Drama 2: ‘Jim’
Jim is 23 and a wheelchair user who wants to develop independence from his over-protective mother, who is also his primary carer. Jim’s mum and his friend, Dave, also give their perspectives.
Well you’ve got to look after your children haven’t you? Every parent wants to do the best for their kids don’t they? And he’s disabled, so he’s much more vulnerable. You can’t just send a disabled child out into the world. I mean it’s not like having a normal child, he can’t look after himself so someone’s got to and who better than me. I brought him into the world after all, he’s my responsibility.
Her responsibility! I wouldn’t be her responsibility if she’d let me have some responsibility of my own! I’m 23years old and I’ve had my own house since I was 20. But my mum is employed as my carer. She’s being paid to care for me 26 hours a week. More like 26 hours of interference! And that’s just the start. Don’t get me wrong, of course I love her and I know she’s trying to do the best for me. But she lives just round the corner so she’s here a lot more than 26 hours a week and believe me it’s a strain. Sometimes I think life would be much easier if I could move somewhere far away and get a professional carer. Someone who doesn’t have such close ties. But how do you say that to the woman who believes she’s doing the best she can for you.
Come to think of it, I have said it - straight to her face. But it’s like talking to a wall, she’s my mum and as far as she’s concerned nobody else can do the job like her.
I know my son better that anyone, so it stands to reason I’m the best person for the job. But to say I don’t listen is utter rubbish, I’ve heard him, but he’s not really thought it through. What are his options? I’ve know he wants a different carer, but I can’t let some stranger come in and take over his life. Undressing him, washing him all over, feeding him. What about his privacy? Plus they’re only in it for the money, how do I know they’ll do as good a job as me? He’s my son, I’ve seen him grow up, I know what he likes to eat, I know what he likes to watch on telly, I where he likes to go and when he likes to go out. I’ve helped him with all of that since he was a baby.
There’s a fine line between helping and hindering! Like that point in life when the fledgling leaves the nest – or is kicked out – and has to learn fend for itself. The time is right and it’s better for all concerned. The parents can get on with their lives and junior can get out there and live a bit. I left her nest, but she followed me, that’s not how it’s meant to be. And now she’s here practically all the time and it’s doing my head in. She does all the things a carer should do, and she’s good at it – plenty of practice. She takes me to the toilet, washes me, feeds me, and dresses me, all the usual stuff, that any carer could do. But she goes one step further, she knows, or thinks she knows everything about me. She certainly knows a lot more about a son than is good for a mother! There’s meant to be a generation gap, I’m a young guy I have friends, and girlfriends. But she always insists on sticking around when I have company, like she’s one of my friends too. She’s not. She needs to get a life and I need some breathing space.
His mother’s a right royal pain in the butt! She’s a control freak and the worst kind. She acts the caring mother/helper who’s given up her whole life for her son. The problem is she believes it and now he’s her whole life and she can’t let go. I reckon she’s more dependent on him than he is of her. It’s a horrible set-up, but she can’t see it. Frankly I don’t know how he puts up with it, I certainly wouldn’t want to lead my life like that. I don’t think she means to be the way she is, he’s been her way of life since he was born and now she can’t see beyond it, but it’s stifling him. He has no time to himself.
If I’m in with him for a beer and she’s not there, I know it won’t be long before she’ll ‘drop by’ just to make sure everything’s OK. I’ve told her countless times that if there’s a problem I’ll phone, but she insists on checking up. “Better safe than sorry” is her motto. Well he’s certainly safe and we’re all sorry - for him. And it’s no wonder he can’t hang on to his girlfriends. As if it isn’t hard enough having a relationship when you’re in a wheelchair she just adds to the pressure. If I was a girl I wouldn’t be prepared to put with that amount of interference. Sometimes I wonder if she can’t handle the idea of him having someone else to look after him and goes out of her way to make sure she’s the only woman in his life.
Basically she wants me to be her puppet, behave the way she thinks I, as a disabled person, should behave, think the way she wants me to and for years that’s what I did – just to keep the peace really. But I don’t know how a disabled person is supposed to behave. I’m just me and I try to do what I want, when I want. And she can’t stand the fact that the internet has given me opportunities to do that. With the internet I can speak to whoever I want, anywhere in the world at any time and I don’t need to rely on her to take me there. So I use it a lot, and I can do it in the privacy of my own room - which helps. Though it’s amazing the number of things that suddenly need to be cleaned in my bedroom when I’m online.
I get worried about him on that internet all the time. He’s using those chat rooms and you know what they’re like. Most of the people are only on it for one reason, and that’s to pick on vulnerable individuals like Jim. He doesn’t know the real world. There’s a lot of nasty people out there and he needs protection. He doesn’t know who these people are, where they live or anything, yet they’re online telling each other about things they’ve been doing. He’s picked up all sorts of ridiculous ideas.
He’s even starting to believe he can be like these other people, he can do the things they can. He can’t for God’s sake, look at him. He says that there’s people like him doing all sorts of exciting things and now he’s talking about going to different parts of the world, doing things that they say they’re doing. Over my dead body! I think he’s just getting wound up and will come crashing back to reality soon enough. I mean that internet, you just can’t tell who’s telling the truth what with it’s chatrooms and forums and Bebos and Bookface!
Sure I don’t know the people from the chatrooms personally, but when we chat, I realise there’s a lot of world out there waiting for me, and my friends are with me on that. But I think it scares the crap out of my mum and I don’t want to hurt her. Still, this time, short of sabotaging my broadband, she can’t stop them talking to me and she sees herself losing control - unlike with my real friends who encouraged me to be more independent. She could control when and where I saw them and for how long so if it looked like I was getting too close to someone, she would somehow find a way of making it difficult for me to see them.
Essentially she would decide who I could and couldn’t have as friends. As for a girlfriend, forget it. When I was younger I thought guys were supposed to be encouraged to have girlfriends! You know, boy meets girl, gets married, has babies etc. In my case just having a girlfriend would have done me fine, someone I fancy who fancies me back, someone to talk to - but there’s never been any likelihood of that because she’s always been in control. I’ve had girlfriends, some disabled, some not and obviously in my condition we’ve got issues to get over from the start, so the last thing I need is an interfering mother on my doorstep everytime I have a girl over. Honestly I’d swear she thinks the idea of me having a relationship and particularly a sexual relationship is weird. What’s so weird about it? I’m a 19 year old guy, I have needs and have had for a long time – as well she knows! A professional carer wouldn’t have the same hang ups, they would be able to detach themselves from my personal side – at least take a step back and let me get on with my relationships – I’m perfectly capable of screwing up without any help from my mother!
I don’t want to see my Jim get hurt. It’s tough enough for normal kids these days what with all their social problems, all that stuff you see in the soap operas, drugs, pregnancies, stabbings. Jim shouldn’t have to deal with that, he’s got enough on his plate as it is. The last thing he needs is a girl building him up and then breaking his heart. It would break my heart to see that happen to him. And why would she be faithful to him? I doubt he can perform the way she’d want him to, as soon as a ‘real man’ comes round the corner, she’d be off and his confidence would be shot to bits. It’s happened already, I can’t let it happen again. And these ideas of his to go travelling. He’s not thought it through. Who’s going to go with him eh? How’s he going to cope with the heat, the roads, the places without ramps. You know in some countries they don’t care if you’re disabled, you’ve just got to get on with it, fend for yourself. He’d never be able to cope without me.