What is it about?

The rollercoaster adventures of parenting three kids, dealing with disability and mental health - and discussing disability discrimination and how to tackle it.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

One of those Moments

You're cruising along; all is going quite all right, thank you very much, and then booom! Along comes one of those moments that knocks you sideways, and shows you that underneath the calm surface are still buried wild emotions. I had one of those moments today.

You see, my father in law generously bought us a gas instant hot water heater, which has a gizmo where you can set the water temperature. That way, you just turn on the tap, and hey presto, you have the water for your sink and shower at just the temperature you need. There is no risk of the children accidentally burning, and kids like ours with limited fine motor skills do not have to fiddle to get the water temperature right (for our kids, mixer taps or a swivel tap are equally difficult to manage). And he threw in a gas cook top for the kitchen as well, knowing that we much prefer to cook on gas. The only thing we had to do was get the house connected to gas. Easy-peasy, you'd think. There is gas in the street, so it shouldn't be too much trouble. Or so we thought.

All was on track, until a very friendly lady from AGL called me to say that the field technician from the gas distribution company had been to visit, and concluded that there was no gas to the house, and if we wanted the connection, we would have to make a "contribution between five and ten thousand dollars". Yes, you heard that right. Between 5,000 and 10,000! I know we're privileged living in the city, I know that folks out in the bush have to pay for all their mains connection (electricity, water) and those costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I know, we should have been prepared for this possibility. But the truth is, we weren't. It hadn't even occurred to us that the gas may stop halfway down the street. And we certainly didn't budget this in. Not to mention that these costs are ridiculous, considering we have a perfectly fine electric hot water heater in the house.

So after discussing things with Hubby, I called ALG back, and got an equally helpful and friendly lady on the phone, who even recognised me from previous calls (ah, the benefits of having an unusual name). She had a few suggestions on how we could possible solve this issue, but we were still facing this extra cost if we were to go ahead. And then it came. Hubby told me to ask if they would have any special compensation for people in our situation. So I started to explain to her why we wanted the gas hot water. And as I explained how two of our children are disabled, my voice started to waver and quiver. I had to catch my breath as I was explaining the situation, and asking her if there was any special scheme or consideration that we would be eligible for. As Hubby said, it's worth asking, nothing lost. But there I was, nearly bursting into tears. She was very friendly, said she'd ring the distribution company and talk to her manager, and get back to me, meanwhile advising me what I could do.

I made myself another cup of coffee after the phone call, and in between playing with the Lego with Possum and discussing endless pretend office work with Mister Determined, I slurped my coffee and tried to understand why I got so upset. It wasn't that I minded telling the woman on the phone about my kids. It wasn't that I felt in any way sad for my kids or their disability. I realised that I got so upset because I was asking a total stranger for help.

We've had this discussion on CPecialparents a while ago. One of the mums said it so clearly: "It's my child I should be able to look after her". I have this feeling that this is my life and it's for me to deal with – but then, it is glaringly obvious that I can't manage on my own. I don't know how I would cope without Hubby. And it goes without saying that the wheels would long ago have fallen off the wagon had it not been for help from my family. Society is just not set up in a way that makes it easy for parents who have children with special needs. We have taken care of most things on our own, and there is no doubt that life is more expensive when you have children with a disability. And for one thing, I would have been back at work a long time ago and our finances would be in much better shape! I know all that. Yet to ask a stranger for help was just psychologically a step too far, and reduced me to tears. Maybe it also shows that underneath it all, there are some unresolved issues I need to address.

Oh, and the gas saga continues – I will let you know how it gets resolved. There is always the good old gas bottle…

No comments: