Huffpost Parents
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Leda Natkin Nelis Headshot

The Unsinkable Alex Jones

Posted: Updated:

Alex Jones is our family's human safety net.

Alex is the glue that keeps our household in one piece. Even though she makes her way only intermittently into our lives without any official title or regular timetable, she has more than managed to make herself indispensible. Every special needs family needs an Alex Jones.

We first met Alex seven years ago when she was working as an assistant teacher at our son's special needs school. She became our nighttime babysitter. Evenings in our household were particularly challenging back then, but Alex was able to propel herself with her calm yet jovial demeanor into the maelstrom of our hectic homestead. Alex, I was soon to discover, not only never loses her cool, but thrives on domestic challenges the way an adrenaline-high skydiver feeds on the thrill of the fall.

She has since left her teaching post to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuropsychology, and is holding down a full-time job while completing her dissertation on decision -- making and disinhibition as related to pathological gambling. Despite her more than forty hour per week job supporting young, homeless people with mental heath diagnoses to develop the skills that will allow them to live independently, Alex finds time to come in now and then and restore calm and serenity to our hectic household. She is, in short, our "fixer."

Alex is the wearer of many hats -- she is a sitter, a tutor, a sounding board, a gifted artist, an accomplished chef, a mentor and a friend. She has, whether she likes it or not, become a member of the family. Having completed her medical studies (and subsequently deciding that she was not particularly interested in practicing medicine), she is also able to examine the odd rashes and random ailments that seem to plague our family, thus saving us a multitude of visits to the neighbourhood surgery. She throws herself with gusto into any task, however big or small. Alex is always game.

I never need to remind Alex how many tablets my son takes each morning, or that my daughter only like chunky peanut butter on her morning toast. She knows that swim bags must be brought to school on Fridays and that our cat enjoys a small plate of milk at around half-past-eight in the morning. All of these seemingly trivial but "crucial to Type-A mothers" details have long ago been committed to long-term memory. Simply put, Alex has mastered the minutiae of our admittedly quirky household.

Thanks to Alex, my husband and I are able to go away together from time to time to "regroup" as a couple. Time alone between husband and wife is important in any marriage, but is pivotal when a special needs child is in the picture. Away from GCSE revision, from the sewing of pointe shoe ribbons, from the sheaths of Ed Psych reports and individual education plan proposals that require our perusal, my husband and I can revert to our old selves. We all become different people when we are away from our children. The volatile nature of our household makes such romantic getaways mandatory.

There are many things that Alex can do that I cannot do. These include:

1. Understanding percentage yield and relative formula mass

2. Enjoying trips to water parks and public swimming pools

3. Playing cribbage

4. Baking a cake in the shape of a ballet shoe (where do art teachers get these ideas, anyway?) with my daughter while simultaneously revising polymerisation with my son

The list goes on and on...

Alex is seemingly perfect. But still I cannot envy her or hate her. She is humble and kind without ever being cloyingly sweet. he never loses her edge or her dry wit. Alex works hard and plays hard. We should all take full advantage of our lives as Alex does. She is a role model for us all.

Life as a special needs mum can be isolating and exhausting. Thanks to Alex Jones, I am able from time to time to take emotional and physical time out. I hope that the one and only Alex Jones will remain a part of our lives forever.