Dee and her granddaughter went on holiday for the first time courtesy of Family Holiday Charity, through England for Everyone. Funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, England for Everyone will provide short break holidays for more than 800 families facing tough times.
“It was lovely being with her and seeing her happy.” Dee is talking about her 17-year-old granddaughter Tish, who she has had special guardianship of since the age of three.
They’ve just got back from a much-needed caravan holiday to Camber Sands where the time away gave them the chance to make sense of a pretty traumatic year.
First, Tish lost her great-grandad Ray to Covid. Then, both Tish and Dee contracted the virus, with Dee having to be hospitalised for several days, unable to breathe. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, their beloved dog – who had been with Tish for most of her life – became ill and died.
Before going on holiday, Dee had indicated that she really needed a break from the day-to-day routine and the stress of the past year, “Spending some quality time together instead of being like passing ships. Just getting away from everything and relaxing.”
Little did she know then that a Bear Grylls survival experience would be the thing that gave her and Tish a different perspective on life.
Together, they learned bushcraft skills and how to bake bread outside. They had to camouflage themselves using face paint and even taste mealworms. Immersing themselves in the adventure meant that they could really forget about the trials and tribulations of the previous year.
But for Dee, the holiday brought an even greater reward,
There is no sugarcoating the fact that her granddaughter has had a very turbulent upbringing. Her mum, Dee’s daughter, had Tish at 17. At 18, she married Tish’s father who was controlling and abusive, and together the couple got involved with drugs.
Unable to cope, Tish’s mum asked for help from social services who took the decision to put Tish, then only little, into foster care. Dee, a steadying presence in her granddaughter’s life since birth, fought to bring her to live with her. But to do so, she was told that she had to give up a well-paid job as an IT consultant to prove that she could provide a safe and stable environment for Tish to grow up in.
Unsurprisingly, Tish went on to develop an attachment disorder. According to Dee,
As she grew older, Tish needed to find a way to vent her frustration and she would become aggressive, sometimes towards her grandmother or to objects around the house.
Dee is very understanding of what Tish has gone through from an early age. “When her dad decides he’s not going to see her for two years, then she goes downhill. If her mum gets angry about something, then she goes downhill. If they don’t include her in things, which they never do, then she feels rejected and goes downhill. Her mental health is fragile.”
On the drive down to Camber Sands, Tish apologised to her grandmother for her conduct in the past. “She was as good as gold,” Dee says of their time away together. “She’s really helpful when she wants to be. She was the one who booked the swimming. The pool there is awesome, it invigorated us both.”
Returning from the holiday in a calmer state of mind, Dee now wants to focus on building Tish’s self-esteem and confidence. On the wall at home hangs a motto that she gets her granddaughter to repeat on a regular basis: