Missing in action

The only aspect of ‘The A Word’ that I did not find credible , was that Joe was allowed to walk down a country road alone at 5 years old. It just did not seem to be in keeping with the very protective mother’s outlook, even though it made a dramatic opening to the programme as this small child walked through the cumbrian hills singing along to a song playing in his headphones. But this week, Joe wandered off and was missing for several hours and we saw all of the anxiety that created.

Joshua has not been allowed that freedom to be able to wander off like that, even that frightening feeling many parents have when they lose toddlers in a busy supermarket, Joshua is either strapped into a wheelchair or is holding a hand, so that could not happen. There has only been one occasion when Joshua wandered off and that was when he was very young and in his childminder’s care : it was her son’s birthday and they had gone to the local farm, who are our neighbours, for a family party that Joshua was invited to. While she was distracted by celebrations, Joshua had roamed away , undetected, to visit his familiar pond, where he loved, and still loves, feeding the fish. Fortunately the farm owners spotted him and retrieved him, before he came to any harm. His childminder was understandably mortified  when she discovered that he was missing and we had lots of discussions together afterwards.

I was at work at the time, so was oblivious, and had none of that panicked searching that I often see played out in TV dramas. But once I found out what had happened, my imagination kicked in and it began to present various scenarios to me, about what if…? That was terrifying enough, although it was our neighbouring farm, rather than a dangerous jungle, the potential risks were just as frightening. As  a longer term consequence, it has left me anxious when Joshua’s carers have their own family at the same time as caring for my son; I always assume that human nature will prevail and that they’re own offspring, or even grandchildren, will be prioritised over Joshua and that once again, he will be neglected just long enough for a disaster to take place. So rather than the childminder scenario, nowadays I prefer one to one care for Joshua, so that I know he gets the full attention that he requires.

Even now that Joshua is 15 years old, I am still as protective of him as I was as a toddler, as having no sense of danger and no language to get help when required, he is a vulnerable young man and will grow to be a vulnerable adult. That is a sobering responsibility, that he will require close care all of his life.

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