Sunday, 8 March 2015

Forgiveness, Faith and Abuse.... oh yes and I'm back.... sort of!

Hi, remember me? It’s been around four months.

I disappeared from writing my blog because I had to focus my attention on some hefty family stuff. I didn’t start again because I reached a point where I didn’t want to keep on writing about my own experiences.

But I’m not done. I still have plenty to say (and those who know me will know that this is not entirely out of character) I have so much to say about how the church responds to domestic violence, how it reacts to perpetrators and victims and how it needs desperately to change so that it can be a source of help to those facing this issue, rather than as it all too often is now- a hindrance, an aide to the perpetrator.

I’m just still working out how I want to do this and where I want to go with it. I like to think I will probably resurrect this blog again with a different focus, but not yet. It’s important to me though to continue to build a community where Christian women who have faced abuse can find support and understanding and can explore the confusing melee of experiences and emotions they face in relation to their faith.  So I‘m going to start to post on the Always Hopeful Facebook page again; there’s so much information and help available and I hope we can all share some of this there. If you don’t already follow Always Hopeful on Facebook I’d like to encourage you to do so, to get involved and share links to other blogs and articles.

Before I go though I do want to write one last blog post about my experience with Domestic Abuse as a Christian. I said at the very start that I hoped to be able to write about Forgiveness at some point, and I hope that being able to have at least a little to say about it is a fitting place to end, at least for the time being.

I think that one of the biggest mistakes Christians make when dealing with Domestic Abuse victims is telling them that they need to forgive their abuser. I believe this is a mistake for a number of reasons
1. The “forgiveness” card has most likely been played by the abuser countless times, to keep her in the relationship after abusive incidents. He is likely to have said that forgiving him is her “Christian Duty.” When she escapes she’ll be feeling massive amounts of guilt, and telling her to forgive her abuser will only add to this.
2. She probably still equates “forgiveness” with “reconciliation” and we definitely do not want to be encouraging that. Even if intellectually she has worked out that you can forgive without being reconciled she’s still got to figure out how to do that.
3. She’s likely to be struggling with her relationship with God, she’s likely to be angry with God, confused about whether she’s disappointing God by walking out on her marriage, she may well be doubting his existence. Telling her that God wants her to do something she may well feel is monumentally impossible isn’t going to help this.
4. Finally, by encouraging forgiveness it’s easy to negate her anger, to encourage her to repress it and not actually face up to the experiences that have made her angry.

In my case I decided from the start that although I wanted to be able to forgive my husband I wasn’t going to beat myself up about not being able to. I figured that if I focussed on my relationship with God he’d help me get to forgiveness when the time was right.  It’s nearly two years now since I left my husband and the vast majority of that time has been spent on feeling better. I think of it as my time in emotional physiotherapy. After a massive physical injury we don’t expect people to be able to run, but rather we help them to use their muscles slowly and gradually; building up their strength until one day they do run. In my opinion, asking me to forgive my husband two years ago would have been like asking me to run on a newly broken leg.

In the very early days I remember telling my counsellor how incessantly angry I was. It’s always stuck with me that he said “good.” He told me being angry was the right response to abuse, that my anger showed I was actually emotionally healthy and normal, that I wasn’t “crazy” but in actual fact was a normal human being who was rightly angry at something very very wrong. He told me he’d be more concerned if I wasn’t angry. Meanwhile many Christians in my life were counselling me to “leave my anger at the foot of the cross” and other such clichéd phrases that had no real, practical meaning.

Since then I’ve worked through my anger each time it’s cycled round. Sometimes I’ve indulged it too much and have acted foolishly, but by choosing not to try to ignore or repress my anger or “give it to God” I’ve faced and dealt with the things my husband did that made me angry and  without doing that how could I possibly forgive?

When we were together I thought I had forgiven him countless times. But I hadn’t. What I had done was minimise, justify and deny his behaviour. I never faced up to what he did.  I never really admitted that he was abusive so how could I have forgiven him? This means that over the last two years all those incidents I thought were forgiven were replayed, the seriousness of them admitted, the pain he caused acknowledged and the anger it created properly felt.

Two years on the majority of my time is no longer spent on healing, there’s still work to be done, but I’m able to focus the majority of my life on serving God and others, on building a future for me and my children, and ultimately on enjoying every single moment of this breathtakingly beautiful, fragile, short life God has blessed me with.  Now that I am focused on the rest of my life, a life that is good, now that I don’t need to focus on fixing what he broke I am finally starting to feel able to forgive.  I am still angry at what he did, particularly at what he did to the children. I am still angry at that he continues to choose to be an abuser over being a father, and I think I always will be. In fact I don’t want ever to stop being angry that someone would hurt my children. But I really don’t think anger and forgiveness are as mutually exclusive as people think they are.

I am back in contact with my ex husband (not by choice for the record) and when I consider his behaviour I feel angry. But when I speak to him on a weekly basis my blood does not (always) boil, and despite being annoyed at his behaviour I am starting to be able to see the human being as well. I am angry at him but I am also sad for him. I don’t only see a monster who hurt me and my children, I also see a child, created in God’s image, loved beyond imagination by his Father, pursued eternally and never given up on no matter what he did and how deeply flawed he is. I know my God weeps for the pain caused in my family but I know those tears are not only shed for me and my children.

If you know me it would be easy to assume I haven’t forgiven him. I’m still cross, I still complain about his attitude, I still call him names and growl somewhat when something reminds me of him. Generally speaking I don’t go around telling people I can see the human behind the behaviour, partly because that’s a bit gooey sounding for everyday conversation and partly because, especially as I spend more and more time with victims and survivors of domestic abuse, it’s massively important to me that we don’t let abusers off, we don’t allow anyone to take responsibility for abusive behaviour except the abuser themselves and we definitely don’t make excuses for them.

For me forgiveness is not something that happens overnight, we don’t suddenly decide to forgive our abusers and then just do it. It’s not a replacement for anger, it’s not something we should be pushed, or rushed into and it is not our ‘responsibility’ or our ‘duty’. But I do believe it’s necessary for our emotional health and I believe it’s a good thing to desire. I am a work in progress, some days I do not forgive my husband at all, but mostly I am beginning to, and I know I’ve only got to the point where I am able to even contemplate forgiveness by trusting God to do that work in me in his time.
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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Just to let you know...

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139: 9-10)

My faith has not got me through my difficult time with domestic abuse. My faith has not been my source of strength, my inspiration or the thing I have clung to.

My faith is weak. My faith doubts. My faith makes demands and is pretty unfaithful when they aren’t met. My faith is fickle. My faith is lazy too. My faith couldn’t get me through anything really, because it’s mine, it’s human.

My GOD on the other hand did get me through the tough times, and still does. My God is faithful. HE is my source of strength, as the psalmist puts it, even if I run from him in anger, try to pretend I don’t believe in him anymore he’s still there, holding me and guiding me. Loving me.

It’s hard to describe sometimes the many ways God has held me up, partly because it’s so deeply personal. It’s easier from behind a keyboard to tell you that God is amazing, really amazing. That he’s been there for every need, for every tear I’ve cried, for every problem I’ve faced. That when times have been tough I have never once felt abandoned, unloved or unimportant, even when I was being told by my husband I was unlovable. It’s easy for me to type that the reason I still have self esteem despite the abuse isn’t because I am tough or thick skinned but because I know I am a child of the King, I deserve respect and I am loved, unconditionally even when I completely mess up- which I do, a lot. Knowing that it’s okay to mistakes and that someone bigger than anything is looking out for you is pretty helpful when it comes to worry and confidence.

It’s not always easy to tell you that over coffee and cake though. I’m aware that when Christians talk about their relationship with God it can make others feel uncomfortable. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable. I also know some Christians are like pushy salespeople who desperately want you to follow their brand of religion and won’t shut up about how great it is until you agree to. I don’t want to be that person either.

But I do you want you to know I have this God, and he’s brilliant. And without him I wouldn’t have got through it. I just want you to know really that God’s awesome, and faithful and whoever you are, wherever you are on whatever journey you’re on; He loves you.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Full Hands

“You’ve got your hands full” calls the old guy peering over the hedge he’s clipping. He doesn’t realise that the lady over the road carrying her shopping in said the same thing two minutes earlier and the postman as I left the house. My twins have started school, they look adorable in their little uniforms. We get a lot of attention as we walk to school. I smile at the old man, just as I did at the lady with the shopping, and the postman, I dutifully say “yes, yes I have” after all, he’s only being friendly, he thinks he’s being original. Some days I have to grit my teeth but usually I am thankful that I get to share in these little guys lives. It’s so much easier to be thankful these days.

Two years ago when strangers would say “you’ve got your hands full” I hated it. I used to think “you don’t know the half of it” I wanted to say “Full? Full? These two are nothing. Besides having another child at home I have a husband who regularly wakes me up by yelling at me, who keeps me awake all night- yes the husband, not the babies. Who screams and swears at these guys and makes them cry most days, who pushes me around, hurts me and complains about me, who leaves me to look after all three kids on my own while he sleeps in front of the TV or watches porn in his office, who can’t even aim straight when he has a pee.” I’m not sure how that would have gone down with strangers who were making a friendly comment about my cute kids.

I remember a couple of months before I left him sitting in the GP’s surgery asking for some anti-depressants because I just couldn’t cope anymore. The GP made a comment about how having preschool twins plus a child with autism and a husband with mental health problems must be stressful. I found myself saying “if it were just the children I’d be okay, it’s not the children making me feel like this at all, I just can’t cope with him, it’s all him” At this stage I was completely overwhelmed with what I felt were my responsibilities, caring for three children and trying to manage the emotions and behaviour of an unstable adult. Since learning that one of those people was not my responsibility life has become so much easier, my hands don’t feel full at all.

So now, when I smile at those lovely people commenting from their manicured suburban gardens about how full and busy my life must be, with no idea of what goes on in their own neighbourhood behind closed doors, I say “yes” but really I’m thinking “no my hands aren’t full, not really, not anymore”

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


The #whyIstayed and #whyIleft hashtags have been really informative. I know they have made a lot of survivors of domestic abuse feel they have a voice and I really hope they’ve helped to educate people a little about the dynamics of abusive relationships. Raising awareness about domestic violence is why I write.

But that’s not the only reason I write. I write to encourage. When I first left my husband it was the stories told online by other brave women that kept me strong. They told me I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t over reacting. They told me my husband wasn’t special, our relationship wasn’t “unique” or “meant to be” he was just an abuser, like every other abuser, nothing more, nothing less and no more likely to change. Without those stories I don’t know if I’d have stayed away. Those stories kept me safe and empowered me.

More than that those stories gave me hope. I read stories of women who’d learned to love themselves again, who found new homes, new careers. Who built afresh their relationships with their friends and their children. Women who described finding a joy, peace and freedom they never knew existed. These women told me, from their own experience that there is life after abuse. Abundant, joyful life. Life full of freedom, peace and laughter. At a time when I despaired, when I couldn’t bear to think about the future, when I felt like I could never be happy again I needed this. I really needed this.

One of the countless reasons I stayed with my husband is that he made me happy, or I thought he did. He didn’t hit me every day, sometimes he was lovely and I genuinely passionately loved him, I’d built my entire life around him and I couldn’t imagine ever being happy without him. And so I hope, I really hope that my blog lets other women, still in abusive relationships, or who have just left them know you can be happy, you can be so much happier without him.

I’ve written a few posts on how much better life is since I left my husband, such as:
Me and My Mystery Machine 

I think it would be awesome if the thousands of women who shared why they stayed could also encourage those about to walk that same painful path that the path widens, gets brighter and life becomes something wonderful. It really does.

So let’s all tweet not only #whyIstayed to raise awareness but also why #lifeisbetter now we’ve left to encourage one another. I’ll go first

#lifeisbetter because I can dig in the butter.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Me and My Mystery Machine

I love that feeling in the pit of my stomach as we sneak swiftly over the crest of a hill, I love the sound of my little boys squealing “faster mummy” and I love to glance over at the grin on my oldest boys face as he proudly looks down at the country side whizzing past from his new vantage point. Most of all I love the feeling of freedom knowing I can go anywhere, that I’m in control behind that wheel and the world is my playground.

I bought a camper van in the summer, we have had a few nights away in it and we’ve been for countless days out. Sometimes we just get in it and drive. Today after school we went out into the countryside just for a spin for an hour. 

I missed the turning I had meant to take. Two years ago this would have been a disaster, had I been with him it would have resulted in panic and shouting, had I been on my own I’d have been scared of being lost, scared that the roads would be too difficult for me to drive on, scared of getting home late….

Today missing the turning meant I discovered an amazing road where a tiny pretty stream cut through imposing hills covered in masses of deep purple heather and lush ferns. It was spectacular to drive along but more so as I realised that two years ago I’d never have dreamed I could have done.

My husband liked his cars, I had a tiny old hatchback, which he proudly told everyone that he had graciously bought me (with money from our joint account!) he changed his cars on a regular basis, but it was invariably large, shiny and fast. I’d get shouted at for closing the doors too hard, for making the car messy, for not watching where I put my feet. He regularly told me that I was burning out my clutch, that I was driving too close to the kerb, that I was a terrible driver. And this made me so because I was constantly nervous behind the wheel. I certainly would never have dared to drive his car for fear of scratching it. I hated country roads, I hated not knowing exactly where I was going and I was terrified to drive anything big.

Slowly I have got my confidence back, I have chosen to drive a van, and I love it, I feel like a total boss sitting up there, cruising along to the sounds of Tim McGraw and Lady Antebellum ambling along country lanes in awe of the breath-taking scenery on my doorstep that I never even noticed when I lived in my box with my ex.

In many ways overcoming abuse has been about overcoming fear, and that fear permeated so many aspects of my life. Driving a van might not seem like much of a challenge to some, to me it was, challenging myself, stepping out of my comfort zones and forcing myself to experience those things I previously thought were unavailable for me has been one of the greatest tools in my healing. I’m working this next year on being able to do all the things I previously thought I couldn’t.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Top Ten Tips for Lazy Mums

September is almost upon us, gone are the lazy lie in's, the mornings spent watching Disney Movies, the lackadasical attitude to bedtime and routine. We're approaching the time of year where mornings are spent rummaging through the ironing pile frantically hunting for the elsuive school jumper while simultaneosuly hollering "just eat your breakfast, you're going to be late."

If like me you've enjoyed the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer and are thinking this back to school malarky sounds a bit too much like work, here's my top ten tips for lazy mums to try to make life just that little bit.....well....lazier!

1.  Convince your children that odd socks are cool….you’ll never have to pair their socks again.

odd socks are cool!

2.   Play lego on an old tablecloth. When it comes time to put it away you just pick up the four corners and pop the whole lot back in the box.

3.   When you do cook: cook twice as much as you need then freeze half. By keeping a stock in the freezer like this you can just defrost on busy days and have a meal without having to cook or resort to takeaway.

cook 'too much' and freeze some

4.   If you have boys who regularly “miss” the toilet; get yourself one of those mops that you can wring out without needing a bucket, and keep it in your bathroom with some watered down detergent. Rather than filling a bucket of soapy water you can just spray the pee, wipe up with the mop and rinse the mop in the sink, takes about two  minutes.

5.   Getting the paddling pool out at weekend? Put bubble bath in it the kids will think it’s great fun having bubbles in the pool and you’ll get them clean without having to give them a bath that night

Bubble Bath in the paddling pool.

6.   Put bedding straight on the bed from the dryer or washing line to avoid having to iron it.

7.   Another one you can eek out before the weather turns: if you can, dine al fresco- the birds (or local cats) will clear up the mess off the floor for you and there’s no walls to get splattered!

Dining Al Fresco needn't be fancy

8.   Going on a picnic? Don’t put your sandwiches in boxes, instead wrap them in tin foil. Don’t take flasks, take cartons of juice, make sure everything you take is in a disposable wrapper/container. That way when you’ve finished your picnic the whole lot goes in the bin and you have nothing to carry for the rest of the day. Do this with school packed lunches too and you won't have to find yourself cleaning the mouldy sandwich box they forgot to bring home for a week. 

9.   Serve everyone’s meal on one plate when you can…..sandwiches, nachos, pizza are all good things to stick in the middle of the table on a big board and let everyone dig in. It helps your children learn to share, it’s a lovely communal activity and more importantly it saves on washing up. (learning lots of one pan recipes also saves on washing up)

Encourage sharing and save on washing up

10. And one for Back to School:  Sewing in name labels? Seriously, who has time for this? Get a sharpie!

The humble Sharpie: Lazy Mum's Best Friend. 
Have you got any Lazy Mum tips you can share? I'd love to read them. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

"You don't need eyes to see, you need vision."

(Maxi Jazz)

As the pads were removed from my eyes I felt as though a whole new world were opening up to me. The world was suddenly brighter, clearer and stunning as I saw for the first time the beautiful intricacy of the natural world.

I was born with cataracts and in my late twenties I opted to have them removed. Had I realised the difference it would make to my life I’d have done it sooner, but having only ever lived a life with partial sight I had no conception of what real vision was. 

At first many things about the world shocked me; the first time I properly saw my hands I had to be told that everybody’s palms have lines on them and they didn’t look ‘wrinkly’ as I thought. I remember being fascinated by simple things like tiles on roofs and leaves on trees. I saw the world in a detail I never imagined.

Trees were no longer a blur of brown and green; I could see the texture of the bark, the beauty and depth of colour in the leaves, the sheer number of delicate tiny little twigs on every tree. The world literally came alive to me, both in it’s grandeur and it’s delicacy. As we drove along for the first few weeks after the surgery I’d stare out of the car window in wonder of the intricate pictures whizzing past me. I was aghast and suddenly appreciative of this new found gift of vision I imagine I’d have just taken for granted if I’d always had it. I suddenly enjoyed reading and devoured books and I spent all my spare time and spare money learning to drive, something I never believed I’d be able to do. 

When you suddenly find yourself removed from a dark place into the brightness and wonder of our beautiful world it is nothing short of life changing. Just like I didn’t realise how blurry and dim my vision was before I had my surgery I didn’t realise how sad and empty my life felt before I left my husband. I always thought I couldn’t imagine living a full life without him but what I didn’t realise was that in reality I was only living half a life with him. I had no idea how numb I had become, how little joy and excitement I felt in my life, how repressed my other relationships were. I had no idea the difference freeing myself from abuse would make to my life. I actually thought I was happy, in truth I had forgotten what happiness felt like.

Now from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed I feel alive, the sun is brighter, the air is fresher, the flowers are prettier my children are cuter- everything, the whole world is just more beautiful. I had no idea how fun life could be and how many amazing and fulfilling friendships I could have. I get up now and smile, I do something fun with my family not on special occasions but every single day and every single day something makes me laugh, makes me smile and makes me feel grateful, even on bad days. I have a ton more energy than I ever had and I feel able to do anything: I feel I could take on the world. I really am amazed daily at how much richer, fuller and more joyful my life is compared to how it was only 18 months ago. 

When the pads were first removed from my eyes the world seemed a daunting place, it took a lot of getting used to and was even painful for a little while. But it was most certainly worth it. If you’re in a dark place, don’t delay, seek the light, crawl your way out, even if it’s slow and painful I promise you won’t regret it.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Dream a little dream...

When I am old, well not old; that age where your children have flown the nest but you’re not yet an old lady. That age, whatever it is, I have plans for it. I’m going to get a houseboat.

I always dreamed of retiring and living on a houseboat, but my husband was not only HUGE he was also a bit of a kleptomaniac. Enormous hoarders who feel cooped up easily and tiny houseboats don’t really mix. So I’d shelved that idea, after all I planned to grow old with this guy. I figured when we were older we’d live in a ‘nice’ suburban semi somewhere where he’d tinker with many cars, it didn’t float my boat but I liked the idea of him at peace happily under a bonnet without all the worries and stresses he seemed to carry.

I gave up a lot of dreams for my husband, this was probably the least of them. Some of them I either can’t get back because I’m just not nineteen anymore or I just don’t want to get back that badly because I’ve changed. But my houseboat; I like that one. I’m going to work on it and enjoy it. One day you might find yourself meandering along a canal and you’ll see a delightful little boat called “Sally Hope” you’ll wonder “Is that the woman whose blog I used to read?”- do pop in for a brew, the kettle will always be on and the door will always be open

The kettle will always be on, there’ll always be tea in the pot. When my time is more leisurely I will brew pots of tea and sit on the deck of my boat watching the world go by sipping from kitsch china teacups. (yep you read that right, I will have china on a boat!) I’ll read more, I always intend to now but never seem to find the time. I’ll write too. In the evenings I’ll curl up in a corner of my boat, comfortable among my many brightly coloured squishy cushions, watching old eighties and nineties action movies, passers by will be bemused by cries of “Yippee Ki Ay Motherfucker!” coming from the pretty yellow houseboat with delicate sweet scented flowers adorning it’s roof.

There may or may not be a Mr Sally Hope sharing this houseboat with me, but whether there is or not it will not be the home of a lonely old lady. It will be filled everyday with friends popping in to say ‘hi’ to check out what latest crazy incongruent thing I’ve done to decorate or just because….. Some of the other canal residents won’t like my boat, because it looks silly, or because it’s loud, there’ll be regular howls of laughter to be heard from it and I hope grandchildren, great nieces and nephews and local neighbourhood rapscallion kids getting into all kinds of mischief, never egged on by me of course.

Occasionally people will come to visit and I’ll not be there, the boat won’t be there, we’ll have sailed off, china teacups rattling around, pretty flowers falling overboard because I’ve forgotten to bring them in. And the neighbours will enjoy the peace and quiet until I return from whatever crazy adventure I’ve taken myself off on.  

Friday, 1 August 2014

Alton Towers, Autism and no meltdowns.

I took my children to Alton Towers last week. My eldest son has autism and I had been putting the trip off for a long time because I really worried about how he’d cope, not just with queues but with the crowds and the high visual and auditory stimulation.

I needn’t have worried. Alton Towers seem to cater very well for disabled people. When we arrived we were able to get ride access passes on proof of disability which allows the disabled child to jump the queues for the rides. Unlike many other theme parks who only offer the pass to the disabled person and their carer, Alton Towers allow the disabled child to ride with three other people, the only stipulation being that one of these must be an adult. This made a huge difference because we went with friends, if my son had had to wait while his friends queued then the pass would have been a waste of time.

We also took my son’s friend who has diabetes, I was really impressed at the attentiveness of the staff who gave us the wristbands to notice he uses a pump system and proactively tell us he would need to disconnect it for some of the rides; they gave us a map where they marked those rides out.

The park also give out wristbands for all children that you can write your mobile number on, if they get lost a member of staff will be able to then remove their wristband and contact you. This gives peace of mind if you have a child prone to wander off, or if like me, you have several children to keep an eye on. There were lots of staff around and they were all friendly and helpful.

Alton Towers is huge with lots of quiet green spaces between the rides. In some ways this is a disadvantage because it takes ages to walk between the rides. But with a child with autism it’s a massive bonus, because the park doesn’t feel busy and there are lots of peaceful spots to rest in. The park was not too crowded and my son was happy and relaxed

Be warned though that Alton Towers will fleece you for every penny you have so save up and take a picnic if you go. I bought the children a hotdog at the end of the day. They were £4.95 each. A refillable drink is £7. I expected this though so didn’t mind too much, theme parks are after all notorious for their expensive food. What I found really annoying is that after charging upwards of £40 for a ticket they additionally charged £6 to park the car. Surely for that ticket price they could afford to include parking. They also do the usual thing of making you walk through a gift shop (and an arcade too after Oblivion) as you get off the rides, I found this particularly difficult with my son who is easily distracted by bright shiny things, in fact the only time we momentarily lost him was in the arcade after Oblivion.

We took several children with us, all different ages and sizes. Because Alton Towers is so huge it was difficult to make sure everyone got a good amount of rides because getting from the big rides to the small rides was time consuming. But if you do have to do this there really is something there for everyone and all the kids seemed to really enjoy themselves. The driving school was a hit with the little ones and the bigger ones loved Oblivion and 13. There were also plenty of things we could all go on together such as the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride which was a lot of fun, and Hex which frankly I didn’t like and the little ones found a bit boring as the build up to the ride (you watch videos telling a ghost story) was too long. We all had fun on those boats where you shoot each other with water and got very wet in the process. 

The ride attendants are very strict about the height restrictions. We had two children who were about half a cm too short for some rides and this did lead to some disappointment, irritatingly enough they measure you AFTER you have queued for the ride as well so if you don’t have ride access passes or choose not to use them for some rides this could lead to major disappointment if you have thought you’re tall enough and they say you’re not. Next time I go will be when the children have grown WAY past the height limits so there is no question.

The only other disappointing thing was that the rides close at 6pm. Because the park is so big it’s hard to fit in everything you want to do, and in the summer when the days are long it seems they could stay open another hour or two. But really this is a testament to how much fun we were having that we didn’t want the day to end.

Although for the cost Alton Towers has to be one of those big rare treats overall it’s a really fantastic fun filled day out that caters for everyone in the family with pretty much any need you can imagine. My son loved it and the only things he found difficult was dealing with not being able to get on rides due to height restrictions and the fact the day had ended. We found Alton Towers to be a really peaceful environment (well as peaceful as you can expect a theme park to be) with the ability to meet all our needs. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Age of innocence

It was my son’s last day of primary school yesterday. Every day I hear phrases like “can’t believe he’s grown up so fast” or “where has the time gone?” I don’t identify.

It feels like a lifetime ago that my baby boy started school. A different world, another life. So much has happened and so much has changed since then. I think about my happy innocent boy, who trotted off for his first day in school with no idea of what he was going to go through over the next seven years or how much of a different place he would be in by the time he started high school.

I think of how naïve I was, the phrase 'ignorance is bliss' rings true. When my boy started school I was 9 years into an abusive marriage, yet blissfully ignorant to what my husband was doing or how the abuse was escalating. In my mind my husband had a few mental health problems and I was hopeful and excited about him overcoming them, I looked forward to the life he promised us. 

I was a full time manager, a career woman, my husband had gone back to University whilst I supported him on my earnings. Life was hard; he was away and I was on my own with our child. When he did come home he was bad tempered and angry; complaining bitterly about the course tutors who didn’t understand him and weren’t as clever as he was. But I was filled with hope. In my mind by the time my son left primary school he’d be top of his class, with a bunch of awesome lifelong friends and his parents would be happily married both with successful careers, his dad would be a role model who worked hard during the week and hung with him at weekends.

And now here I am 120 miles away from that school. My son has been to three different primary schools, been diagnosed with autism and found school tough. He has hidden in his bedroom while his dad beat me up, he’s run and hidden from his dad chasing him, he’s sat in fearful silence not knowing what to say to his dad’s endless criticisms. He’s endured humiliation, fear and physical pain from the man who was supposed to love and protect him. He’s watched his mum turn from a confident career woman to a broken mess who cries in the kitchen whilst cooking his tea. Far from having a role model my son has had to sit and explain to social workers why he’s scared to be alone with his dad.

My beautiful innocent little boy who happily raced his friends across the playground has seen and endured things no child should. I think back to how innocent and naïve we both were and a part of me wishes we still were. We’re both jaded now. He’s not yet eleven; he shouldn’t be jaded. I am so proud of how he has come through the things he has battled, how emotionally intelligent and strong he is, what a mature thoughtful approach he takes to his experiences, and how hard he tries to provide his brothers with the good male influence he never had. But I am sad, so deeply sad that he has had to.

When he starts high school in September his baby brothers start primary school. And I consider how different it is for them (and me this time). When my older boy started school I was naïve and filled with excitement and hope. Now I am cynical and tired but I still hope. In fact I have more reason to be hopeful now and my hope is grounded in reality, not in fantasy. Somehow though that makes me feel sad. I’m not sure why.