I have been sporting a cracked fat lip for a week thanks to Claudia.
She head-butted me, not on purpose, but in the course of the usual undressing routine in the bathroom.
Her head flew up into my face and swiftly and suddenly there was pain and blood and me roaring in agony and her roaring with laughter. Because that’s her response to other peoples pain and bleeding and making loud noises.
For one of the most social weekends we’d had in ages I looked like bad botox with my cracked and sneering upper lip. It hurt.
It amazed me how quickly it happened. Then it amazed me it hadn’t happened before. That in all these years of dressing and undressing and manhandling Claudia she hadn’t, that I recall, hurt me like this before.
As she gets older though, things are changing.
At 18 she’s now slightly taller than me. When I’m washing her hair in the shower my arms have to be so high the water runs down/up my arms and into my shirt.
It’s annoying to get so saturated and my arms ache.
She’s always been freakishly strong but now she’s equally determined and I can’t hold her back when she wants to rush down the steps and fast-gangle to the end of the driveway to watch departing friends and family until they eventually turn a corner.
“TOOT! TOOT!” she shouts pointlessly at their vehicles, refusing to come back inside until they’ve gone from her sight.
One day she’ll fall down those steps in her frantic haste. And it will hurt.
Lately she’s resisted my taking the iPad away at night. She’ll grip it and pull back hard and has once or twice hit out at me. I’ll say “don’t do that!” and lately she’s sometimes said “smack you?” when she knows I’m getting annoyed with her.
Our family are not smackers. I wasn’t smacked and I didn’t smack my children.
But Claudia knows what smacking is (or at least the threat of it)– and when I get cross with her she taunts me by asking if I’m going to smack her – “smack you? smack you?”
I have no idea who taught it to her several years ago but its some consolation that she’s not fearful of the prospect and usually asks with a giggle.
As an aside – in the whole so-called “anti-smacking” debate it astonished me how many people advocated for their right to smack their kids. Usually the excuse was “that’s all they understand at (x) age”
I have spent 18 years raising a child whose “understanding” is certainly compromised and not one expert has ever, ever suggested to me that smacking her – at any age – would help her “understand” anything better.
When my lip was swelling and bleeding and so painful I understood what it felt like be really cross with her – this was not a battle of wills, this was me suddenly and shockingly physically hurt.
I didn’t want to hurt her back but I was so frustrated it happened!
My back is constantly sore from lifting, bending, supporting.
My knees ache from all the hard bathroom floors I kneel on.
She sometimes wakes in the night, she usually wakes early and in the evenings I can’t go to bed until she is at least settled.
I’m always tired.
So while she hasn’t deliberately hurt me, looking after her does hurt me.
Last week a woman from Blenheim was sentenced for 4 years in jail for murdering her daughter, who was only two years older than Claudia. Ruby was just 20 years old when her mother sedated her, then strangled her until she died.
Ruby had Autism, required full time care and attention and was violent.
Her Mum was Ruby’s sole care-giver. For 20 years she had tended to her daughter until she decided murder and a certain jail term was the better option for her. And she killed her own daughter. Can you imagine?
Hilary Stace writes well about the issue here;
This case shocked and terrified me. It hurt me on every level. It still hurts.
That this sort of thing can happen is shameful. It reflects badly on every single one of us.
People who require high levels of care through accident or misadventure or degenerative illness don’t have the fights we parents have to access enough support.
The pain for carers is real. And relentless. The only villain in these stories is a system that abandons people while the rest of us murmur “poor thing” and get on with our own lives. Ruby and her Mother were utterly let down.
Hilary has good ideas (above) on how to address the issues.
In the meantime I can only hope Claudia doesn’t get more aggressive, that I don’t suspect she’s in more pain, that her behavior doesn’t become more difficult for me to manage.
I’m getting older. I hurt more.
I am lucky in that I’m not in it alone. Claudia still goes to school during the day.
We have family and friends and we have each other.
Tonight Steve and I are going out for dinner. Something other couples our age can take for granted but something we can hardly ever do.
In the wake of Ruby’s death I understand now it’s more important than ever to take a break from the relentlessness of caring for someone else and take time for ourselves.
Our future might depend on it.