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.

Things you never really get until having kids

In the dim and distant past, otherwise known as the years before children, I vaguely remember an old boss once making what, at the time, I thought was a really fatuous comment.

I seem to recall that I’d been moaning about how knackered I was. She as a busy, working mum-of-three no doubt thought that, with me then being 28 and childless, it was one of the most stupid complaints she’d ever heard.

‘Wait until you have kids,’ she told me. ‘Then you’ll really know the meaning of being tired.’

And much as I feel like I’m betraying my younger self by admitting this, boy was she right!

Not that I’m here to preach to the un-converted you understand, but one of the secrets of having a family that you never really ‘get’ until living through it, is how you will learn to survive on hardly any sleep – and copious amounts of caffeine to slightly deaden that ‘insomnia’ tension headache.

Blue-eyed boy seems to be teething again at the moment – judging by his grumpy night-time moods and extensive drooling. Which means he isn’t sleeping – so neither are we.

And incidentally what’s with that thing where those pesky one-year-olds like to throw you off guard? You know with one good night where you think it’s either over or you’ve finally cracked it, followed by five bloody awful ones!

Anyway, lack of shut-eye aside. All this sleep deprivation torture/ extra early hours analysing time, has got me thinking about those other scenarios that you never fully relate to until having pushed out a sprog or two.

It’s a little like suddenly being able to speak a new language.

Firstly there’s the fear of causing a scene in a public place. Yes you care less as time goes by (party because you don’t have the energy) but don’t pretend you ‘enjoy’ being the mum of the offspring having a hissing, kicking tantrum in your local shoe shop or public library.

Then there’s the associated family tension caused by eating out. Yes that previously enjoyably leisure pursuit now compromised by everyone’s fear of causing a scene in a restaurant.

And by the way ‘friends’ who tell you their immaculately behaved children sit nice and quietly doing colouring before using their knife and fork properly only make it worse!

There’s the worry about your kid being ‘the one’ in the toddler music class (and this is true of any class, birthday party or ‘toddler social setting’ with other parents you don’t know well) who either runs around screaming causing total carnage or knocks another child over.

And it’s guaranteed to be the one belonging to ‘Judgy Mummy’ who will look down at her nose at you while you apologise profusely.

There’s the thing where you feel like laughing in the face of the health visitor who advises you to cut out drinking several nights a week – or altogether. And so what if that welcoming glugging sound occasionally happens before bath-time…

These little ‘parenting club’ scenarios are endless so sure to be revisited here on the Neat Freak blog.

But the final one for now is one that recently reared its head with my poor sister and her two lovely boys. Namely the horrible feeling that comes with being ‘put in your place’ just because your children are, well, being children.

In this case it involved them going out for breakfast, an obviously childless couple shooting her evils for the entire meal and muttering about ‘terrible parenting’ and then when she politely approached them and said they were making her feel uncomfortable she was sworn at.

It’s something that in the days before kids I would never have fully appreciated the awfulness of. But now I do.

So, in the spirit of goodwill, I hope the bastards choked on their eggs!

Beware the dreaded ‘three-teens’…

Has anyone seen a three-and-a-half-and-a-bit year old?

Hubby and I seem to have mislaid mini-me you see. Our once always smiling, constantly cute toddler has been replaced by someone else – at least for 50 per cent of the time.

This indignant intruder exhibits behaviour we thought we wouldn’t be dealing with until well into the teenage years and it’s quite disconcerting.

There’s the continual, and I do mean constant, whining, liberal use of the word ‘no!’ often accompanied by comedy foot stamping, frequent screaming when faced with parental decline of ridiculous requests for never-ending snacks and screenings of Frozen at 8pm (Please, spare me!!) and plenty of hands-on-hip scowling with curled bottom lip for full ‘displeased’ effect.

Yes the Neat Freak household would currently be prime fodder for a visit from Supernanny. Although thinking about it she’d probably leave after a hastily slurped cuppa.

It is without doubt joyous to enter your offspring’s bedroom in the morning issuing good mornings and enquiries as to whether they slept well (even though their presence in your bed from 4 to 6am means you know they didn’t) to be greeted by a chorus of charming grunts. And demands as to when breakfast will be served.

Then there’s the heart-warming scenario of going to pick them up from nursery when you’re really looking forward to seeing them and hearing about their day and they run and hide in the corner, before telling you: ‘No Mummy, I want to stay and play.’

Add in an ‘early adolescent’ addiction to the iPad and various other appliances made by a certain famous brand and hubby and I are often to be found scratching our heads as to just how ahead of the behaviour game mini-me actually is.

Mini-me was without doubt a dream baby – slept well, always in a good mood, could be relied upon to sleep through coffee dates, meals out and also baby classes of any and all types.

‘You’ll pay for this later,’ we were often told, but despite occasional hideous tantrums, bizarrely without fail whenever we had to buy her new shoes, mini-me was also on the whole a fairly chilled out toddler.

But then we hit the ‘three-teens’…

Now people tell hubby and I that the current frustrating trend is because she’s so bright, and that feisty, independent and driven at three rising four will equal intelligent, articulate and driven in the secondary school years. (Presuming we haven’t been driven round the bend by then of course!)

Fortunately we don’t seem to be the only family dealing with the three-teens. In fact running around in a circle while issuing ear-piercing shrieks at the same time seems quite a popular hobby amongst mini-me’s little circle.

Also begging parents to order food when out and about and then either refusing to eat it, playing with it or using it as missiles.

Don’t get me wrong the old mini-me frequently resurfaces for periods of time before retreating back into the wheedling and whinging, so hubby and I are hopeful, if not confident, that the three-teens will soon be a thing of the past.

After all doesn’t the fourth birthday issue the arrival of the ‘constantly sunny’ phase?!!

Time to cross those fingers…