuff we couldn’t do at home because we are all visually impaired. I felt like it was all my fault, then at one point I managed to ask her if that meant he was behind all the other children and she said ‘No’, – so what was the all the fuss? – why did she have to make me feel so small? – Onthe other hand, we have had some really nice teachers I think we all get these moments of doubt and frustration. Good luck

    • I’m glad you understand – if we did everything that everyone wanted us to do we’d have no sleep and all be sobbing in a corner. I’m hoping the teachers next year will understand the balance we have to strike – and understand that it’s really bloody hard having 2 children with complex needs x

  5. Great post. It’s awful that our education system will only provide support once children are failing. And then the support is designed to help the cope rather than help them flourish. You are doing an amazing job being the conduit between all these professionals.

    Next time take an adult size folding chair, sit higher than the teachers and know not only that you’re there to find out what sort of a job they’re doing not justify yourself, but also that you’ll find it easier to get up than they will x

    • I’m sure the school would look at things differently – the aim to help each child to reach the absolute best of their ability being key to the values of the school. Having to juggle all the professionals for both children is a skill that you don’t get training in – but you don’t have the opportunity (I think) to learn from the odd mistake. You have to be spot on – otherwise you child suffers – which adds to the guilt. It’s a situation I would wish on no-one but know so many others are in it too. And yes, bigger chairs next time…

  6. You are not just a wonderful, caring, kind and fun mother but also a super friend and inspirational lady. And it’s not just me that thinks that, just ask the trumpet players in the Congo…

  7. helloha from the congo! mummy cheetah you are ace, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise x

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