Much as we love our daughter and enjoy our family life at home together, we need a break from each other from time to time. I don’t need to say how all encompassing and unrelenting it is being a carer. Finding time and space for ourselves can be a challenge.

It’s also important to us that our girl has her own independence and autonomy. We are building this up gradually as opportunities present themselves and our trust in others grows again after last year’s fateful stab at residential living. Things take time, change is hard, we need to embrace it in small steps.

Our daughter has come back from her first weekend respite break in almost a year. Yes, she’s been to a holiday camp with carers and on holiday with us, but she hasn’t stayed away from home in a setting with people she doesn’t know for a long time.

She is exhausted and emotional, shattered not to put too fine a point on it. She’s well though, a huge relief to us. Apart from not sleeping much, we’ve been told she’s explored her new surroundings thoroughly, gone into town to watch a big running race, chilled in front of the TV with her peers watching new movies and all in all had a good first stay. She’s had a taste of something different with a new bunch of people and managed it pretty well.

She’s clearly glad to be home, back to what she knows best. She’s a little anxious and insecure but already her horizons have broadened a bit. Today she’s chosen to watch films that she’s never been interested in before: Austin Powers, Goosebumps, Spinal Tap. Whoever would’ve thought she’d entertain them after being stuck on Scooby Doo and Addams Family for so many months?  We are thrilled at the change. You can imagine.

We were impressed by the care and attention to detail given by the staff team in the lead up to this momentous event. We are relieved to see that it has continued and the respite centre is run by professionals who really know what they are doing and put their service users first. In our experience of organisations and to our cost, this hasn’t always been the case.

We anticipate the weekend being the first of a series of breaks our daughter will have there until she is no longer eligible for respite there. It’s for young adults only. What will happen then, who knows?

We’d planned so many things for our weekend break, my partner and I. Inevitably most fell by the wayside as we hunkered down to catch our breath. We did, however, manage to have a long seaside walk, one of our favourite things. There’s always something to look at, another hundred yards to go before turning round, a nice cup of tea on the shingle.

This time we came across a paraglider flying along the coastline, going back and forth, each time a little further out, until he disappeared behind the cliff. As we headed back he suddenly emerged from behind the seawall where he had landed on the beach, a large pack strapped to his bag containing his ‘chute. We chatted for a while. He told us flying was easy once you got the hang of taking off and landing. You just need training and lots of practice.

I’ve thought about this a lot since then.

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