New Year Musings and Milestones Worth Celebrating

Let’s face it on a global scale 2017 wasn’t the greatest was it.

Unless you’re a fan of orange-hued ego-maniacs with a bigger love of irrational and grammatically incorrect social media usage (‘Covfefe’ anyone?) than the importance of international diplomacy and the uncomfortable truth that sexism and sexual harassment against women is still a horrific reality in far too many workplaces.

On a personal level many people I know have faced difficult hurdles this year, including bereavement, anxiety attacks, bureaucratic battles that weren’t so much uphill as vertical, serious health worries (both mental and physical) and struggles to cope with difficult news and change.

We’ve had our fair share to deal with as well in the Neat Freak household, and my OH and I have commented infrequently that 2017 has probably been the toughest year of our lives so far – but it’s also been the most rewarding in many ways.

After the initial shock of the A Word diagnosis, now some 18 months ago, we’ve all grown as a family and learned much about what this lifelong condition is, how it’s somehow curiously the same and ever-changing as well as being ever-present, and how it can bring as many joys as it does difficulties.

A lot of what we thought we knew about the future has altered and we’ve had to learn to accept (sometimes grudgingly) that when autism affects a member of your immediate family it’s easier to take things a day at a time and not look too far ahead, even if occasionally that really hurts.

As a mum I’ve always hoped that my children will be able to pursue their chosen path in life, with many doors and possibilities open to them, but with Blue-eyed boy I’ve had to accept that his autism may mean some things are more difficult for him.

As someone who was bullied at school I fiercely vowed a long time ago that no one would ever pick on my kids, but I’ve had to swallow the fact that Blue-eyed boy will probably be an ‘easy target’ for unkind people who prey on the little quirks and differences that others fortunately celebrate. I’ve had to learn to grow a thicker skin.

And hardest of all, we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that Blue-eyed boy may never be able to attend mainstream school and that, even though this was the right  option for us and Mini-me, the best one for him involves a place at the local special school – at least for the next couple of years.

But what we’ve also learned is how the A Word shakes up your view of the world around you in glorious kaleidoscope technicolour, and how things you once took for granted or viewed as ‘little’ can suddenly be the ones that light up your day.

Things such as your child using new words and stringing several of them together, doing a simple jigsaw puzzle by themselves and beaming with pride when you praise them, dividing numbers into odds and evens leading you to wonder if one day they’ll be a ‘maths genius’ and watching your two kids play brilliantly together because as well as being a fan of Barbie’s Dream House the eldest sibling is also a carer at the age of just six and kind and accepting beyond her years.

2017 was a year of many firsts – a new specialist pre-school, many new friends, new understandings and knowledge and a dawning realisation that we’ll never stop having to battle the local council and fight for our child.

2018 will no doubt bring many new challenges, highs and lows for us and others close to us. But with the support of our family and good friends hopefully we’ll all come out smiling the other end.

And if all else fails Trump may get impeached. Fingers crossed on that one.



It’s the little things really…

This parenting lark is strange isn’t it?

Without sounding too like a therapy session I can imagine Gwyneth sitting through, I think sometimes it makes you forget to look at the bigger picture. At least I know that’s the case for me.

I can also be more ‘glass half empty’ than I should when work and looking after little people is pushing up the stress levels, and that only adds to a certain sleep deprived, blinkered view of the world.

In those very early days of having children, when everything is all new and shiny (and you’re not too knackered yet) you can often spend literally hours just staring at your baby thinking: ‘How on earth did we produce someone so amazing?!’ and: ‘Every tiny fingernail is a miracle!’

You know, a tad cheesy. A bit like the script of a Jennifer Aniston film!

Then those 2 and 5am feeds start to stack up and you find yourself, through furrowed brow, wondering how you are, inevitably, going to mess them up!

Becoming a mum or dad is the point at which you’re supposed to really count your blessings – and of course you do.

But equally all the plate-spinning that comes with the job means you’re sometimes so focused on simply getting through the day that you can forget the daily wonder of it all.

I certainly know I’m guilty of fobbing off Mini-me on occasion, telling her that I’ll be there in a minute when in reality I’m furtively listening to the radio with a semi-hot beverage.

Sticking Beebies or a film on so I can get a job done when I really should have spent longer asking about what she enjoyed at nursery today.

Rushing through Blue-eyed boy’s bed-time book so the ‘bath production line’ can continue moving.

Bizarrely it’s been him coming out in chickenpox – not welcomed, but expected – that has given me a bit of a wake-up call in the Neat Freak household this week.

I’ve been so knackered that I’ve just let the laundry mountain, and other mind-numbing but ‘essential’ chores, continue to mount up. That’s given me more time to reflect on those little gems that are the things we really want to remember when they’re all grown up and don’t need us anymore.

Mini-me and I decided to go on a bear hunt around the garden as we couldn’t inflict poor ‘spotty baby’ on the outside world – with me sporting a fetching PJs and wellies combo – and we enjoyed it so much that we’ve now decided to make it a daily thing.

I’ve re-discovered that Blue-eyed boy really does enjoy a waltz around the living room. And that it makes me dizzier than it used to!

The point is that I had forgotten just how lucky I am to have more time with them while poor hubby contends with his daily three-hour plus commute.

I hope once the ‘pock pocks’ are finally faded and I’m fully back in the world of permanent multi-tasking that I don’t forget to stop a few times a day and just soak it all in.

Before they’re both stroppy teenagers who want nothing to do with me!

The Mum-pedemic sweeping the nation

Everyone tells you that the moment you become a parent the world as you once knew it will become shaken to the core.

But until someone hands you your firstborn it’s hard to really understand just how much loving and looking after a small person changes everything. It’s a bit like rattling a kaleidoscope and then lifting it to your eye and gazing at a completely different picture.

Once you’ve had a baby you come to realise many things: Just how little sleep it’s possible to survive on, just how much love it’s possible to have for your child and just how high the creator of Night Garden must have been when they came up with Makka Pakka and the Haahoos.

In smaller measure the world also tilts on its axis when you throw a second little one into the mix. Now you’re a professional juggler who will never pee alone again, unless it’s the weekend.

But there’s one facet of parenthood that only women get. The dreaded Mum Guilt.

Not only are men immune from this terrible disease, they don’t understand it and will tell you in exasperated tone that it is totally pointless – which to be fair it is.

Absolutely no good can ever come from worrying yourself stupid about whether or not you: cook enough from scratch for your children, let them watch too much TV, read to them enough, should ban yourself from using your iPhone when spending time with them, should have seen that tantrum coming and steered away from it, are a ‘bad parent’ for being too tired to have another row over teeth cleaning etc. etc.

Feel free to add your own ‘guilt trigger’ into the mix here. They are after all, as we mums know, too numerous to mention.

On one particularly low Tuesday I even found myself self-flagellating over the fact that my mum had pointed out I perhaps should cook hubby more potatoes.

(‘Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean he should be deprived. After all his family is Irish…’)

Fortunately on this occasion I came quickly to my senses and informed her that he was very welcome to cook his own tubers. Foul things.

My point is that even though us mums know that stewing over something small is rarely going to turn out well we just can’t escape it. It’s impossible to be rational about Mum Guilt.

A major cause of MG seems to be work – whether you do, whether you don’t, whether you love your career, whether you’re happier staying at home…

Another is breastfeeding – whether you’ve done it for long enough, for too long, whether it secretly repulsed you…

Yet another is comparison – measuring yourself up against other mums and constantly feeling you come up short, that you should be doing what they are for your kids, that you should have bought that toy or gadget for your kids…

Gah! It’s exhausting – all that self-doubt and questioning whizzing around in your brain. Even more so if you find it hard to admit to your friends and so find yourself falling apart behind the closed front door.

There’s no cure for Mum Guilt and it’s likely none will ever be found. The best thing you can do is try to push it out of your head and replace with a cuppa and chocolate biscuit or super-sized glass of wine – without feeling bad about the calories.

And if all else fails remember this – you’re NOT alone!