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

Olobob Top.

Olobob Top was created by Leigh Hodgkinson and Steve Smith.  It is a programme currently shown on Cbeebies aimed at pre-schoolers.  I knew nothing about it until May this year when Oliver’s TA came out of school with him and told me about this “bigtop hill thing” programme he’d found on the computer.  It had apparently amused him no end so she was going to find the proper name and make a card so he could put it on his “working for” board.

Now I know that sounds nothing in itself, kids go through phases but let me expand.  From age 2 Oliver went to a private nursery.  He stayed there (3 sessions a week to help socialisation) until he started reception class.  He never brought me a picture home.  Never painted anything for me.  In almost 4 years I never got a painted picture, a drawing or even a scribble.  I asked school not to send home teacher made things like mother’s day cards unless he’d done it because what’s the point? That’s a personal choice, if others want them then that’s fine, what works for me doesn’t work for everyone.  It hurt a little especially as Popples was painting mad and my cupboards were full of her pictures, except a space I’d saved – just in case.  The day after Mrs D (TA) had told me about this thing he’d found on the computer I went to pick him up as usual and she came out smiling.  “Show mummy” she said to him and he presented me with this printout of a scene from Olobob Top (yes she found the right name) that he’d created himself.  He pointed to something and whispered “Tib” so I repeated it and praised his beautiful creation.  He looked quite pleased.  We showed it to Popples, I took a photo and sent it to his dad at work.  I found the blue tac and stuck it up.  He had made it!

The next day he came out again and he was smiling and Mrs D was practically bouncing. He handed me 2 sheets of paper and said “olobob top”.  I looked and almost cried- they were paintings!  not only paintings, but you could actually see 3 different figures and they were recognisable as Tib, Lalloo and Bobble.  This was the start of a new chapter for him.  Usually uncooperative at craft time, he painted, he crayoned, he drew on the conservatory walls (who cares it’ll wash) he made play doh models, he made characters out of stickle bricks and he verbally requested “computer”.  He often speaks in a whisper but some words were getting louder.

The biggest thing was reading.  I know I’ve talked about Julia Donaldson’s books allowing me to spend quiet times with him, but things changed when Mrs D gave him 2 books for his summer gift.  These were his books, they had his name in them.  One was a sticker book, and the other was a flap book.  He doesn’t like stickers.  I tried to show him the stickers go in the book to make scenes but I got screamed at “NO MUMMY! IT’S MINE!” ok fair enough.  He took his books upstairs out of my reach.  That night my husband put Max to bed and when he came down he told me that Oliver was currently sticking stickers all over his bedroom.  He didn’t know what to do because he doesn’t do stickers so I went up and said “what are you doing?” “Sticking” was the response – TO A QUESTION! “Sticking olobob top” he expanded while I stood looking at the stickers on the carpet, duvet, wall, pillows and chest of drawers.  “That is fabulous sticking! You are so clever. It’s beautiful. Well done!” The pride on his face nearly made me weep.  The I got invited onto the bed to look at the flap book.  I tried opening it but it got pulled away so I sat back and let him lead.  Eventually he moved it to within eyesight and pointed to the figures naming them.  He’d point, say the name then look me in the eye (we don’t demand eye contact in this house) and wait for me to repeat it. Then he’s nod and reconfirm.

Our next reading session was instigated by him.  He pointed to a pink bird on the cover and said “BIG” but I thought he said pink so I said “Pink”.  He shook his head, and I thought I was going to lose him, he doesn’t like it if I don’t get it straightaway.  He sat there and repeated it but we were having a miscommunication.  Eventually he took his finger and ‘drew’ the letter b on the bed, then I then g.  Light dawned “oh Big! big bird”. He then turned the book over, pointed to another bird and said “little” I repeated it then he pointed to another bird and said “small”.  I didn’t know he knew that word! We were having a conversation.  He was waiting for me to repeat, giving me eye contact and being in charge.  I didn’t touch the book.

Every day he was saying “upstairs, Olobob Top book” and we were reading the way he wanted to.  He was gaining in confidence and trusting me not to take over and let him lead me for a change.  One day he pointed to Tib and said “it’s Bobble” so I copied and said the same, he looked at me and burst out laughing and said “it’s not Bobble, it’s Tib” oh dear, silly mummy.  And that was the game that session, making mummy look a fool! But it paid off because the next day he finally opened the book and I got to see the inside, but just the first page. “Lalloo’s dress” so I added the word spotty. “Tib’s pants” so I added the word stripy.  Expanding his vocabulary with no pressure for him to say it back, just giving him a word he might not have but if he chooses not to use it at that time that’s fine.  He told me shapes, fish, trees, the other characters.  If we are making stuff he says “you could make it up” and gets stuck in.  He also has expanded his wardrobe thanks to Tib’s stripy pants, which is lucky as he ripped the bum out of his tartan ones swinging on his curtain pole, and all his other jammies were stripy.

2 more books were released (and bought), although I’ve not proved myself worthy enough to be able to read Norbert’s shop yet I live in hope 🙂 We were talking about Christmas with Popples and he came over and said “Olobob top toys, yes, Christmas” so I had to tell him there were no toys which we confirmed by googling, so he asked for “dvd yes” and again I had to show him there wasn’t any. He did his sad face but quickly rallied and asked for Go jetters instead.  They have a laptop where he goes on and plays games, makes characters and scenes etc.  He asks for it “computer cbeebies” or whatever he is after that day.  He chooses to read with me, he does crafts, he has taken a passion of his and instead of it being confined to one repetitive game or action, he has brought it into more aspects of his life.  He hums when he is doing things now, he talks quietly to himself (still a lot of jabber but some words) when playing, he seeks me out to do things instead of me having to instigate it, he knows his choices are important now.  They always were but I don’t think he knew that.  Now he knows if he wants to talk about the size of birds for half an hour, then mummy will stay and have as much enthusiasm at the end as at the start.  I know there is a long, long way to go.  I know that I may never have a conversation with him that runs along more conventional lines.  I know his language is still miles behind.  I know the sound of his voice, I know his laughter, I know he can joke, I know he is clever, I know that what he gives is the best he can and I know that’s enough. He’s calmer, he’s more patient and he’s more willing to try new things.

I got a painting off my son.  He was 6 and I got his first painting.  That was enough, everything else that has happened is a bonus.  We were lucky he found something he felt so strongly about that he wanted to share.  I know that Leigh Hodgkinson, Steve Smith and the Olobob’s don’t realise the world they’ve opened to my son has helped him, and us, so much.  Thank you

xx

“Your kids are spoiled”

This has been levelled at me a few times by various people. Although I shouldn’t have to justify my parenting style I find that I bite every time. I explain about the educational toys, the fun toys and the outside toys, the huge craft unit the autism and the interests we have and usually people say “oh ok. That makes sense”. However a couple of people will not let it go. They know the situation but insist on telling me how great a parent their friend/relative is. How structured bed times are. How it’s one toy out at a time. How before they get new toys they have to get rid of others. How the parents are in control and telling me “you need to do (insert helpful comment here)”. I’ve taken to avoiding these people now as they obviously aren’t listening to me and have no understanding that works for one family doesn’t work for others.

The latest was going on holiday with the 2 little ones and leaving Max at home with his nana. “That’s so cruel. How can you leave him out”. I didn’t take him because he wouldn’t have liked it. After being his mum for 24 years I kinda know what he likes. That’s why we’ve booked a holiday for him with us and no little ones. A weekend away where it’s all about him. I would love to have a family holiday and we are working towards that but it’s not an option yet for a variety of reasons. It didn’t stop the comments until I said quite forcefully that none of my children get left out and we do things differently but fairly. That person hasn’t spoken to me since.

The garden is full of toys. Swing, trampoline, see saw, cars and ride on toys, sand pit-you get the picture. Between them the youngest have had ten birthdays between them and they get presents off relatives, so I think I only bought the slide as a non present. The rest were gifts from others or birthday gifts. They love the garden and can burn off energy in a safe environment. Doesn’t mean we don’t take them to the park or for walks, or for tree climbing or anything else.

The house is like a toy store but again they have Christmas and birthdays and I’m not going to get rid of things they still play with to make room. Eventually they will grow out of everything and then I will sadly get rid of it and have a grown up house 😕.

We have a good range of toys. Stuff recommended by OT like bead threading, traditional toys like wooden blocks, musical instruments, duplo, stickle bricks, Lego. All to help with creativity and building and fine motor skills. Our craft section is always being replenished as Popples is always making something or school have asked us to make things or Oliver is into creating 100 kites or go-jetter badges or whatever is his current fad. They have a tablet each too, where they have a range of games educational to fun. We have a dress up rack, princess dresses that have been given us, doctor set and pj masks. Helps with role play.

I feel I have made my point about stuff we have and also realised I’ve justified myself again! I don’t buy my kids stuff so I don’t have to play with them. I play with them all the time. I was Luna girl for three hours the other day trying to catch owlette, although we had a break to look at a bee close up and talk about it’s hairy legs. I’ve played play doh all morning “no oliver don’t eat the play doh”, I can build a passable stickle brick train, I am a good patient even though the doctors are rough and have no bedside manner. But then I get “them kids are so demanding, they should be able to play by themselves” why? Yes my house isn’t spotless, my grass isn’t always mown when it should be, yes we all have grass stains in our clothes where we’ve wrestled. I lost a few crops with the “help” I got.

Apparently my kids rule the roost. He’d sleep if I bothered getting him into a routine. Oh thanks for that, I’ve never tried a routine 🙄. “People have kids and a job and still manage everything ” good for them. “She needs telling no” does she? Does a four year old really need to hear that mummy can’t play because I’m cleaning?

They are only young for a little while so why shouldn’t I enjoy it? My husband doesn’t care, he knows the jobs get done at some point. As long as the house is still standing, he’s pretty easy going. So yes I spoil my kids. If spoiling means playing with them and reading with them and educating them. I think it’ll be a very sad day when I’m banished from the games. I wonder why people feel like they can make comments about how other families are. I mean we aren’t impacting on them so what does it matter if I’m running around doing my evil laugh? It makes the kids happy, and that’s good enough for me. I don’t want them to grow up thinking mummy never had time for them.

Oh and it’s not all store bought toys. We got a huge cardboard box and it was a boat, a car, a fire engine, a jail, a present, a tortoise and a rocket. We make tents from sheets. I think I have the best “job” in the world.

Sorry for ranting but it’s just really needled me, the judgement.

Xx

“I don’t want to be your wife anymore”

Those were the words I finally had to speak to my husband a few weeks ago.  They were not said in anger, they were not the result of a row.  Since being married I feel he has become more secure, which is great, but I have felt less secure.  We stopped talking, he’d play on his phone of an evening when we were supposed to be watching a film, he’d come in from work and be on his phone, and yet when it came to him wanting to do something, we were all supposed to just be in good moods and grateful he wanted to spend time with us.  As you can imagine, feeling like a piece of furniture is not conducive to a great relationship so we did have a row about his phone and lack of interest and he said he’d try harder, especially with the kids, and he has.

I still didn’t feel right.  Instead of looking forward to him coming home, I dreaded it.  I hoped he’d have to go away for work more than I usually did and I decided that I needed to figure out what was going on in my head.  I don’t like doing that.  I usually bob along, making sure everyone is happy and that’s enough, except it’s not is it? Not really.  I file things away in my brain and don’t deal with them.  I’m not good about talking about my feelings either, it’s hard enough figuring out what I’m feeling, never mind explain it to someone else.  I was really unhappy.   He knew I was unhappy.  I kept talking about how I didn’t understand the world, how I never have understood it.  I don’t “get” people and their games, and why they lie, and why they don’t just say what they mean and I feel like I don’t belong to anything and never have done.  Except for my kids.  I fit with them.  They don’t have expectations of me in the same way.  They expect me to be there and look after them, obviously, but they don’t expect sparkling conversation or little amusing bon mots, I’m just there to be mum which I have done for, like, ever- so it’s something I know I can do.  Kids are easily amused, you just act daft and tell poo jokes.

And that’s when I knew what the problem was.  It’s the expectations that fill me with anxiety and unhappiness and the fact that I know I can’t fulfil those expectations.  I am not like most people, I am a nervy, anxious person and according to my husband very black and white about certain things like lying.  I don’t understand lying.  It drives me insane.  Why bother telling lies- you will get found out then trust will be broken and I will think you were trying to make a fool of me.  Ok you don’t have to be blunt but there’s nothing wrong with being honest.  Anyway, I’m going off the point.  The point is I can’t be the wife he expects, society expects and that I think everyone expects.  I couldn’t be the daughter, the sister, the girlfriend that was expected and I’m tired of failing.  So I told him I didn’t want to be his wife.  I told him if he wanted to go and find someone more “normal” he was welcome to, and I wouldn’t hold it against him and we’d make it work with the kids.  As I said, I am not good at expressing myself and the conversation went on for quite a while, as he was checking if I wanted to leave (no), if I was looking for someone else (no), if I was having another breakdown (no).  I just wanted to have my friend back who used to laugh with me, support me, have fun with me, talk nonsense with me, and all the other things we used to do.  I told him being a mum of 4 with each child having such great needs, and the lack of sleep meant I couldn’t be “a wife” the way he wanted.

Then he asked what I needed from him.  I told him I needed no pressure and I needed to know what he wanted.  He wants to be with me.  He wants us to stay a family.  He wants me to deal with everything that’s happened over the last 40 years, however long that takes, and he wants me to be happy.   He told me he didn’t give a **** what society expected.  He told me he always knew I wasn’t like everyone else, then proceeded to list all the ways in which I was different.  The list was quite extensive!  But, he said, I made life more interesting and challenged his ideas on lots of things and came at things from a different perspective.   Him being distant didn’t help our relationship but me being unhappy and maybe pushing him away definitely didn’t help.  Catch 22 situation.  So we are together, in that we are sharing the house and the children, but also back as friends.  Since our chat I feel relieved that he is willing to stand by me while I sort through my head and that he doesn’t expect me to change with regards my “oddness”.  I have found someone I don’t have to pretend with, pretending is exhausting.  I might get a chance to be myself.

I know this may have been a really selfish action, it’s all about me kind of thing, but I didn’t want him to stay and get nothing from it.  He’s allowed a life too.  I’ve told him he doesn’t have to do everything with me.  I’m not keen on going out so if he wants a night out with mates he can do it guilt free.  It’s a work in progress though as I’m not the only one in this relationship with issues.  Just as he has helped and supported me, I will do the same for him, when he’s ready.  We are happier now.  I don’t know how long it will last, I suspect our relationship will always have problems but I think we both feel a bit more confident broaching things with each other now.  If I was going to be with anyone, it would be him, we just have to define what “wife” means to us.  For the first time in a long time I feel a little bit optimistic about the future.  Just a little bit.

 

xx

Snow day!

So last week we were hit by “The Beast from the East”.  We got snow, and sub zero temperatures.  It wasn’t so bad at first, we walked to school and back for 2 days because last time I drove in the snow I bumped the car, much to the delight of the kids in the back who laughed and shouted “Again, again!”.  I couldn’t get up the hill to school so skidded into the kerb twice fortunately not hitting another road user or pedestrian.  So now we walk in the snow, well me and Popples walk and I push Oliver in his major buggy.

On Thursday morning we got a text saying school was shut, the wind had picked up something fierce and the snow was icy in patches and we were upgraded to Amber weather warning.   Beautiful to watch from the safety of the house.

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Winds crept up to over 40 mph the hating was on permanently trying to combat the various drafts.  Scotland was issued with the highest weather warning, there was a 16 car pile up on the motorway, on another motorway people were in their cars for 18 hours.  I don’t remember weather like this.

Friday we got another text – another snow day!  Kids were made up, we haven’t had snow deep enough to build a snowman in their lifetime, so me and Popples braved to wind and cold to build what my husband has called the most sinister snowman ever built.  Now I don’t think he’s that bad, I think it’s quite a good effort.  She was devastated when he started to melt “do something mummy!”

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Oliver managed to keep his clothes on long enough to come out and play snowballs, he was chasing his sister around and laughing his head off.  Lovely to see them playing, not so nice when he managed to hit me with a snowball while I was talking-straight in the mouth.  They ended up dismantling the snowman for more ammunition.

Unlike other countries who do have severe weather regularly, the UK is never prepared for extreme weather be it hot or cold, we come to a standstill.  I think the weather is our nations favourite topic of conversation.  Some have been hit hard, counties have been cut off with people having to walk through 12 foot drifts to get supplies of water, food and fuel.  And after this they’ll have the floods to deal with.  The weather seems to be getting more extreme, I remember when I was a kid we had seasons, now we just seem to get wet, windy and cold.  When we get 2 days of sun its a heatwave!  Anyway the little ones enjoyed their bonus days off- “mummy is it snow day again today?”  no sweetheart it’s back to rain “awwwww it’s not fair, I need a snow day”.

 

xx