Friday, July 3, 2009

The angels Who Touch Us

One of my four children here has special needs, but can you tell which one?

Matt is the little monkey swinging in the background, Abby and Beccy are painting with Sam. It was a beautiful day at the Chelsea playground, a very special place where I could go with my family to relax and to enjoy. No judgmental stares, no disapproval, no pressures for Sam to blend in and to be "normal".

(Strange thing is, he always "behaved" himself when we were there, with love and acceptance a given, he felt no threat or fear once inside those grounds.)

All my children enjoyed this place, but for me? I truly believe it salvaged the little that was left of my sanity.

Most every Saturday, and almost every summer break, I turfed up with our bundle of nappies (three of my children here were still nappy bound!) and five packed lunches to camp out and to chill.

Back then their daddy worked round the clock, it was his way of coping. It didn't always stay that way, he just took a little time to set his head on straight. We all got through as best we could, just like the many other families I met down there. We all had had a bomb explode on our lives, it took a while to clear the wreckage away, realise the future still held promise.

And it did. Oh my, it did.

It wasn't long before my "normie" kids began dragging their playmates along there too. It is open to all family members of disabled children, as well as to their friends. Their motto is "The more the merrier". Safely gated off, and with a high ratio of staff, it provides a desperately needed sanctuary for both the parents of, and to the children of special needs.

It's a truly magical place, run on only a wing and a prayer, funded solely by fund raising and private donation, it is constantly under threat of closure, subsisting hand to mouth (which it has done for well over thirty years now). Without the dedication of the parents and their supporters there, it would have long since have been thrown to the wind.

Even little Abby played her part - oh Lord, did it rain that day! The helpers at the Chelsea Playground were only the first link in a long, long chain of back up and support that's been there for us.

Sam has grown, developed and matured far beyond my brightest hopes were for him back then. So many people have had a hand in that; good, giving, caring folk - those who were able to see the boy behind the disability, and who have strived to help this fine young lad emerge.

Next term he starts a "Life Skills" course at college, which upon completion I have every confidence he will find a job-placement from. I can't believe those four cherubs of mine are now all teenagers. It blows my mind!

My son celebrates his 16th birthday today in Ireland, watching the bike racing with his beloved daddy. They have such a special bond between them now, it's precious and deep, so obvious for anyone to see.

Our family has travelled such a long way since our first wobbly steps at The Chelsea Playground. It opened a path to so much more for us, and was nothing short of a lifeline for me back then. I've met many Angels in human form, Penny Smith who ran this place was only the first in a long, long line of them. She held me when I cried, listened when I yelled, and had the wisdom to never offer platitudes. She held her tongue, never thrust advice, and was simply there - completely.

And now, just look at where we are! So much water under the bridge, so far we have come.

(Happy birthday my Sweet Sam, you can have no idea of how proud I am of you.)


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Sam.
Chelsea playground sounds to be a wonderful place to learn about each other's differences and sameness and to share experiences.

Akelamalu said...

Happy Birthday to your Sam.

Chelsea Playground sounds a wonderful place. Having been blessed to have had two severely disabled grandchildren until they were aged 5 and 3 I know how places like that can make a difference. :)

Deirdre said...

Hi. I just wanted to say 'Happy Birthday' to both you and Sam. My son also starts Life skills in September, having had a taster day on Tuesday - which exhausted him. Quite scary (for us!) as he sets off on the next step.
Chelsea playground sounds wonderful, how we would have loved something like that, although our Opportunity Group provided lots of support.

Daryl said...

Happy Birthday to Sam ..

With all that love and support I am sure Sam will excel in Life Skills, he's learned the most important one already .. that family is the most important part of life

Leslie: said...

May I join the others in wishing Sam a wonderful birthday and a future with nothing but success in his life. And kudos to you for just being his Mommy and loving him unconditionally. It's tough. I know!

Lover of Life/ Nancy said...

This was a beautiful tribute to an obviously adored son. Happy Birthday to your dear Sam.

Thank goodness for those little respites, and loving places we can find in the world just when we need them.

imbeingheldhostage said...


Happy Birthday Sam!!

Scott from Oregon said...


Happy Birthday Sam!

Marty said...

Been missing you Shrinky, Happy Birthday to you son Sam!

Fletch said...

(... Sweet Sam, you can have no idea of how proud I am of you ...)

Hmmmmm, I think perhaps Sam DOES know, but it is a touching affirmation, nevertheless.

P.S. Happy belated birthday wishes, Sam!

Shrinky said...

Hi Chewy, you hit it right on the head there, hon. It certainly was just that.

Akelamalu (Hugs)

Hi Deirdre, how lovely for you to have popped by. I wish your son all the luck in the world as he starts off on this next phase of his life. Yes, it is always scary when they face new challenges, isn't it?

Daryl, Sam has taught our family so much down the years. Smile.

Leslie, living with the onset of the menepause as well as with four teenagers under my roof certainly makes life "interesting" at times!

Hi Nancy, I will always feel grateful for the helping hand The playground gave us.

Cheers, imbeingheldhostage!

Scott, thanks (smile).

Welcome back, Marty.

Ah Fletch, Sam is Sam, he refused to come to the phone to me when his dad rang home yesterday - that's my boy!

simon said...

A touching post Shrinky. I have a son who has asbergers.. A mild form of autism. He is 22 and I constantly worry about him. its as if he is of the world but not part of it.

A genius yet no real education, I worry that even, say, catching a train he will be "lost"...

mrsnesbitt said...

A wonderful post Carol. Happy Birthday to Sam, hope he has a wonderful time in Ireland, to be sure!

SJ said...

Happy birthday to Sam!
That's a very nice photo of the children has the awwww factor :)

david mcmahon said...

Having followed your family through this wonderful blog for two-and-a-half years, I feel the pride and love in every word, Shrinky.

Merisi said...

Happy Birtday to you and Sam!

Congratulations on winning David's Post of the Day Award!

Arija said...

Happy Birthday Sam and well done Mum! I have looked after so many children whose parents for one or another reason or excuse just popped the into an institutin and left them there for Christmas and Easter as well, breaking thir little love starved hearts. Hats off to you for endurance and perseverence and most of all for all the love.

Sandi McBride said...

Three Cheers for the Chelsea Playground! What a wonderful place for families of all...So happy to hear that Sam is well as are all the rest...lovely post...worthy of Post of the Day? Absolutely!!!


Happy birthday to Sam, and thank you for sharing this lovely story. And congratulation on winning Post Of The Day!

Pouty Lips said...

Happy Birthday Sam!

Congratulations on being chosen for David's post of the day.

Denise said...

Happy Birthday Sam. This is a wonderful post and I can tell that Sam and your other children are very blessed to have such a loving and caring mother. I found your blog through the POTD over at David's blog.

Anonymous said...

A lovely post. It makes such a huge difference when people can see past what they believe is 'normal'. You have an amazing family that you can be very proud of. Congratulations to you and Happy Birthday to Sam.

Brian Miller said...

beautiful and touching post. having two boys of our own I can relate and watching them grow is met with smiles and tears as time slips quickly through our fingers. i won't with special needs kids as well...they really are special and it is fun to watch them change and grow as well. the playground sounds wonderful. happy birthday to your little one, if you can still call them little at that age. congrats on POTD!

Shaye said...

Happy Birthday, Sam! Beautiful post. And congrats on the POTD!


Anonymous said...

Happy birthday Sam. What a great tribute to a fantastic Charity...there needs to be many more I think.

Worthy POTD for this, and the photo is so lovely.

Craig Glenn said...

HB! And congrats on a well desirved POTD!


Anonymous said...

Congrats on PotD.

primavera123 said...

A dear friend of mine has a 7 year old son with autism. He worries constantly about how his son will cope as an adult, and what would happen to his son if, God forbid, something were to happen to him and his wife. Who would take care of his son? So he works very hard to build a trust fund so that no matter what happens his son will be well cared for. Unfortunately though, this leaves him very little time to spend with the boy. It's a difficult life. Good luck!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Happy Birthday Sam! Congrats on the Post of the Day Award!

PRH....... said...

I can relate to both Shrinky...A son named Sam and a daughter(Anissa) with special needs....another good one to say the least, a tip o' the cap to ya.

jay said...

Happy birthday to Sam! And congratulations to you, for weathering the storms and being there for him and allowing him to reach his potential in love and security.

Chelsea playground does sound lovely!

Angel... said...

Happy BELATED birthday Sam. I hope you had a good time..Sorry, I am little late to wish you.. I love the photograph.. take care

Les Becker said...

Happy Birthday to Sam! I'm sure he's having a ball, if racing is part of the celebrations.

easytravel said...

Thanks for share. Our children is our heaven in this world. Give all support and love to them. As a private teacher I know and understand what a children feels. just patient.OK..I'll wait your coming to my blog.

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Hi there,
I arrived here via David's Blog - Congratulations on Post of the Day! very well-deserved!
Wonderful post and wonderful photos!
Donnie X

Easybreathingfella said...

from the back streets of Leeds to to bright light and executive lights of London, to forfilment on a craggy island what a jouney and one that you and your family can be proud of Stinky sorry I mean Shrinky.
And belated birthday greetins to Sam.

Still breatheing just fella.

Suldog said...

A very, wonderfully, fully-magical and explosively-happy birthday to Sam (and to you, love.)

You have a beautiful soul, which I'm sure has been genetically passed along to all of your kids. God bless you all (and it appears He does, indeed.)

Hilary said...

Shrinky, you're such a beautiful Mom. Your children will all, no doubt thrive and succeed. Wonderful tribute to Chelsea Playground.. and a very Happy Birthday to your Sam. :)

~Babs said...

I want to add one more "Happy Birthday Sam" in here.
How fortunate you are to have a Mum like Shrinky,,and it's obvious she is blessed to have you!
Wonderful,,,Chelsea Playground, and the photo of all your children is adorable!