“I don’t know…”
“I don’t want to”
These are the top two phrases I hear as a respite provider. Of course there are a handful of others that get put on repeat as well but these are the most common. The first one is testing if you’ll believe them. While the second is seeing what you’re going to do to make them. Every moment in respite counts as an opportunity for the child to gain trust that the adult caring for them will keep them safe and find the ability to work on their lives in that safety. It’s not easy to gain that trust. These littles are sneaky and will do anything to find a reason to not build that trust. However it’s a neat thing to witness as they slowly let go of the fear and find strength. It is quite literally a light bulb moment. It’s as if a switch is turned on and work can begin. Unfortunately though the window of opportunity sometimes is very brief. You as a provider must snatch it up and help bring that child to their potential even if it only last 8.5 minutes. As quickly as the switch was turned on the switch can and will be flipped right back down.
I’m not naïve enough to believe I’ll be the one to heal these kids. Nor do I want to be. It takes a team that is lead by their parents. It takes therapist,respite providers,support systems,and the kid themselves. I just come in for a bracket of time to give rest. I guess you could say I’m a kid like the sloth of the group. It’s a lot of me sitting and observing (while pretending I’m not). It’s a lot of listening to the same sound track of the child’s own making. I make the nutritious but bland food three times a day and provide structured jobs and play. Safety is my main concern and follow through is the key that unlocks breakthrough. I absolutely love it but I’m not the one that will heal the child in my care and I’m ok with that. However maybe just maybe I can bring a rest to the mom that is so broke down she feels crazy or the dad that it trying so hard to juggle so many plates and wonders if he should just let them fall. I can bring rest,I can be the sloth.
So what does a day in respite look like? I would be lying if I gave any concrete answer. However I can say that two days are not alike yet they are absolutely the same. Makes sense right? Ha I’m kidding, of course it doesn’t make sense. Here’s the deal. I’ll do my best to share a little of what respite looks like but no promises that what I write will be the standard reality for all situations. “Got it”?
I start my day by making the much needed coffee. After all sloths need some motivation once and while. I attempt to make quick time of getting myself ready so I can wake the tiny human from his anxiety filled slumber. Most kids with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) don’t actually sleep much because their brains are so over active hat they literally hear every noise or see every light. A noise machine is a must in this line of work.
Once the tiny human is awake I have them make their bed or fold the blankets depending on their age. This thrusts them into a pity party that may or may not take three hours to finish the job.
Finally the bed is made and breakfast is served. I do breakfast before getting dressed because inevitably breakfast is going to get all over the tiny human’s pajamas. I set the warm oatmeal in front of the child and world war three begins. I’ll spare you the details.
I give the child 30-45 minutes to finish their meal. Up next is clean up. Once again several minutes to hours later the tiny human can be moved on to the next thing. Getting dressed includes folding pajamas,bathroom,brushing teeth,etc. If the child doesn’t have any debt (jobs required for negative behavior /messes made/broken property) then I’ll give them an activity to do on a rug. I rotate that out all day. Lunch will come next with a very similar routine but we bump the war up to 4 and Mozart music is turned on for my sanity. With them being fed and cleaned up it’s nap time ( if applicable) and I can breathe. If no nap is given then the child, if not stuck, will do an activity,rage in their room,or complete a restitution. Restitutions vary based on debt owed. Things like mopping the floor,sweeping,folding towels,or anything else my imagination can come up with. No one activity or job gets done in short order. Every single thing goes at super slow sloth pace. It’s a good thing that I completely understand the sloth life and can roll with the (literal and figurative) punches that come my way. A five minute activity will never ever take under an hour. I’d bet my entire life savings on it. Granted I don’t have a life savings but you get what I mean.
At this point it’s dinner time and here I’ll just push repeat but maybe with the addition of a plate being thrown or water being spilt on “accident”. Then the child wastes some more time and it’s near bed time. They have opportunity for a shower and must get ready for bed. They may or may not choose to get dressed. They may just flop around for a while raging. It totally depends if their brain is stuck or not. I send them to bed and if I had a door alarm this would be the point I’d turn it on. I then wait around until I think it’s safe for me to hop into the shower and get ready for bed. I’m not going to lie. I’m still new in this thing called RAD and it terrifies me to do this part. I literally shake in terror that the child’s going to be gone and I’m going to go to jail or something. But I hop out and the tiny human is still screaming death threats or sometimes singing to themselves and I can rest easy…as all sloths dream of doing.
So there you have a very toned down version of the day in the life of respite. What I can’t convey to you is the smell,noise,or adrenaline that encompasses this thing called therapeutic respite care. I’ve now worked with two families and each situation was night and day contrasting each other so it makes it difficult to give an accurate depiction. I blended the two to give an overview.
Doing respite in my home made it really real the supplies I need. It’s kind of like when a teacher requests school supplies. She doesn’t ask out of fun whimsy but out of necessity.
Needs for respite work:
Water proof mattress pads
And patience 😜
If you would like to donate to Radical Hope Respite I am in need of all of the above.