That Tricky Thing about Not Looking Too Far Ahead…

This Saturday was one of those days that have to be consigned to the parenting dustbin.

One of those really crappy days that seem to last for an eternity and that you can’t ‘shake yourself out of’ no matter how hard you try.

Hey, they happen right?! Not a lot you can do about it.

I won’t bore you too much with the details, except to see it involved a long-planned meet-up with a group of good old friends, a particularly lovely toddler virus, an epic tantrum and the depressing realisation that on some occasions you have to accept that you probably won’t be leaving the house for the next 12 hours.

Now I don’t know about you but since becoming a parent my social life has not so much reduced as dramatically nose-dived.

It’s one of the secrets that you don’t really grasp until reproducing. And then you realise that actually both you and the other half making it to the cinema down the road at the same time with no children sick, screaming or guilt-tripping you into cancelling is a major achievement. In fact a cause for whooping at bemused sales assistant while ordering the popcorn.

Anyway, the point is that when you have something in the diary or scrawled on the kitchen wall planner that you’ve been looking forward to for a while, it stings even more when you have to cancel.

So far not so earth-shattering, but since Blue-eyed boy was officially diagnosed with ‘The A Word’ it’s come to our attention that the acceptance of the odd dustbin day is going to become increasingly likely.

We’re learning new things every day about ASD, and one simple fact is that our little man could very well find social situations large, small and everywhere in between a real struggle for the rest of his life.

I imagine it’s a bit like the nerves you get walking into a job interview. One of the really scary variety with a panel of people sitting across a desk from you.

ASD affects how people communicate with others and how they deal with others socially, and little things that you and I simply take for granted – like being able to read someone’s body language, tone of voice or facial expressions – can become huge obstacles to people on the spectrum.

Blue-eyed boy is working very hard, and us with him, to help him understand, process and use language, never mind learning to interact with others and cope with new and potentially scary social situations. It’s all a rather tall order for a two-year-old but our little fighter is coping brilliantly and taking everything in his stride.

We never doubted that he would.

In return, as well as resolving not to fall into the parent trap of comparing ourselves to others, I’m learning that looking further ahead than a few days or weeks is really not going to be helpful.

The best piece of advice I’ve read from another parent of a child with autism, is that living in the moment is all you can really do without going crazy.

Of course putting it into practice is much harder. I’m a planner, an organiser, a self-confessed perfectionist and I like to know not just what’s immediately ahead of me, but way round the corner as well.

Well the simple fact is that I have no idea whether Blue-eyed boy will ever ‘talk normally’, whether he’ll find it really hard to make friends as he grows up, whether he’ll be accepted socially by his peers along with his little quirks (as I like to think of them) and how he’ll cope with people realising that yes, he is different, but that’s what makes him so unique and special.

And I have to learn to accept that.

Lesson three, of becoming a parent with a child with ASD, has fortunately been a lot easier to stomach.

Namely that if you have good friends who understand, or try to, about our lovely boy’s condition, who accept, embrace and also love him for who he is, it  makes this strange, new world a hell of a lot easier to navigate.

What we’re also learning is that we’re surrounded by an amazing group of people who not only ‘get it’, but love and cherish our charming little man along with us and are rooting for him all the way.

And we, and he, are SO lucky to have them.

Not getting better with age…

They say a fine vintage only improves with the passing years.

Probably not the case with buying whichever white is on offer in the supermarket eh?!

Anyway, wine consumption aside, it’s been a ‘prop those eyes open with matchsticks’ sort of week in the Neat Freak household.

Mini-me has valiantly fought, and scratched, off ‘the pox’ and we now wait with anticipation (more like total dread) for some sign of the small, itchy little sods blooming on poor blue-eyed boy.

Hubby’s friend, who has children almost exactly the same age as us, regaled him with a heart-warming tale yesterday of how they thought they’d got away with it with bubba number two. Until the pox re-appeared, like some sort of scary Jim Carrey sequel, when enough time had passed that they’d allowed themselves to relax.

‘Now he’s been exposed he’s bound to get it,’ said the voice of doom.

Oh goody!

More lack of shut-eye and passing out on the sofa because I’m so exhausted then, before blearily staggering up the stairs at 2am.

Last Sunday I woke up on the sofa at 4.30 in the morning. It was light outside. Birds were singing. Ridiculous!

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to read a news article about how, if you get by on only six hours of sleep a night, this will play havoc with your health.

Think dark circles hovering like bean bags under the eyes and skin a flattering shade of grey.

One expert said six hours of snooze time was the equivalent of driving your car over the same pothole every day. Apparently we should be getting eight or nine!

Now, correct me if I’m mad, but I thought six hours was pretty good when you have pre-school age children?!

And it’s even worse news for hubby, as when I finally do lumber into bed I’m a notoriously heavy sleeper, so more often than not he ends up getting up first with the kids.

Yes even kicking me in the ribs doesn’t work so I’m told…

I’d never really worried about obvious signs of ageing until mini-me approached her first birthday.

By then the inherent exhaustion that goes hand in hand with parenting had set in, and since then there have been (many) more grey hairs, more crinkly lines on my face and more ‘middle-aged spread.’

Yes, I’m clearly transforming into exactly Bradley Cooper’s type of woman. (Probably only if he actually was the Elephant Man… and even then he’d trade me in for someone younger, and firmer.)

The good news of course is that hubby will have to get over his Jessica Alba fetish as well!

The final insult hit home though, like a verbal punch to the chops, when mini-me was playing ‘families’ with her dolls and stuffed animals.

‘I’m the mummy, Mummy,’ she explained. ‘Baby brother is the baby and Moo Moo Cow is the daddy.’

‘Lovely. Who can I be?’ I asked.

She pondered for a few seconds.

‘You can be the granny,’ she beamed.

Fan-bloody-tastic.

If anyone could send me the number of a reputable face lift surgeon I’d be much obliged.

Nice toes and naughty toes

Ah ballet class, the place where all parenting life meets looking slightly harassed on a Saturday morning.

Since mini-me has been prancing around pretty much since the day she could stand (actually from memory she sported a mean bottom wiggle before this too…) hubby and I reasoned that turning three was probably a good time for her to start a proper dance class.

We’ve heard from friends with slightly older children about the ‘joys’ of ferrying various offspring to football, drama, choir, gymnastics etc. etc. after school or on a weekend morning, a la an unpaid taxi firm.

Fortunately for us this is still ahead – which is just as well as weekly one of us still ends up careering into the village hall car park just after the one class we have to make it to has started. But we’re never alone thankfully, which I find nicely reassuring.

In fact sitting outside mini-me’s beginners’ ballet half-hour is a really good way to remind yourself we’re all in this parenting malarkey together. And you don’t even have to talk to anyone to draw this conclusion – merely pretend to read your book while actually eavesdropping.

(Am I the only one who does this?!)

There’s always at least one of us with ‘mum flu’, that is spluttering into a tissue trying to convince yourself and others that you’re not ill, just a bit grumpy.

There’s the usual array of children hanging off parents’ legs and demanding snacks, the ‘dulcet’ tones of Peppa and her pals playing on a loop on someone’s iPad and the sound of someone coaxing a small person to ‘please do a wee.’

Last week one of the dads was loudly telling his friend how glad he was that his son hadn’t yet professed a desire to start ballet with his sister, as it could have been quite awkward having the only boy in the class.

A mum was picking out tiles from a catalogue while discussing the merits of various colour options, and several of us were gazing with amazement at the pint-sized ballerina with hair her mother had clearly slaved over for the best part of half an hour.

We’re talking not one solitary hair out of place, a curled ponytail, colour-co-ordinating ribbon in exactly the right hue of purple and feathers for crying out loud.

I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one thinking I really must allow time for more than just brushing mini-me’s hair next week.

But the other thing we all have in common, and this to me is the sheer joy of my lovely girl’s ballet class, is the visible pride in watching our offspring practise ‘nice toes and naughty toes’, waiting patiently in line to show the teacher their butterfly run and tippy-toeing around the hall to classics such as ‘I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside.’

I love watching mini-me twirl and whirl with a delighted smile on her face as her little tutu floats behind her. I love her teeny yet perfect ballet slippers, and I love her uniform that has Royal Academy of Dance embroidered on the label.

Do I think she’ll grow up to be the next Darcey Bussell? Of course not, but it’s still nice to daydream for a few minutes.

Along with the other parents that is.