A perfect Christmas

The run up to Christmas was not particularly good behaviour wise for Oliver. All the changes affected him so we took the pressure off, no homework and talking about the changes and learning Christmas sign. School reported an increase in his running off and concentration but it was nothing unexpected. Even so we decided to learn from lessons past to make it a perfect Christmas for everyone.

We went to carols and crib service on Christmas Eve and we decided to tag team it. Max and Popples love carols by candlelight but Oliver thinks it’s more fun to sit on the bishops chair or run up and down the narthex pointing at the safety notices. So me and dad decided to take it in turns to stay with him, swapping after every carol so it was less stressful and everyone got to take part- in their own way. We also now know every safety sign and exit in the church-bonus!

After church we came home to a drink, chocolate bar and the opening of the eve present, which is new pyjamas. Oliver even joined in by putting them on for ten minutes before changing into his usual pyjamas and Owlette costume. We left sherry and mince pies out for “farmer Christmas” and a carrot for the reindeer then they went to bed. Well, they went upstairs and messed about for two hours whilst we tried to build the playmobil and other things before the big day. It’s surprising how many times a four year old needs a wee in the space of thirty minutes. I think we got to bed about 2.

They were up at 8 the next morning, we had to rouse a grumpy Max but he cheered up when he saw a box of Maltesers sticking out of his stocking. This year Olly opened everything. Within an hour. No three day opening this year, his little fingers scrabbled at the sellotape and his face when he saw he’d got what he asked for was priceless. He asked for an owlette teddy from pj masks, Popples had asked for a fingerling and Max had asked for some very specific videos. Santa delivered. They all seemed really happy – a win for us this year.

Christmas dinner was beef wellington, chicken or festive Bolognese- it’s like normal bolognese but you get to pull a cracker and wear a festive hat. The boys decided that a full family dinner (mum, daughter, son in law and granddaughter) was too much so they ate in front of the tv watching a Christmas film. Then came in for pudding.

They stayed up later than usual, playing nicely and colouring then running around and squealing. Eating what they wanted and they even got a fizzy drink! Eventually went to bed, and to sleep. And I got a “merry Christmas” off everyone at bed time. That was one of the best gifts that day.

This Christmas there were no meltdowns, no fights and no expectations. Not much money either but the kids were happy and relaxed and we were more so too. We adapted so everyone got to do something they wanted at Christmas. We prepared for the worst case scenario and as a result I think we took pressure of ourselves as we had contingency plans and we knew that we were on the same page and what job each of us had in every scenario. We had a perfect family Christmas. Anyone looking in would probably not think so but they don’t count, they’re not us.

Hoping your Christmas was the best it good be

XX

Advent, Autism and a grey hair

It seems that once Halloween and Bonfire night are finished that Christmas starts. When I was little it started at advent, not the first week in November. School routine changed, carols were being practiced, decorations up in the shops along with the Christmas music that I’m now fed up of listening too. Oliver did not cope well. He’s excited but doesn’t know how to channel it so we’ve had some regression and some behaviour issues. Hitting out at me and his TA and even the teacher when he tried to get involved without using the strategies. Sleep disappeared pretty much altogether, no concentration and needing lots of rough and tumble play.

Of course all children get excited around Christmas, Popples behaviour has changed and she’s got very loud. We can mainly channel her or get her to talk but Oliver threw his emotion cards at me and burst into tears. So we’ve been very calm, cut right back on learning and therapy so there’s no pressure on him. He’s used the nurture room and library at school to have some Christmas free space. We put the tree up on the first and he seemed to settle a bit having a focal point. No flashing lights, no tinsel (it itches). He tried to open all his windows in his calendar (no chance, sunshine) we know he knows how it works. He did at one point open my number 24 then pointed to his and said “24. Open. Yes” showing me that as mine was opened it was only fair his was opened too. I shouldn’t have got playmobil calendars.

He’s collected all the interesting tags off presents from under the tree so I suspect that may cause some chaos on Christmas morning. He’s done his list “owlette teddy yes please” which he’s been asking for since mid November. Santa came to school with a reindeer and the little ones went to see him together and had a cute photo done. My boys have never been scared of Santa. Max used to laugh and stroke his beard. Oliver goes straight to his knee and gazes like he’s his hero. Popples has never been keen. Last year she said “I don’t want him in my house. Ask him to knock on the door and give presents to daddy”. Really freaked out at the thought of him coming in. We watched a programme today where someone left Santa some milk. Her comment was “milk! He’s not a baby. Where’s the sherry?” We are not alcoholics, by the way, but we always left sherry for Santa.

Over this advent we’ve had to take turns going to church as Olly just can’t handle it. It’s a shame because it’s always nice in church at advent. I did Christingle service with Popples. Olly has broken things, decorated to ceiling a bit more with various food items, scissors are now hidden, emptied toy boxes, ripped up papers and we lost two baubles. He also found the eggs. We’ve tried hiding them because we know he’s a cracker, but he always seems to find them. Hubby walked into the kitchen and “can you clean the floor whilst I do the wall and door?” He’d done it again. Only 2 this time and helpfully put the shells in the bin. I was kneeling on the floor scooping up egg when I felt a drop on my head. Yep. Egg. He’d thrown it at the ceiling and I should have looked up first. I know better than to go to the floor without checking above! I’m not a rookie. I blame tiredness. So egg mopped up and went to sponge the egg out of my hair until I got five mins to wash it. And I found my first grey hair. I’ve been going redder as I age which happened to my dad too, so thought I’d get away for another few years before the grey. Sadly not. Oliver has succeeded in ageing me. Well played, Olly, well played.

At least with a family like ours there’s no pressure to have a perfect Hollywood Christmas. We’ve tidied, bought the boys favourite foods and made their rooms suitable for quiet times complete with sequin swipe cushions that they love using and actually seem to calm them. Oliver is having Bolognese for his Christmas lunch, Max may have fish and waffles if he doesn’t want chicken, Oliver took 3 days to open gifts last year, Popples will be up and down all night Christmas Eve and me and their dad will smile through it all, play the games, and hopefully watch three children celebrate Christmas their way and be happy. It may not be Hollywood perfect but you know what? We think it’s perfect. It’s a hard time of year and very testing but dad is trying so hard. He’s stayed calm. There’s been no shouting. There’s been lots of guidance given and accepted. Oliver doesn’t automatically turn to me for help or comfort now. He will go to dad. Small steps but they give me hope.

Anyway however you all do Christmas I hope it’s as perfect as ours will be. Have a very blessed Christmas.

Xx

The Nativity Play

Our school still do a nativity in the EYFS. It’s not the traditional story as such, last year it was a wiggly nativity, this year it was about how they got the swaddling for Baby Jesus. All the traditional elements are there, though, and I really look forward to it. Oliver was lead donkey when he was there, Popples was an angel last year and this year she got chosen to be a narrator. My really shy daughter would have to speak in front of all these parents. I was a tad concerned.

We practiced her lines and she picked them up well. We explained how she would have to say them in front of lots of people but that her teachers would be there to help. I thought she’d bottle it, she doesn’t like people looking at her, so how would she cope with 100 people looking at her?

She was amazing. She didn’t need prompting. She was loud and clear and not an ounce of shyness. Have to admit I got a lump in my throat. So proud of her.

The star that was supposed to show the wise men where to go refused to go on stage. One of the lambs couldn’t see his mummy so leapt into the arms of a staff member crying. A soldier got on stage saw his mummy and changed his line to “I want to go home now”. 2 angels were swapping headbands (halo’s) throughout. It was brilliant! These kids are 3-5 so for them to do as well as they do, remembering lines and all the songs is astounding!

The rest of the school do a carol concert/Christmas story at church which we missed due to a SLT appointment ☹️ but we got the nativity which made it feel like Christmas. And I won the raffle!!

Xx

Christmas fair

So Oliver has not been coping very well with the changes and excitement of the festive period. He knows that it’s nearly present time and after doing his list, well one item, he had a wobbler because as far as he was concerned he’d asked and waiting was not part of his deal. He knows the advent calendar counts down and then he gets a present so was just trying it on. Popples isn’t sleeping as there’s a million questions to be answered about Jesus, Father Christmas, angels, Mary/Gabriel/Joseph triangle, playmobil, puppies and star versus fairy for the tree top, to name a few topics we’ve been dealing with.

The last few weeks we’ve had to take bits in for the Christmas fair. We never actually go to it. It’s so busy and loud that Olly just can’t deal with it. This year as Emily is on maternity I asked if she’d come collect him while I took Popples to the fair. I went to inform the office staff but then the conversation took an unexpected turn. One of the teachers had heard and said “why not come earlier? Before school finishes so you can at least do some stalls”. Then the Senco popped into the office and they decided that they would offer kids like mine the chance to be collected 15 minutes earlier so they didn’t have to deal with the crowds and could take part.

I went early to pick them up and they met me in the hall. They’d seen it all being set up all day. Popples was a bit reserved as it was something totally new to her but Olly came in with a massive smile and bouncing with excitement. They adopted a teddy each, paying the money over and choosing their new soft toy with no pressure, no crowds, no loud noises. He signed thank you. They went on the chocolate tombola where Popples won a tub of Quality Street, the rainbow draw, find Rudolph and then they perused the cake stall. He had the opportunity to choose, pay and use his manners. Everyone was so patient and kind. It was lovely to do something with both my kids that everyone else gets to do. They were absolutely made up. She told her dad all about it, and Olly showed him his adopted Ubercorn.

I have to admit I felt a bit cheeky being allowed in without having to queue and hustle, but school said “don’t be daft”. They felt bad for not thinking of it before. Our kids don’t go to the discos (too loud), after school clubs (change of routine) and don’t get invited to many parties (still a mystery as to why) so at least they could help us to experience this. Six families got the chance to enjoy the Christmas fair this year who usually wouldn’t. We loved it. We felt part of a school event. We got to do it together. Popples and Oliver got to be like other kids for half an hour, choosing, playing games and paying their money. It doesn’t sound like much but to me it was a really big deal. I don’t think anyone realises how little tweaks can make such a difference and bring so much happiness to families like mine. Popples misses out on some things but when everyone talked about the fair, THIS year she got to join in!

Xx

Family at breaking point.

Oliver is 6. He was diagnosed with autism 4 years ago. I struggled at first to accept it- how and why did it happen again, but that couldn’t last because he needed me ready to help him and fight for him and just love him. And I do. Max was diagnosed 20 years ago so maybe it helped that I knew what I was doing this time around. My family is now in the verge of breaking up because after four years, Oliver’s dad will not accept the autism or change his approach.

He’s not a bad man. Olly was his first child and he had such expectations that he thinks now will not come to pass. He doesn’t understand how Oliver sees the world, how he learns, when he’s just being a swine, the difference between meltdown and tantrum etc. Things I’ve had to learn so that I can help him achieve everything he wants to. I’ve modelled the discipline model, I’ve shown the speech therapy techniques, I’ve shown him how to play with children, I’ve talked to him, I’ve offered him counselling and helpline numbers and I don’t know what else I can do. Treating him like his sister will not make him like his sister, but he doesn’t get this.

The last couple of months have been so bad, I feel like I’m alone raising this family. If something happens it’s me having to referee and sort out the fall out. There’s constant arguments with him saying “I’m entitled to be angry” and me saying “you have to see through his eyes. Anger is no good anymore, it’s driving us all away”. Shouting at kids doesn’t work in this house. Loud, sudden noises make a situation escalate so fast. I’ve been saying the same things for 4 years and he’s just not listening.

Oliver shut down last week. I’d never seen it and I do not want to see it again. The playmobil pool was filled with water and Olly went to tip it. Olly and water is always a risky combination. Dad shouted “No” so Olly went to do it again. “I Said NO!” And then the pool got tipped. “NO MEANS NO!” So Olly ran into the living room and I followed as if he gets told off he will throw something or tip something. He was shaking. I tried to talk to him but he lay on the sofa covered his ears and closed his eyes. He shut out everything. I stroked his back and murmured to him. He lay there for a good while and I just let him calm himself until he was ready to let me in. Eventually he sat up and dad came in to see him but he just clung to me. And that was the point I told him to get help or go.

It may seem harsh but it’s been four years. He’s missing out on important things while being angry. I understand the frustration of dealing with our boys at times, the behaviour and lack of sleep is not a good combination. I understand any kid winding up their parents at times, hell, no one is perfect. I’m nowhere near perfect but I try every day to do the best I can, to learn, adapt, make learning fun, picking which battles are worth the fight. He refuses to adapt. I asked him if he thinks acceptance means giving up and he said yes. I disagreed. I think acceptance means you can open up to more ideas, different worlds, different rules. We aren’t like other families so why should we try to fit in with their “normal”? Why can’t we make our own normal? Why can’t we embrace our differences? We can think outside the box of norms to make life fun. If we keep trying to force our kids into a blue print they can’t fit what kind of parent does that make us?

If anyone has any constructive ideas on how he can move on it would be helpful. Coming from me the words are falling on deaf ears. We can’t carry on living in this angry fug. It’s not good for anyone especially the kids. If you do care to leave a comment please know that bashing him won’t help the situation. I can’t help him. He just throws that I’ve had 20 years to deal with this and he’s only had four. When max was diagnosed I was a single parent with no family back up so I didn’t have the luxury of wallowing. The boys don’t need fixing, they’re not broken. I don’t know how to change this mindset. We have to get through Christmas and then I suppose we will sort out the future. Over the last four years we’ve had the chats, discussions and arguments but nothing really changes. I’ve asked him how I can help, what he needs, how I can make it better, tried to support and be understanding but with no movement I can’t continue to do this. I’m not helping at all and I’m so tired of going over and over the same ground. I’m done. 😞

Xx

The potty and the boy

When I started toilet training Oliver I got him a lovely pink and white toilet type potty. Pink is his favourite colour. He would sit on it and do nothing which I expected. It was more to get him used to having no nappy on and trying it at his pace, just to see if he was ready. He wasn’t the first time, but I left the potty out and I would put dolls on and say “baby doing wee wee” or “baby doing poo poo”. Do not underestimate the humour in the word poo!

Then Popples got to an age where she showed interest. I decided to do them both at the same time, Olly loves a competition. No pants, lots of drinks, trying them every ten minutes then playing in between. Big praise every time one of them achieved something. It took a week or so but they were both pretty quick and she liked wearing knickers with Peppa pig on them and he refused the George Pig undies I had bought him so I went and got boxers like daddy’s which were acceptable. So for the next couple of weeks they were just in undies in the house to make it quicker when they needed the wee. Brilliant!

We have a toilet upstairs in the bathroom and a little downstairs toilet which we replaced and provided steps and the child seat insert. Oliver loved flushing the toilet so did his business to get his reward-flushing. She was more apprehensive as she was tiny still, under 18 months so we kept the potty available for her.

Earlier this year I cleaned the potty and put it away as they are now 4 and 6 and can use the toilet. Oliver stopped using the toilet. He’d wet his pants, wee on the floor or in his bedroom. I tried taking him to the loo and he’d do it but under protest. I couldn’t understand why we had gone backwards. It made no sense. Dry all day and most night to this! I got the potty back out and put it in its place in the downstairs toilet. He went back to going to the toilet unaided and unasked. After a week I moved the potty again. He went back again to not using the toilet. At school he was using the toilets fine. No accidents there. I replaced the potty and he was fine. Even though he didn’t use it anymore.

So now I leave it where it is. He tends to go upstairs for his toilet needs so doesn’t even go near the potty downstairs. I wonder if it’s familiarity or a bit of reassurance knowing it’s there. Or maybe we had such fun learning to use it 🙄 he likes the visual. I don’t know what it is and he can’t tell me. I wonder if I should try moving it again, perhaps when he’s a bit more settled in his new class. I just don’t know. It seems a bit weird to keep a potty out as some kind of objet d’art, but then we aren’t that conventional. In my darker moments I wonder if the potty is sentient and has formed some kind of bond with Oliver and whispers to him “go for a wee now, you know you want to, go upstairs and flush the toilet”. I guess really it’s just another quirk to add to our list.

Xx

Finding time for everyone.

Having 3 children at home with different abilities and needs and no sleep is difficult to juggle.  I’ve made some choices over the years that people haven’t agreed with but they don’t live my life.  When Max was little he stopped sleeping.  2 hours a night was his maximum.  We moved house so Emily would have her own room and not be disturbed by Max.  Once he was diagnosed, we got assigned a social worker (they don’t do that round here now) who talked about various respite possibilities if that was something we wanted to look at.  I thought about it a lot.  Emily had been put in second place while all the diagnostics were taking place and it didn’t seem fair to her.  She needed to know she was important too.  So we chose a “Home from Home” scheme where he would stay with another family and we got 28 days a year which we took as weekends.  Fortunately we got an amazing family. Mr and Mrs F had 6 children (one still at home), lots of grandchildren and had been doing this for 15 years.  Max did whatever they were doing whether it be a family party, trip to the beach or just lounging around the house.  One of their grandchildren was a similar age and they were close for a good few years until he outgrew Max but by then Mrs. F’s youngest had a daughter and Max transferred his friendship to her.

Making the decision was not easy.  I should be able to look after my own kids.  What would people think? Would social services look at me as an unfit parent? But if he had grandparents who could have had him the odd weekend we wouldn’t have had to go down this route.  So Emily got some designated time to do whatever she wanted.  We could go shopping, she could have a sleepover, we got some sleep, we could do stuff that we couldn’t do with Max.  I tried to always keep him involved and we went out a lot but he had a habit of being in clothes shops and stripping off which didn’t make shopping fun for her.  Max still goes to his respite, he got a personalised budget at 18 so he could employ his own people and he’s been going there almost 20 years so why change something that’s not broken?

Obviously Emily got to an age where she wanted to start hanging with her mates so I had some me time finally.  Weird feeling when you’ve never really had it, but I got back into reading and found friends on line and discovered the game Runescape so I filled my time.  We took her on one holiday without her brother too, just so we could reconnect and she could choose, you know not everyone wants to ride camels, Max!

Now I have 2 young kids and Max still at home and juggling time is so tricky.  They all have homework to be done, the boys have speech therapy, I have to cook and do housework and have very little sleep.  We went to Butlins, which turned out not to be a family holiday as such but we still got to spend time with each of the kids.  I was a single parent when Max and Em were growing up which made it tricky.  Max hasn’t had a holiday for a couple of years (I’ve written about his troubles before) but this year it felt like he was ready to maybe try something new again.  Instead of spending our anniversary weekend just me and the hubs, we decided to take Max for a weekend away.  Cadbury land and a theme park, 2 nights in a hotel, the hotel did food, and accommodated 3 adults in one room.  He did really well.  There was a couple of squeaky children at breakfast the first morning, so the next morning we were breakfasting as soon as it opened (very early) so he could relax a bit more.  He chose his own food from the menu, they catered to his separation of peas from his fish with no bother and he got free chocolate at Cadbury land.  It was a success.  But that was our anniversary weekend.

Hubs took off the week after Max’s holiday.  He did the school run for me while I dropped Max off and we spent the week together.  Some of it was shopping and Christmas shopping but we had time to sit together and talk and read and have hot drinks and I  got to garden and he got to do his records thing with no one going “mummy, I need a drink” “Carry me” or stopping squabbles.  It was only a few hours a day but it was nice having some us time. Time that we don’t get in an evening because of aforementioned children “NO BEDTIME!” “mummy I need some water” “poo poo mummy” “I’m not tired” etc etc. I counted how many times we have shared the same bed and in the last 2 years we have shared it 3 nights.  2 of those were on Max’s weekend away and once at home.  Well one and a half as Oliver woke up at 3 and had a meltdown because he was alone, we’d fallen asleep watching a film- won’t make that mistake again.

We try to take the kids so one of us can have some down time.  I ran a bath and sneaked upstairs and was just about to sink into the bubbles when Oliver was stripped and in the bath like lightening.  Hubs got a book out when I set up craft time but funnily enough as soon as they saw him sat there they wanted him and no one else would do.  So now we have kind of accepted that our time together will be him taking days off work so we have the days (all 5 hours) together.  Me time- well I think that’s for other people really.  Not that we will stop trying to give each other some breathing space and recharge time but the children are formidable opponents 🙂

I think that having 2 of us makes things easier in a way, no one is left like Emily was when she was younger, so we don’t have to look at respite for Olly.  His grandparents have no kids at home now like they did when Em was little so we can always book them in for a day to do something special for one of them, and Em helps out too.  Our needs have to be put on the back burner in some ways, but that’s the same for any parent isn’t it? It just means we have to find new and more interesting ways to keep our relationship going.  On the plus side, I don’t think we will ever get complacent with each other, we don’t get enough time together to take each other for granted.  It’s funny how what people see as odd becomes just part of life to you, something you don’t think about until you come to tell someone and see their face change.

I think as soon as you become a parent you get an extra guilt gene.  It doesn’t matter what you do you always have a twinge of guilt- are you doing the right thing? Are you being selfish? At the end of the day, it’s what works for the family.  I felt so guilty sending Max to respite but Emily needed a mum who wasn’t permanently exhausted, who did things with her and made memories and put her first.  I would have had guilt either way.  I swear it’s the extra guilt gene.  Obviously what worked for me and what works for us doesn’t work for everyone, but I carry enough and I am not going to let anyone else make me feel guilty.  I may not always get it right but I’m always trying to make it fair for all the children and I’m sure they will be the first to tell me when I get it so wrong, and then I’ll try again.  It won’t be like this forever, but while it is we just work around it and make the best home life we can…..for everyone.

 

xx