I recently wrote a blog post about "my experiences of parenting after a concussion", which you can read here. It's a topic close to my heart, so I have quite a lot to say about it. I'll continue with part two below.
As I said in my previous post, I home educate my three children and have done since 2014. As well as learning at home, they go to external activities with other children; both groups are aimed specifically at home-educated children and regular after-school groups.
For our family, one of the worst things about me sustaining a concussion and soft tissue injuries in a car crash in 2016 was that the children had to stop going to the groups they'd been attending while I recovered. They'd been going to various classes such as horse-riding, pottery and roller-skating.
We live in the countryside, where there isn't even a shop, so I'd been very dependent on my car before the collision. After a few weeks of recovery, I still wasn't well enough to drive. In fact, I did try to drive one day, thinking I was OK but ended up having a panic attack on a roundabout and having to be driven home by two policemen. After that, I didn't drive for several months until I felt ready to, and even then, I had to build up gradually.
I'm a very determined person and I decided that I wasn't going to let my injuries defeat us and ruin our lives. I can now look back and see that it was partly my desire to get my children back to some of the fun, interesting activities they loved that helped to propel my recovery.
My eldest daughter was six at the time of my collision, and even at that age, she loved dancing. I had taken her to three dance classes a week for as long as I could remember, and she showed real promise with it. I remember thinking, "I just have to get her to her dance classes. She loves them so much, she has a great future ahead of her, and if I can't take her to her classes, then I'll feel so bad that she wasn't able to pursue her passion."
So as soon as I could, I started taking her to her classes by taxi. We racked up quite a bill! But it was worth it for her not to have to give up. I'd drag myself to the lessons, no matter how I felt. I'd have a nap before if I needed to, or I'd take some Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil, CBD oil or other supplements to wake me up or reduce the physical pain I was in. Sometimes, I'd leave the waiting room in tears to go outside because the pain was so excruciating, and the noise and all the people were overwhelming. Other times, if I didn't feel like having conversations with people, I'd sit quietly in the corridor. Thankfully, things did improve over time, and I was able to wait with the other parents, and the whole thing wasn't such an ordeal for me.
In 2019, my daughter took part in a local Christmas show that ran for 13 performances to an audience of up to 800 people per show. Today she's 11 years old, and I'm happy to say she's still thriving as a performer. I'm so glad I've been able to recover enough to be able to support her with this.
Scouting is another activity that I was very keen for my children to continue with. I'm grateful to our local Scout group, where my two eldest children were Cubs, and my son is still a Scout today. They were very supportive of our situation and some of the leaders and families have become good friends. The activities my children got to do during their time there were so fun and adventurous – things like camping, canoeing and hiking - and I'm sure this helped take their minds off the situation at home and gave them something really enjoyable to focus on.
With regards to other activities, it was hard to get back into them and readjust to our new timetable and limitations. Sadly, we never returned to some groups. I also had to stop organising groups and meetups - something I'd previously done quite a lot of - because I just didn't have the mental bandwidth to do this. I'd book taxis from time to time so that we could meet up with friends, and I focused more on activities that were close to home. As my health improved, I was able to take the children a bit further afield, to a soft play centre or science lesson or a meetup at a local museum.
As I mentioned earlier, I'd take supplements before I went out to help boost my energy and provide pain relief, and I'd have to make a real effort to attend the event. But it was always worth it as I'd find support meeting with the other mums, and I enjoyed chatting about ordinary everyday things after feeling quite isolated at home in the countryside. It was also essential for my children to be able to socialise with their friends.
The payoff was that when I got home afterwards, I was usually exhausted. I could generally just about keep going until the time my husband came home from work, but invariably I'd crash out for a couple of hours and sometimes I'd have to recover at weekends and spend half a day or a day in bed, just so that I could get through the weekdays.
In spite of my challenges, I did want to make an effort to see good friends whenever I could, so I'd sometimes invite someone over if I was feeling up to it. I'd be embarrassed about the state of our house because often clothes wouldn't have been folded away, there would be things piled up high everywhere, and the place would be pretty messy. I realised, though, that it was more important that the children and I saw our friends, so I tried not to worry too much about this. The children would play together and sometimes the mum I'd invited would help me by folding laundry or washing up and putting the dishes away. Sometimes a friend would organise an activity for the children, such as arts, crafts or baking. Other times, friends helped out with taking the children to activities while I rested at home, or they'd look after them while I went to a hospital appointment.
For quite some time, my life pretty much revolved around focusing on my children and their lives and activities and not much else, as I didn't have any energy left over. We had to go at a slower pace, but that was OK, and we managed. I just kept going. Things did improve, and somehow, we got through it all. Today I can drive, do most things, and our lives look more like they did before the collision, though I've only managed to organise a handful of group activities and I mostly rely on going to activities organised by others.
On a lighter note, humour helped us to get through difficult times. I completely lost my sense of humour after my accident, but thankfully, I found it again after a couple of months. As a family, we ended up laughing a lot. We'd laugh at the silly things I did or when I'd come out with the wrong word for something, like asking for profiteroles instead of spring rolls one mealtime. We tried to look at the funny side of things and make light of the craziness, which really helped us to survive.
One time, just before Easter, a friend came over to our house as she'd planned an activity for the children: making chocolate bowls to fill with mini eggs. We melted some chocolate in a pan and then each child had to dip a balloon in the chocolate. The idea was that the chocolate would set on the balloon. Then, when it had cooled down, you'd pop the balloon and be left with a smooth edible chocolate bowl to put the mini eggs in. When my daughter dipped her balloon in the chocolate, it was still very hot and so the balloon burst and chocolate splattered all over her, everyone else and the walls and ceiling of my dining room. We still look back and laugh at moments like these as they helped lift our spirits during a difficult time.
Although I was initially very frustrated by the enforced changes that my health situation brought, over time, I realised the importance of choosing to focus on what I could do and not on what I couldn't do. Arriving at this place of acceptance didn't happen straight away and it took me a lot of reflection and effort to get there. Life changed after my brain injury, but thankfully I've steadily returned to much of normal life and I've also discovered new and interesting ways of looking at and doing life. Today, my children are still one of my main motivations to keep improving my health. If you're going through a similar experience, then I hope that reading this post will encourage you to keep going and to know that even in the middle of challenging circumstances, you can still stay connected to your children, keep family life going, make the most of things and achieve a lot.