And right now, my understanding of where we are, what is going on around me moves and shifts all the time. Not because of a rapid chain of events, but because I am slowly learning more. I used to live in a world where doctors had all the answers. Where children didn’t live, even die with no diagnosis. Where the social care system would step in during crisis. A world where I dictated my own destiny and where hard work could overcome anything. A world where the system was fair and just. Over the last three years I have slowly come to understand a new world, met people who live in that world and come to realise my naivety and lack of gratitude to the world I thought I inhabited.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot to be grateful to this new world for, but I am still learning the nuances and subtleties. Like a child finding their way, I have applied a fairly basic understanding to much of it so far. Subconsciously categorised the authority figures that have suddenly appeared in this little set piece into heroes and villains. Those who are in our corner, who care about the job that they do and those working to another agenda. But as time moves on and I learn more, I am coming to see the huge expanse of space in between.
One childhood memory in particular makes me see the importance of understanding. The need for context. I must’ve been around six at the time, at a rough guess. I remember running onto the London tube platform ahead of my mother. I remember the waiting area in the middle of the outdoor platform. I remember the heavy set man with a skin head I ran past. The people all around whose faces are now an impressionist blur. The elderly lady kneeling down and praying. The overwhelming presence of the colour grey. Grey platform, grey concrete, grey sky. The sound of the approaching train. I remember exactly where I was when I was pulled into the air. I remember being lifted and spun, suddenly heading towards the stairs. I remember kicking and fighting this man who had grabbed hold of me. I remember his arms digging in as he struggled to keep a grip. I remember my confusion when he put my down, halfway down the stairs at my mother’s feet. As she thanked him profusely whilst I cried a sob that was somewhere between fear and indignation.
I’m not really sure how I learned the truth. Like most memories, the scene ends suddenly. I’m not sure if my mother delicately tried to explain to me what had just happened. Or if over time, I just came to understand. In my six year old mind, there was only one explanation. I lived in a world where strangers were the threat we were all to be aware of. Where they menacingly handed out sweets on street corners. A world where old ladies were all grandmas. That’s what school taught us. That was how it was. I didn’t live in a world where old ladies threw themselves in front of oncoming trains.
Whatever I was told that day, I know that I learned that the bad man was actually a good man. That there were no polar opposites. Thanks to his quick actions, my memory remains nothing more than that. Just a hazy memory of a big bald man who turned out to be not so scary.
And now, I find myself suddenly revisiting this memory, because I am doing the same thing again. Casting villains without looking around first. I am realising that, without even knowing it is happening, I am starting to approach some professionals with instant trepidation. Making assumptions based upon job title, not individual. I am interpreting their actions through a veil of pre-judgement. You see, I am a little battle scarred. A little disillusioned. And that can make me a little unfair.
I didn’t start out like this. I trusted everything and everyone blindly. I wanted to be liked. I didn't want to be the one who asked too many questions and quoted legal acts. And I soon learned that in this world, my new world, being that person was simply not an option.
But now I sometimes forget to step back and think. I assume protection of budget and a lack of interest, because it is what has gone before. We have seen it so many times. We have had our fingers burned by ‘policy’ and fuzzy logic, so now I jump back out of habit. It has made me distrustful. It has made me forget that no one goes into the public sector, be it health, social or education; without a fundamental interest in the people that they support. I’m forgetting to look at the wider picture and try to understand the enormous constraints caused by nationally led budget cuts across the board.
I’m becoming cynical. I’m even becoming a little bitter. I am scared that there will become a point, many years from now, that I have been angry at the system for so long, that I am just an angry person. So I am making the decision not to be.
To the professionals I have been a little short with. The ones who get the slightly bristly e-mails from me. I’m sorry.
I imagine you come across a lot of parents like me. I imagine you see me and I fit straight into a category too. Another one of ‘those’. The ones who make your job that little bit harder. I imagine and I hope there are times when you so desperately want to tell us that actually you are fighting our corner. About the internal meetings that we never see. That the decisions you have to relay that are not your choice. That you weren’t ignoring us, you just had no answer to give. That you didn’t not take a call to be unfair, you did it because your workload is totally unfeasible. That you are just as frustrated by the framework that you have to work within too.
Because there are many times that parents like me see that. We really do. And I promise that I will look harder.
I can't say that I won't ever challenge you. But I can say that I’ll try my best to view all the interactions I have within a wider context. In exchange, I ask that you imagine how it feels to be on the other side. Imagine what it is like to not hold the power in this dynamic.
And if you are one of the ones who really cares about the job that you do. If you are having to deal with me kicking back because you won't let me run forward. If it is because you can't show me the whole scene. Well all I can say is I’ll probably understand eventually. I’m just still finding my way in this world.