Artwork by Xavier Singer-Kingsmith @xotuski (Insta)
We are a neurodivergent, creative family, living in Sevenoaks, Kent, on a quest to find someone – or some people – to support us and our home-schooled children, aged 7 and 12. Below is a post explaining more about who we are, our approach and what we are seeking in terms of support.
We could use your help.
This isn’t the first time I have asked. I put out a blog over a year ago about having both a childcare problem, and a problem with the notion of childcare. But since then the need has only got more urgent. Remember that scene in Mary Poppins when the children write their own job ad for a nanny, it gets thrown on the fire and goes up the chimney? Well, this is me putting this post up the virtual chimney, and asking again…
It feels scary to ask. Scary because it involves admitting we cannot cope on our own. Scary because it means finally breaking open the idea of a nuclear family – opening ourselves, our home, outwards.
But what help?
I struggle with the terms most readily available: childcare; au pair; nanny. I did some research on ‘childcare for children with special educational needs,’ but sometimes specifics make things worse. Because then the ‘experts’ turn up, bristling with qualifications. And we do not necessarily want help from an expert. We want help from a person, or some people, or better still from a community.
However, I am not going to be so arrogant or stubborn as to refuse to engage with the conventional routes: I have uploaded our profile onto ‘aupair world’ and ‘childcare.co.uk’, but I am also committed to forging different paths, to finding other ways of doing things, which is why I am writing to you now, like this.
WHO WE ARE – Our Happy (sad/grumpy/ angry/anxious/exhausted) Family:
If you are interested in helping us, I am going to ask you to introduce yourself, so let me start by introducing ourselves.
When I was little, I had a ‘Happy Families’ playing cards set. I remember the picture of ‘Mr Bun the Baker,’ holding a loaf and beaming. It was a thoroughly unreconstructed game in that each family identity was based around the father’s trade and was made up of four family members – the man, his wife, his son, his daughter – Mr, Mrs, Master, Miss. Because the game here, in this invitation, is to take some boxes, some conventional structures, and to re-use and reinvent them, and because our family strangely matches the pattern of four, I like the idea of using this game by way of introduction. Of course, in the game, there was Mr Bun the Baker, Bones the Butcher, Chip the Carpenter, Grits the Grocer etc….but there wasn’t a family of artists. Let’s put that right straightaway – here we are:
Mr Act the Artist: Aged 60, probably ADHD, but hasn’t got round to the diagnosis. Theatre and opera director. Improviser. Facilitator. Co-founder and Co-artistic Director of Improbable. Has been the primary earner for the family. Needs a good coffee, a lot of space to work, think, breath. Must be able to leave the house daily. Regular access to a floatation tank desirable.
Mrs Act the Artist: Aged nearly 50. No known labels but ‘typical’ doesn’t exactly feel accurate. Novelist and writer. Theatre-maker. Ex-aerialist and dancer. Facilitator. Founder and Director of M/Others who Make.Also, a Director with Improbable. Has been the primary carer for the children. Can write and work almost anywhere. Dreams of being able to go swimming, alone. Doesn’t sleep much.
Master Act the Artist: Aged 12. Autistic. PDA profile (if you don’t know what this means, try telling him what he should be doing – you’ll soon get the idea.) Hardcore gamer. Passionate about Baldur’s Gate 3, God of War Ragnorak – i.e RPG games. Dismissive of Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox. Encyclopaedic knowledge of gaming history. Dungeons and Dragons player. Warhammer, Age of Sigmar model painter. Artist. Currently at home full time, being unschooled – i.e not at school and not schooled at home. Also honoured to call himself a feminist. Also loves cats (we have one) and he will tell you this many times. Can be highly anxious.
Miss Act the Artist: Aged 7. Assessments currently underway but possible labels include: autistic, ADHD, PDA, dyslexic. Loves colour, texture, sensory play (slime, face masks, putty, cake mix). Interior design. Fashion. Make up. Wants to be a dancer, singer, writer, actress, puppeteer, painter, aerialist and mother. Certain iPad apps – Toca Life world for example – are her safe place to be. Attends a small flexi-school some afternoons. Also loves cats (the cat is officially hers). Feels deeply rejected and misunderstood very easily, and will go off into a corner with her shoulders hunched. Hates being told off.
Pets: We have a small black cat, who is – appropriately enough – called Arty.
Together, we have moved to Kent in order to found a Creation Centre, a home for Improbable, an ark for the arts, at Bore Place , which is a site of five hundred acres of regeneratively managed land, near to Sevenoaks. We are calling this project The Gathering. It’s huge and hugely ambitious. Exciting. And daunting. But it’s happening. And a core part of this invitation is for you to join us in supporting this vision. It’s why we need your help. We cannot do it alone. Because more than a building what we want to build is a community, and this includes us and our children. It involves not segregating our lives and our work, our caring responsibilities and our creative practice. You can read more about The Gathering here: https://www.improbable.co.uk/the-gathering
Have I put you off yet? If not, read on….
WHAT IS THE JOB?
Your primary responsibility will be to hang out. This is a highly skilled job. I kid not. Because if you are good at hanging out, you will effectively be holding space for all those around you – particularly the children – to do whatever it is they need to do.
For Christmas my husband, (Mr Act the Artist) gave me a book, called Rental Person Who Does Nothing,. It is the memoir of a visionary young man who set up his own ‘do-nothing service.’ He writes: “I’m available for any situation in which all you want is a person to be there.” I find this deeply inspiring and moving. We are looking for someone to join our family whose job it is ‘to be there.’ To be here, with us, hanging out.
There are of course some activities that you may or may not want to do whilst hanging out, for example these could include:
Listening to our son talk about his games, his opinions, fun facts, and/ or deliberately overcooking his pizza (he likes it well done) and fetching him glasses of tropical juice.
Admiring our daughter’s latest dance moves, reading or making up stories with her, and bringing her Nutella dips.
Stroking the cat.
Finding the iPad charger.
Putting the kettle on.
Folding some laundry.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. But the above are also not duties. Your only duty would be to be there.
No specific qualifications are needed to apply for this role. No particular previous experience is expected. Any gender identity, ethnicity, background, age etc. is welcome.
But there are two requirements that are non-negotiable:
- An up-to-date DBS check.
- That you “get it.”
That’s a technical term. There is a whole chapter on it in the wonderful book ‘Uniquely Human: A different way of seeing Autism’ by Dr Barry Prizant, so you can read up on it if you want. Prizant writes, eloquently, about the ‘It Factor’ – about people who ‘get it,’ people who make an effort to try and get it, and people who just don’t get it at all. He lists certain traits and instincts as commonly shared by those who ‘get it’ – empathy, sensitivity, flexibility, humour, trust. But essentially ‘it’ means that, more than any qualifications, what is important is that you connect – with the children and with us. That’s it.
A simple and stringent requirement.
Most of the conditions for this role are flexible, to be decided in conversation. We can discuss the exact start date (by April would be good); the number of hours a week; the duration; the pay, (knowing that the current rate for creative childcare in the UK is between £12 to £15 per hour). There is an option to live in, some or all of the time – we have a spare room. We would like to run a trial period, for both of our sakes. If you have a driving licence that would be an added bonus, but it is not a necessity.
We are a neurodivergent family of creatives, living in Sevenoaks, looking to found a creation centre nearby. We are looking for someone – or some people – who ‘get it’ to come and hang out with us and our children. No qualifications, just high quality ‘being there’ required.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED:
Please write to us by Friday March the 8th. As I have done, don’t feel you have to write a formal letter. Be as informal and open as you wish. Include a CV if you would like, but most of all tell us why on earth you might want to come and be with us. Drop it down the chimney, or email it me at firstname.lastname@example.org