With all the drama of M’s birthday and the agonising decisions about finite details, J’s summer birthday could have been easily overlooked. He was bemused by M’s production about her party and almost took to it like a spectator sport, enjoying the daily battles and tears. He said to me the weekend after her party that there was nothing to look forward to now and he couldn’t wait for her 16th birthday. He’s always thought girls are aliens, and in his eyes M has confirmed all his suspicions.
We booked J into a four day residential activity camp which includes rock climbing and abseiling, as he’s shown an interest and aptitude in those particular sports. The only dates available coincided with his birthday and I was worried that he’ll be away from home and not feel his special day was being acknowledged. I talked to him first about it before booking and he said he didn’t care as he really wanted to go on the activity holiday. He would never go on it alone but a school friend was interested so after speaking to Damien’s mum, we booked the boys on together. It was all he talked about for weeks (not including Spiderman and the Hulk, of course!) and apart from a day of stress when he and Damien fell out, the camp completely overshadowed his birthday.
Several weeks ago, he presented me with a birthday list at my encouragement, and I gradually bought nearly everything on it; it was all superhero or game console based and as an afterthought, he added a few science kits. We agreed that we would have his birthday celebrations when he came home, with a party at a pizza restaurant, and invitations were sent out. What he didn’t know is that I spoke to the activity camp organiser, arranged a surprise cake and drove up to the centre with gifts and surprises. They were very helpful and promised to make his birthday special.
Whenever M or J are away for a planned trip or even a sleepover, I plan to do all sorts of industrious things such as redecorate a room or catch up on writing assignments, but usually end up visiting long suffering friends for coffee, lunch or wine. I contacted a few friends, made tentative plans, then J and I started packing for his activity holiday. One ongoing concern for J is what to tell the other children about his situation, and as I folded T-shirts, I told him that it’s up to him to tell people what he’s comfortable with. The only people at the camp who know J is a Looked After Child are the organiser, the Health & safety coordinator and the camp counsellor. J doesn’t want to be different, and although he’s not as secretive as M, he prefers to tell other children he lives with his Aunty and Uncle. As Damien is going too, I suggested he keep to that which he was happy about.
I packed a little surprise in his suitcase which he wouldn’t find until he unpacked, and slipped a note in his favourite hoodie to tell him I was thinking of him. We packed him up and Hubby drove him to the activity camp. In the meantime, M was making arrangements to go on a marathon shopping spree with Claire and Gemma, and was trying to negotiate a pocket money advance. Once M left, I sat at my breakfast bar, in a quiet house, with a proper cup of real coffee which I only ever make when I’ve got time to enjoy it, savouring the peace.
Three minutes later the phone rang; could I take a high dependency tube fed baby with complex medical needs for a short term placement? I finished my coffee, rang my (long suffering and understanding) friends to cancel and prepared our room for a baby. It’s been a while since I had a little one and I was itching to have a cuddle.