Growing up too slowly… or not

The thing about having a child with ‘the A word’ is that on the really tough days it can be hard to see beyond the things your child can’t do.

You try not to do it, you beat yourself up about it and you feel horrendously guilty for falling prey to it, but yes there are times when the fact that your lovely little person can only say a few words and phrases, still looks wobbly on their feet at the grand old age of three and will only eat meals involving either cereal or pasta (or anything beige) that are the things that you focus on.

Rather than the fact they are pointing out what they want more, will fetch a bowl or cup to tell you they’d like a snack or drink, have become confident enough to actually walk for a spell on the school run and have made a special friend at nursery.

It sounds terrible, but it’s something we all do.

With NT (neurotypical) Mini-me I absolutely felt the pressure to start and smash it with potty training when friends began turning up to play dates having ditched the nappies. So it’s not really surprising that I’m finding it hard that Blue-eyed boy shows absolutely no interest in this area whatsoever.

My more relaxed friends tell me to quit worrying and ‘let things happen when he’s ready’. All good advice, unfortunately in my over-analytical tumble dryer of a brain, it’s hard to just let things lie and pick my battles.

I find myself fretting over the fact that Blue-eyed boy is still perfectly happy sleeping in his cot, when some of his pint-sized mates from the baby days are now on their second bed.

I wonder if I should stop giving him a dummy at night time – despite the fact that some NT children I know used one until they were well past five.

I see pictures on Facebook of other children grinning into the camera and it genuinely feels like they are from a different generation to my gorgeous little man.

But down this road only heartbreak and parenting madness lies.

Recently I got chatting online with some other parents of autistic children and their experience and feedback was hugely helpful to me. As was knowing that I am far from alone with all of the above.

One thing a couple of them told me really resonated, and helped me to start looking at things from a different angle.

We all complain about our children growing up too fast, they said – well aren’t we lucky that our little ones with ASD stay in the moment for a little longer than the rest.

When I look back on those long-ago days when Mini-me was a baby I can see myself in her tiny first bedroom singing and rocking her to sleep and it’s almost like looking at a different parent.

I can remember delighting in her first sentences, seeing her cheeky sense of humour emerging almost as the words tumbled out of her mouth trying to catch up with her. But it’s hard to mentally time travel back to those precious, fleeting memories.

Now our almost six-year-old resembles a teenager sometimes more than she does a little girl, so advanced is her confidence, her rebellious streak and her wealth of witty comebacks. And that’s wonderful in its own way.

But our Blue-eyed boy still comically sticks his bum in the air when he sleeps, like they both did when they were babies.

His eyes light up and he toddles across the room to me when I pick him up from nursery.

He loves a cuddle in front of ‘vintage’ episodes of Ben and Holly.

His favourite thing to do is often to listen to me sing him nursery rhymes and then join in.

And he still finds playing peekaboo hilarious.

So when those ‘can’t do’ worries and fears enter my mind I’m going to try to instead focus on the moments that may be long gone with Mini-me, but are happily still very in the present with my beautiful Blue-eyed boy.

And be thankful.

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Compare, Contrast, Combust

You might have noticed (or more likely you probably haven’t) that it’s been a fair few weeks since my last blog ramblings.

It’s been a hectic time, juggling a busy, varied and ‘just the right side of stressful’ workload, the school holidays, other mini life niggles such as a delightful infected wisdom tooth and accompanying balloon face (attractive) and what I have been referring to as ‘family health issues’.

A few posts back I hinted that Blue-eyed boy is currently battling several health and development challenges, and recently the worry surrounding these has started to ramp up. Mainly because I find myself brooding on things more.

Blue-eyed boy has always been a fighter right since his conception.

There was the miscarriage, the awful scan where we were ushered into a private room and told that he might have a chromosomal condition, possibly one that could be life threatening, the invasive tests to find out whether this was the case or whether his heart was weak, the scans at the specialist hospital department and then the ‘all clear’.

Although this was followed by the caveat that in such cases as ours there is always a slightly higher chance of the baby being born with a health issue than what they refer to as ‘the general population’.

Even after this there was the nagging worry that followed us up right the day of his birth and the sheer joy at his arrival that followed.

Now considering I know people whose children have bravely battled cancer, others who have taken rounds of IVF in their stride and others who may not be able to have kids at all, I don’t for one minute think that hubby and I had to cope with that much – but I have always privately felt that Blue-eyed boy is my miracle boy.

And this means that, I suppose, we’ve wrapped him in more virtual cotton wool than we did with Mini-me.

When he was late to sit and walk and never really crawled we worried lots.

When we realised he couldn’t hear and had suffered with bad glue ear for most of his first two years we stressed out loads.

And when he used to cling to us and sob furiously in unfamiliar social situations we were concerned he might never find his feet.

But when he finally took his first tentative, wobbly steps at 19 months we whooped furiously.

When he had grommets fitted and we were told his hearing was now, probably for the first time, back within the ‘normal range’ we celebrated.

And when he started to babble, grow in confidence and even say the odd word, we were almost beside ourselves.

I guess because he has been through a fair amount, it makes every little milestone hurdled that little bit more special.

So now he, and we, are facing the next set of challenges.

The fact that Blue-eyed boy is a fair few months behind in terms of development. The fact that there is a long road ahead when it comes to him learning listening and conversational skills and, hopefully, catching up with his speech.

And the fact that there may be something else to contend with – possibly an autism diagnosis, possible a motor or sensory deficiency…

The good news is that he is doing amazingly well, continuing to battle like he always has. In fact I couldn’t be more proud of my little boy with the big eyes and the beautiful smile.

The thing I’m struggling most with at the moment is all down to my own issues and actually a trap that many parents fall into – the curse of comparison.

I hate myself for doing it, even though it’s only human, but sometimes I can’t help brooding on the fact that other children the same age as Blue-eyed boy are toilet trained, sleeping in proper beds, no longer using high chairs and chatting away with the best of them.

I worry, even though it’s far too early, that he may never get the chance to go to mainstream school or enjoy all the opportunities that Mini-me undoubtedly will.

I wish for a clear diagnosis of his condition so we know exactly what we are dealing with, but other days I dread the thought of it.

Personally I think that no good ever comes of comparing your child or yourself as a parent to others. In my experience it only leads to negative brooding and madness.

Do my children have too much ‘screen time?’

Do my children eat enough fruit and vegetables?

Do my children behave as well as their friends?

Do they spend enough time outside?

Do I shout too much – or too little?

Am I patient enough with them?

Will I ever get the work/parenting balance right?

Blah, blah, blah, blah, bleurgghh…

What I’m going to try to do instead is focus on all the good bits, with none of the lining up against stuff. And not look too far ahead.

And also take the good advice a friend of mine gave me today…

‘Look, if they’re still alive at the end of the day and you haven’t gone insane I consider it a good sign!’

Sounds a pretty good parenting motto to me.

 

Parenting Wars: Battle of the Sexes

There’s a ‘fun’ little game hubby and I never seem to tire of. In fact we often seem to play several rounds in any given day.

You might be familiar with it yourself? It’s what I like to call the ‘my life is harder’ game. Yes, that’s the one.

You know where you’ve barely had a minute to sit down all day, have been dreaming of supping even a semi-lukewarm beverage, and then the moment you’ve finally got the rug rats into bed your other half calls to say he hasn’t had the chance to eat since breakfast and what’s for dinner.

You then proceed to mutter to yourself as you stomp around the kitchen wondering exactly how many tea rounds there were in the office today, whether he enjoyed having time to read something other than the back of a baby food pouch on his commute and cursing the fact there’s bloody football on the telly. Again.

Of course you choose not to recall the fact that hubby had to trudge to work in the pouring rain, that you did get to catch up with a friend (if that’s what you can call a snatched conversation as you try to rescue various offspring from the bacteria-soaked ball pit at soft play) and that other half is babysitting at the weekend so you can go out for a drink.

But that’s a given with parental bickering – especially of the mid-week, getting really knackered now variety – isn’t it? The whole point is that on particularly sleep-deprived, vomit-fuelled days your life is DEFINITELY harder than theirs.

Several bones of contention spring to mind at this point. All of which my mum friends would sincerely back me up on. I know because I’ve done my ‘mum market research’, otherwise known as having a good old bitch over coffee!

Firstly who wrote the rule that as a mum you’re the one person in the family who is never allowed to get sick? Or, if someone actually acknowledges that you have a slight sniffle – usually full-blown flu – as mum you are not entitled to a single snippet of sympathy.

No, your job is simply to get on with it. Or ‘man up’ as hubby so charitably described it the other day.

This when I was recovering from a sickness bug that would proceed to take down everyone we know while coping with both kids and he headed out for a poker night. Hmm, yes he did pay for that one. Mostly with hangover + screaming baby = tough, deal with it sunshine!

Second, the dad misconception that when you meet up with friends, with numerous offspring in tow, that a lovely ‘relaxing’ time is had by all, consuming vast quantities of afternoon tea and debating the news of the day.

To be fair hubby does admit his mistakes here when faced with a coffee shop and a plethora of small people at the weekend, but it’s all conveniently forgotten by Monday.

Third, since when did I say that I was happy to become some kind of housekeeper, chef, dry cleaner and professional ironer? Oh that’s right, it was allegedly a given when I got the first bun in the oven. Having been a career girl since my early 20s it’s only natural that the majority of household tasks should all fall to me.

After all who doesn’t love washing other peoples’ pants and cleaning up poo?!

Yes I like things neat and tidy. Doesn’t mean I clean the kitchen floor for kicks.

Anyway, I realise I sound rather bitter and twisted here. But hey it’s the end of the week and I had three hours sleep last night.

The good thing about the ‘my life is harder’ game is that it usually ends in laughter and an admission that ‘sorry, I’m being a bit of a dick.’ And bickering – of the largely good-natured variety – keeps you both on your toes.

Just don’t expect me to iron you a shirt okay?!

 

Property of a shopaholic…

So there I was t’other afternoon watching mini-me fighting with one of her best friends over a plastic car – or wait, was it a plastic monkey or a plastic penguin…

Whatever, it was the usual scenario. In a house rammed full to the gills of shiny toys and new-fangled toddler gadgets, mini-me and her much beloved companions will always, ALWAYS find one tiny piece of plastic tat to start a game of tug of war over.

There’s the: ‘Mummy, I had it first…’, the: ‘Mummy, XXX (fill in with name of one of mini-me’s many friends) isn’t sharing…’, and then invariably the whining starts. At which point my mum friend and I, usually a kindred spirit, will threaten to park them on the dreaded ‘time out step’ if they don’t shut up and stick Beebies and the kettle on, in that order.

Now you’re thinking, but what the hell does this have to do with shopping? Well forgive the illogical leap of thought, but all this got me thinking about my own propensity to covet the property of others.

Of course mine tends to be of the gorgeous coat, bag, cushion or framed print variety, rather than miniature Peppa Pig merchandise, but is toddler grappling over other children’s toys just the start of that very human trait of comparing yourself to others, and their ‘stuff’?

Don’t get me wrong I’ve never been one to count other people’s money, but I am certainly guilty of lusting after anything from coaster sets to cardies – and of course this now includes toys and clothes for the kids.

As hubby sighs, ‘Whenever you go to Shell’s house you come back with a shopping list as long as your arm.’ And he’s got a point.

You see the coveting also extends to other people’s houses. I’m a total sucker for seeing how someone has painted a room, where they bought their curtains from, asking how long it took to put up those shelves or that picture wall, and, ooh, where that lampshade is from.

Probably why I’m addicted to property shows like Location and rather a fan of Kirstie Allsopp (I actually think we’re destined to be great mates some day!).

I love spending an hour a week dissecting another couple’s house search with hubby, heckling at the telly that what they clearly need is some period features and not to buy that ugly house which has lots of space but is in a dodgy neighbourhood.

(By the way Kirstie if you’re reading this, please can you find us the ‘forever home’ – preferably with a walled garden?! I’ve just always wanted one.)

Anyway, getting back to mini-me and that plastic tat, I suddenly realised that perhaps I should be practising what I preach when it comes to our seasoned post-tug of war ‘chat’.

After all if I’m asking my three-year-old why she constantly wants what someone else is playing with, and can’t she be content with her own myriad of toys, perhaps I should be doing the same…

Hmm, still might ask Shell to come round and frame some pictures for me though.