In February 2020, Joshua had his last weekend in respite and he has been with us every night since then, until last night. My best friend collected Joshua from daycare for us at the end of the day and she has had him at her house for a sleepover! I am so grateful to her and her family for allowing him to intrude on their weekend, the first night of their Easter holidays, but my husband and I have made the most of our freedom:

We took him to daycare together and he was as delighted as usual to be there, hugging a different carer to the one he hugged on Wednesday, so he is even-handed with his affection. I gave him a bear hug too and told him that we would see him tomorrow. I know that he does not understand the future tense, but I wanted him to realise that we were only going to be apart for one night. We waved each other goodbye and we skipped back to the car, without a backward glance, knowing that he would be well taken care of in our absence.

It was a curious mix of excitement, freedom and anxiety that I felt; It felt very liberating to only have ourselves to consider in every decision for the rest of the day, although we talked about him for much of the day. As we were driving, The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ came onto the radio – Joshua’s number one song! – and we both laughed, as though he had been able to send a psychic reminder to us. When we went out for a pub tea in the evening, as I was looking at the menu, my brain automatically sought out and found scampi and chips for Joshua, even though he was not with us. It was liberating to be able to do our gardening job together with no interruptions, no need to continually check that Joshua was still content. After we had worn ourselves out with cutting and moving pruned trees, and taking them to the tip, it was luxuriously possible to lie on the settee and have a brief nap, again with no interruptions, with nobody sitting on me or pulling at me to get up.

And yet, I could not switch off totally, I found myself wondering how and what he was doing. From 3.30 when my friend collected him from daycare, I had a series of photographs to reassure me. They began with his smiling face in the car and then a happy face at Donald’s for tea. Later I had some photographs of her son playing the guitar for Joshua and his enraptured face. Apparently Joshua followed her teenaged son everywhere all evening. Joshua settled in her son’s bed, while he was evicted to sleep in the lounge! I have heard nothing more since I fell asleep at 11pm. I had a deep, undisturbed sleep until waking, as usual, at 5am, having enjoyed six hours of uninterrupted sleep, which rarely happens. We will finish our gardening job this morning, with two more visits to the tip – we know how to make the most of our respite! – then we will go and collect Joshua . It will have been a wonderful 28 hours of ‘freedom’, for which I am eternally grateful and, assuming that it has gone well, I hope that it is an experience that we can repeat.

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