Wikipedia says this about the role of 'Personal Assistant' :
"...A personal assistant or personal aide (PA) is someone who assists in daily business or personal tasks... a business man / women may have a personal assistant to help with time and daily management, scheduling of meetings, correspondence, and note taking..."
When you are a parent of a child with special needs and/or disabilities you become a PA for your child. Along with the normal roles of being a mother or father - care giver, cook, cleaner, entertainment provider - all the usual things we do in order to keep our children happy, clean and fed - a giant part of your life must be given over to an administrative duty you didn't know was possible or needed for someone other than a 'business man - or women'.
Luckily I worked in the administrative/PA field for 15 years prior to becoming a stay at home mother so it comes as second nature, but even for me, who alluded to a career in that organised and methodical manner it can be arduous.
J1 is now 10 years old. I am used to dealing with professionals and 'The System'. I am used to the long waits, the vague promises and being passed from pillar to post to find out a yes / no answer. Don't get me wrong usually, in the end, you get a result but to get there you have to ring, email, chase, note take, leave messages, and ping pong from one service to another in a manner that even Miranda Priestley from The Devil Wears Prada would be proud of.
I have days where I can not face it. The weekly list of 'people to contact' sits staring at me and the thought of leaving another answerphone message that doesn't say 'Ring me back before I end up on your doorstep with my disabled child and you can see for yourself why I need X,Y,Z' is too much.
Then I will catch a glance of a photograph. Of my little boy trying to smile from his wheelchair. Or watch his video that he insists I take of him on my phone singing Katy Perry's 'Roar' (or whatever his favourite song of the moment is) and I realise this is my job in life. He needs my voice. He needs my PA skills. He needs his mum and dad to chase these people and sit in those meetings.
Then I can get into full flight mode. One number after another is dialled, I speak brightly and politely, because honestly, we NEED these professionals on our side and as frustrated as I can sometimes feel with them, I do understand that a lot of the time their hands are tied, money is sparse and they have huge case loads.
We have been re-located for four months now and I am still trying to get new professions on board. This is the fourth or fifth week of calling round child development centres, school professionals, doctors, trying to establish who I should be working with to ensure my son is getting the help he needs to live the best life he can with the hardships he endures on a daily basis.
He needs equipment. He needs to see specialists. He needs to have his abstractly growing hips and spine monitored. He wouldn't choose to need all of those things. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy but that is the hand we were dealt and it is the one we live with every day. Any family in the same position knows that is enough to cope with. Having the added work load of having to be as organised and on the ball as the best paid PA in the world is just something we do.
Files and files of notes, appointment letters, referrals, delivery notes, invoices sit in my loft. Put away as a record of our life. A life touched by disability. Sometimes when I venture up there I look at it and feel proud, that it is organised and efficient. Other times I want to kick them all over the cold space and see them flutter into oblivion screaming WHY HIM? A reminder that this has been the way of it for the last 10 years. Thankfully I don't have to go into the loft very often.
Why have I written this? Because I have just put the phone down from this weeks phone calls and I am sitting and waiting for all the promised calls back. I am home alone and there was no one to rant or off load onto.
So instead I decided to write.