Him and me time

23/10/2014

My youngest wants the day off tomorrow, end of half term, he asked very politely and pleadingly. I said I would listen to his reasons as to why he thinks he should have the day off. He writes the list on the whiteboard in the kitchen, and when I stand and read it, he is literally next to me so that he is touching me. I laugh; the list is so very Toby. He can be eternally optimistic and hopeful, and it beams out of him. His list is this:

  • I will help you with chores or cooking or baking 
  • I won’t miss anything
  • I will do my homework   
  • I will do anything 

Please! Next to it, he has drawn a smiley face with a speech bubble that also says please.

He is desperate for an answer, he offers to do anything I ask him, and so I put him to work.

I get him weighing out ingredients and mixing them, he likes getting the electric scales exact. He masters the hand mixer, after an initial showering of caster sugar and butter, he cracks an egg, chops walnuts and best of all enjoys licking the spoon at the end.

 At one point he puts on the Benny Hill theme tune, not because of scantily clad women being chased by a slightly disturbing milkman, which is my association as a child of the 70’s …. ….But to Toby and his mates in school it is simply speeded up music in which to go on fast-forward doing everyday things, in this case making the cake at top speed. He acted it all out as we just giggled and I joined in, it was that silly kind of fun, which had us both laughing.

I make a mental video, because it is one of those priceless, in the moment things, both enjoying making each other laugh, Toby lights up and shines.

When he was little he use to act out stories with his brother, in the old house there was a wooden arbour over the back gate. The boys would perform Jack & the Beanstalk and climb up each side, whilst assorted audience members would sit on the rug and watch them; there has always been a part of Toby which likes to perform so it is wonderful to see him enjoying drama since he started secondary school. He is finding his thing, he is in a place where he can now engage and manage what he likes and enjoys, he has found his coping strategies and a group of mates, and he can be himself. He has found his feet, so to speak, he works in the lessons he likes, we don’t count art, RE or PE, and we focus on the stuff he focuses on. We discount the red ‘homework not done’ stamps in his planner that aren’t English, Maths or History, he now knows this is the worst that can happen, that it is no big deal. Homework at one time equated into Sunday night hell with a nuclear fallout that no one could tread, half way through year 7 school and I negotiated boundaries where homework was concerned. Only necessary homework is to be done, this is not to say that homework nights are stress free but they are more manageable and therefore Toby copes which means the rest of us do not have to deal with the force of his aggression, so therefore we cope better as well.

Toby knows his limits, we know his limits, and we know when he has reached saturation point, now that he is older he is also wiser as to how to express when he needs a day off.

I know that a lot of kids’ angle for the last day of term off, but what is fantastic is that we are even at a point where Toby gets that. We have reached a point where he can tell us what he needs, we no longer have violent outbursts or screaming rages or the abusive language. What I hear, is him telling me that he needs a day at home and downtime with me. I know that he has been concerned about me since I had a minor procedure this week, it startled him and I know that what he needs is time with me, without his dad or his brother being home. He has been very cuddly with me and checking that I am ok and asking if I need anything, seemingly simple things on the surface but understanding or being able to express empathy is not a given. My heart melts because he is telling me that he needs him and me time.

As he is helping to tidy up, he asks me if I will give him an answer before bedtime, I string him out a bit longer and then tell him it is ok with me, but he has to ask dad. He comes back into the kitchen and gives me a hug, he tells me dad said yes and that he is going to make me breakfast in bed of tea and toast. He asks me if he can eat toast in bed with me in the morning, I smile and say yes.

 My boy needs him and me time.

 

Growing Up

19/10/2014

My youngest has been complaining about having his room back, it is well justified, he moves into the spare room when his uncle, aunt & niece come to stay. He has been in the spare room for months and whilst I have had good intentions they haven’t actually happened in reality.
So today was d Day and it turned into a fairly major de-clutter.
He was very adamant in how he wanted his room to be, and after some negotiation and discussion we agreed a plan. He wants minimal things in his room, he wants his wardrobe to be for clothes only and he would like new curtains – dark blue with a duvet cover to match; he no longer wants the bookcase which I painted blue when he and his brother shared a bedroom when they were small boys. The bookcase was given to us by Grandma’s neighbour, we had just moved off the boat into a rented house and had little furniture, we were grateful for her donation of 3 bookcases. I painted the bedroom for the boys and had leftover paint, so sanded, primed and painted the bookcase; in order to actually get it into the boys’ room we had to man handle it through their bedroom window. When we moved out, I had a wrist injury so our friend Stef came and helped dad get it back out through the window. Toby recalls this story as we are going through the books he no longer wants. It is really lovely to hear him speak about Stef and remembering a funny event which still makes him laugh. I have a feeling of peace as he talks, his words have peace and acceptance as well as understanding that life goes on. Death is final and that is hard to deal with, he has reached a milestone and come a long way on his path with grief. There is no sadness in his voice but lightness and laughter, it is a beautiful moment.
It is quite a cathartic afternoon, in order for Toby to have his room exactly how he wants it, he has to sort through his things. He accepts this with no qualms and takes each book off the shelf saying which pile it should go in. This is the first time that he has been able or willing to do so, as he picks each book up he gives a running commentary, which makes us giggle. He flicks through some of them and hands me two of his old railway books.
I flick through them as well and remember the days when he would be transfixed by the pictures; he would spend hours looking at them – at one time the book use to go to bed with him.
By the time he has sorted all of his books they are all in piles – charity shop, Fidget, Roan, Thomas and some which are keepers or mine. As I am bagging them up I am both reminded and amazed at time, when we moved into this house he was 7.
He is nearly a teenager, no longer a little boy, he is a young man and has decided it’s time to pack away his childhood.
Today my youngest son, in his way, told me that he is growing up.

Mother’s Day

10/03/2013

I have no idea where the invention of mother’s day came from, but I like it. One thing is for sure it has become a commodity, as a child I don’t remember there being endless window displays or commercials to remind us of mother’s day. It was simple cards and gifts made in school, being taken home on Friday afternoon with the glue still wet and sticky; daffodils from the garden and burnt toast on Sunday morning. One year my brother and I decided to do the breakfast in bed without any adult supervision, it was when flames came out of the toaster, that my brother decided dads help was needed; it is the thought that counts. The soggy cereal offering was a safer bet from then on in.

I am a mother now, and this year was woken by the sound of my youngest son talking loudly, in his running commentary obsession whilst playing Minecraft. I don’t do mornings very well and simply asked if he could wear his headphones to which I was greeted with a barrage of abuse that they didn’t work. I shut the door, made a cup of tea and read the Saturday Guardian that I had barely started yesterday, and enjoyed the relative peace.

Husband baked a cake yesterday, a very rich chocolate cake, which smelt delicious as it was cooking in the oven; it is in the tin waiting its grand unveiling, and I honestly haven’t looked or picked a bit off from the edge.

When my Gran was alive, there were a few Mother’s Day lunches that I cooked for us all, the boys would write a menu and we would lay the table in all our mismatched crockery and chairs with Grans tablecloth. I baked a Victoria Sandwich one year for tea and it caught round the edges, despite my best efforts at slicing off the very well done bits it still had a burnt taste to it, even though my Gran insisted it didn’t.

In the last few years since gran died, and watching my mum grieve, you are never too old to miss your mum.

Mother’s Day for me is about celebrating, when you have children you become known as x & x;s mum, your former identity no longer defines you. You become even more skilled in multi-tasking, love expands into your children in a way that you cannot be prepared for. You become a fierce tigress, protecting your cubs.

My mum has always loved me, cared about me, supported me and survived the teenage years with me. I know that I am blessed; I know that not every child is given love or cared about, and some children are damaged, harmed and hurt in ways that we would rather not think about. Who is to know what damage the mums of these children have experienced?

If you are lucky to have a mum who loves you, no matter what, accept that they are human, they may make mistakes, we all do; but don’t let petty arguments and the day-day niggles of life overshadow the big stuff. Spare a thought for those who have not been blessed with the love that you have, I know I will and I know I will tell my mum how much I love her.

The Birthday Boy

09/02/2013

The Birthday Boy

I think it is safe to say that youngest son was just a little bit excited about his birthday, he woke us up at 4am asking if he could open his presents; he didn’t get a very positive response. What only seemed like 5 minutes later, we were rudely awakened by the smoke alarm going off very loudly; to be honest my first thought was that the little bugger had deliberately done it by turning the toaster up as a way of getting our attention. The toaster antagonises the smoke alarm and frequently sets it off, no known cause is found as to why the bloody thing is blaring away. So at 5.45 am, husband is making tea and the family tradition of opening presents in mum and dad’s bad still holds true for the youngest. The eldest has discarded the tradition, but he comes for a cuppa and joins in the excitement.

We have learnt over the years that Birthdays and Aspergers have a unique combination; the presents will be counted, cards are only interesting if they contain money or a cheque, if a present isn’t liked it is discarded, if the wish list hasn’t been fulfilled, no matter how expensive a listed item might be, it will be noted and expressed usually in a loud and repetitive way. Presents have, as he has got older, needed to be negotiated, he has been demanding an Xbox for several months and despite consistently being told we will not buy one because we do not need 2 in the house; he is still insistent . Before going to bed last night, he asked what he was getting for his birthday, and did I perhaps mean that he would secretly be getting one and I was just really pretending, so that it would be a big surprise.

Last night he was troubled and upset about being a year older and nearer to death, asking if he or anyone in the family had cancer or any illnesses. He was sobbing as he told me that he didn’t want me to die, he told me that he loved me. Until recently he had only said he loved me on 2 occasions, now he tells me a lot, he says that he wants me to know in case I die. I cuddle him and hold him close when he tells me, my arms and heart full of love for him. I know that death worries him, its finality scares him, he knows what death means, he has experienced loosing people and at times gets overwhelmed and fixated on those he loves dying. I tell him as I always have, that the love we feel for someone and the love they give us, stays, it gets called many things, energy, spirit to name a couple; but its love connects us.

There are many times when his feelings and emotions burst out, he has intense rage which explodes sends massive sparks and charges the atmosphere. Asperger’s and the neuro-typical worlds collide with great thunderbolts, all of his pent up emotions needing to be released; Birthdays are no exception.

The school disco also happens to be on Toby’s birthday, so whilst there is excitement, the half an hour in which he has to get ready and leave, is intense. He thunders at warp speed up and down the stairs, demanding to know where his new jeans are, screams at the top of his voice, slamming doors and throwing his weight around so that it reverberates throughout the house. He battles with his dickey bow tie, which he insisted on as a birthday present and chose when we went shopping in Norwich last weekend; after much struggling he finally lets dad help him before deciding that it feels to uncomfortable and discards it. Eventually he is ready and the boy is transformed, looking cool in his new bomber jacket and jeans, his short recent hair cut has meant you can see his beautiful face again; he indulges us and lets us a take a photo.

He stands tall, his blonde hair and big blue eyes captured on this his 11th birthday, my youngest boy is growing fast.

 

 

The secret club

01/02/2013

The secret club is our facebook network of mums, some have known each other for a number of years, with children ranging from 6 -17. Friendships which have developed because of our offspring, we have done the mother and toddler groups, pre-school committees, play dates and pic-nics in the park.

Playgrounds can be hostile, enemy territory, stand in the wrong place and you can be ousted instantly, you re-learn the routine when your kids start school, only it is never mentioned and no manual is issued on what protocol is expected. The rules are similar to your own school days, avoid the bully, the snobs who look down on you and for fucks sake never give eye contact to anyone with a clipboard, if they get as far as asking you…”can I just put your name down”, your doomed, be warned.

An assumption is made when your child starts school that you will instantly want to enter the ‘school community’, it sounds cosy and idyllic. The reality is a constant bombardment, helping in class, book sales, after-school clubs, PTA, fetes, discos, bake sales all come with a rota for which you are expected to sign up willingly and gladly, you are not expected to groan inwardly or outwardly at yet another fund raiser. You are meant to find it endearing at having to suffer school assemblies and nativities, there is always a tussle for front row seats so the cam-corder or rather these days the ‘smart phone’ brigade can hog best spot to capture their little darling performing like a seal club. The reality is that someone’s child is more interested in picking their nose and eating their bogies; another has a panic attack, forgets their lines and bursts into tears. Whilst all the pre-schoolers who have been dragged along get bored and restless, no amount of sshhing stops a pre-schooler from talking incessantly or whining constantly that they are bored and want to go home. We have all been there, got the snow globe, the coaster and Christmas cards all sold at inflated prices, at least it provides a token seasonal gift for the in-laws.

I swear that if you could bottle this it would make a fantastic contraceptive;  the competition between yummy mummys is fierce,  you know the ones always hovering vying for teachers attention as the kids file out, the ones who immerse themselves in the PTA, needing some identity within the pecking order that marks them out as special.  It is easy to lose yourself, which is why the mums who are your friends become your lifeline; the ones who you can share a problem with, knowing it won’t be gossip the next day, the ones who you can go out with, get pissed with, the ones who are there for you, the ones who support you and don’t judge you.  If you are lucky you find mums who you build a connection with, laugh with, cry with and tread the path of parenting with.

 

Eldest son was 13 last week; it marks the start of the teenage years in our house, and a new family chapter.
Part of me (quite a large part actually) is feeling a little overwhelmed and perplexed, that the baby I bought home from the maternity unit is growing into a young man. The teenage years are in part, the cycle of time in which we begin to let go, whilst also still being there, a steady presence. I am in part mourning, the time with him as a baby, toddler, young school boy; they are now past, and how quickly that has happened.
He is a loving, caring, kind, beautiful, thoughtful, clever, quietly confident, handsome young man. He is at the beginning of his journey into adulthood and blossoming into his adult self. The gradual transformation which has happened over these thirteen years; is like being shown a glimpse through a window, to see the man he is becoming.
I vividly remember becoming 13 and my teenage years, there were some turbulent times to say the least and I left home at 16. The freedom was intoxicating and I soaked it up, little did I know then that those few short years from 16 -19; would be the only ones in which I was completely carefree.

I hope I remember how important it is:
• to be heard and listened to properly
• to be allowed to question and have an opinion different to your parents/others/the status quo
• to dream
• to believe in your own unique creativity
• to define your own values and belief
• to fall in love and enjoy your sexual being

I hope that he always knows without question or doubt how much I love him and all the joy he continues to give me.
It is an honour and a blessing to be his mum, I vow to do my best for him; not in a Mary Poppins ‘practically perfect in every way’……..More of, ‘I know I wont always get it right, but I will always be here for you…kind of way’. To continue watching you grow and become all you choose to be.

I have been proud of you since the moment you were born, my arms will always hug, cuddle and hold you, despite your protests….cuddles are full of love.
I know you’ll remember me singing, Into My Arms by Nick Cave and how I’d change it to….Into My Arms…oh Hugh….Into My Arms; I will always remember when you were small, that you would dance and sing with me, precious and priceless; as you still are.