This week saw the return to school of most children.  It was a strange experience this year, as the collective sigh of relief you usually hear from parents around the country on the first day back, was intermingled by a collective holding of our breath wondering if we are doing the right thing in the current pandemic climate.

Personally, I am beginning to realise as my wisdom years ever increase, that there isn’t a totally ‘right’ thing to do in any tough situation we generally find ourselves in.  We have to look at the impact of each of the potential options we can take and choose the one that will work best for our family at that time. 

So many factors feed into our decisions, things that other people are not aware of or have no real understanding of.  This is especially true for families that have a child with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND). 

Whatever the situation, I hope we can all respect the decisions each other made and recognise that no decision is ever taken lightly.  Parents are like swans, we may present the image of gliding gracefully through the calm waters of life, but under the water a tsunami is brewing and we are desperately treading water to stay afloat.

So after 25 weeks of my precious cherubs being at home 24/7 (you can see the marks on the kitchen wall where I tried to escape), I was ecstatic to pack their school lunches, polish their pencil cases and send them off suited and masked into school. 

Anyone actually say this out loud?

The week certainly wasn’t plain sailing, including a broken wrist for my daughter on Monday, a raft of appointments across 4 counties to attend and a visit from the friendly heating fitter telling me our heating system needed to be replaced to the tune of a cheeky little €3000.

Erin was in the room when Mick and I were discussing it and everything she sees money on the table, she enthusiastically asks me is that going to be part of the three grand?  Kids are never to young to learn about the importance of budgeting their money I guess!

As one of my real-life heroes, Paula Kerr always reminds me – “just keep moving”.

This week parents, especially Mums around the country/world were once again able to meet up in their groups, clubs and coffee mornings in a suitably scaled down and suitably socially distanced way.

Finally able to chat to their friends without fishing a piece of lego out of their iced tea, or no longer talking over your iphone which you gave to your child to shut them up for minutes, the the hum of shouty you tubers over-excitedly playing fortnite watched my half the world’s population of tweens invading the senses of the rest of the people in the cafe. 

We often take a week off work at this time of year,  to support our children transitioning back to school – this is actual code squeezing every second of child-free activity and airspace we can, in an effort to try and recharge our batteries a little before the nights draw in and we can no longer throw them outside and lock them in the trampoline for a few hours when they are dancing around on our few remaining exposed nerves.  

Multi tasking with my bestie, gin tasting and a home pedicure with the masks I bought from Chine – secretly praying they won’t actually cause my feet to fall off!

This year massages are out of the question, so macchiatos will have to do!

A dermalogica facial in a cup!

Personally, I find these meet ups to be a significant and vital part of mental health management.  It brings whole new meaning to ‘care in the community’ and however we choose to access this support is a fundamental part of our self-care.

Friend Therapy can come in all shapes and sizes and social media has created many online friendships and has created an army of ‘friends’ that we may never meet for coffee and cake, in fact we may never meet them at, but our shared experience unite us and we rely heavily on each other for the support we need in various situations.

I am a member of MANY online groups, particularly as a parent to a child with SEND, the choices of groups are as vast as ‘milk’ options in Starbucks.  Add in the various support sub groups for the various ‘profiles’ or ‘presentations’ of my son’s conditions, then it’s a vodka I need at the table no longer coffee and cake, just to keep track of what is going on and deal with the flood of recognition and emotions that come with each post

Variety is however the spice of life and there are may non SEND related groups too that I am in too:

Keto Recipes. I joined to get inspiration on what to eat. but realistic I know that my keto breakfast will never get much more exotic than buying Tesco Finest halloumi with mint (although that was because it was on offer 3 for €10 and they only had 2 Boursin, so I needed to make up the numbers! 

I do keep tagging my boss in the cake posts as she used to be a chef and I am hoping she will one day surprise me with carb free cake, but again this is the real world and I think she is more likely to just block me on social media for harassment!

Then there are the COWSS – Crazy Older Women Shouting and Swearing, I like this group – these B**ches are ‘keeping it real’ and know how to mark a truly shitty day!  They are ever increasingly becoming ‘my people’.  They are the group I go to when my mood is just too awful for even my dearest friends to tolerate me.

COWSS on Tour

We cover all sorts from politics, Black Lives Matters and climate change to who the f**k decided to make Twix’s smaller, maybe we should start a petition – we know our rights.  My teenage daughter would say the Twix Petition makes me a Karen, I say if she calls me that again it will make her a Tegan – Teenager Eternally Grounded And Nagged!

Of course, there is the Hot Mamas group – another one that I feel at home in, none of us are yummy mummies, that ship has well and truly sailed – in fact most of us have a backside as big as a ship nowadays and we are simply hot because we are

a. overweight

b. peri menopausal

c. in a really bad mood

d. just back from walking 4 kilometres up hill on leggings that are too tonight  

e. all of the above.

All of the groups are incredibly helpful in one way or another, we all need to have a sense of belonging, a sense of ‘thank goodness it isn’t just me’, a sense of hope in finding a solution.  It really is so important that we engage in ‘friend’ therapy and its various incarnations. 

Some weeks all we may gain from it is a kilo from all the cake we consume.  But a problem shared is a problem halved, just remember to stay 2m away from my lemon meringue!

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