It's Not Fair!

Do they ever stop saying that? Apparently not.  Mammy the peacemaker has been shuttling between three different rooms tonight - each containing a different child - ever since we returned from a loooong car drive.  It wasn't actually that long, about 2 hours.  Made longer by the bank holiday traffic and a 'shortcut' I took when I saw standing traffic ahead...does anyone else do that?  Follow a load of cars that leave a traffic jam and hope they know where they're going?

I probably did that because I was stressed.  And not just from the traffic.  CD was in meltdown mode.  He'd enjoyed a couple of fab days, playing outside with other boys, and I think he was exhausted.  

He wanted to go back to Dublin, and he didn't want to go back.  So that was the first problem. Then his new travel-sickness prevention - gingerbread men - had gone soft.  So he couldn't eat them, which meant he couldn't pay his DS in case he got sick, so he was bored.

Then Smiley started screaming - with delight - at the songs on the radio.  Now CD nearly ticked all the boxes for sensory processing disorder and he hates it when Smiley screams, and she is now so loud.  He also sits next to her in the car.  Angel did her best to help, she put calming music on Smiley's iPod.  That didn't work.  She gave her something to chew.  Nope, she just kept on screaming.  Cue meltdown, kicking my seat, throwing stuff around the car.  I had to stop, to stop him, and to stop shaking.  I should be used to melt downs by now, but I am so not.

The fresh air made a difference and, with the help of some headphones and a quieter Smiley, we made it home.  It was Angel who said "It's not fair!".  She had to restrain her brother as best she could while I found somewhere safe to park, and she wanted him to be punished. But how do you punish a boy with Aspergers without causing further meltdowns, especially as the noise was clearly causing problems for him?  If I took away his DS there would be another meltdown and then how would I get everything unpacked and dinner done and the children to bed?  I decided that he should make amends instead, and he agreed.  So he helped me to unpack the car and put everything away, and tomorrow he has promised to help clean it, especially the mess he made.  I even offered that he would make amends to Angel, but she doesn't want anything to do with him for the rest of today at least, *sighs*.  Does anyone else not punish, or am I just copping out?

Memo to self: need to find a way to cope with this next time it happens.

It takes a village to raise a child

I do most of the rearing of my three children.  I do my best, but it's not always enough.  CD no longer wants to play games with me because I'm 'boring'.  Smiley's needs eat up hours of every day, leaving little time for outings or fun.  And while he sees his Dad regularly, CD lives in a house full of women.

I also think that parenting can get stuck in a rut, like any other job, so it's great to get new ideas for play and outings from other people.  The volunteers at the Rainbow Junior Arch Club help with this, and so do my family.  We're just back from a short visit to Wales to see them.  I thought we'd have a quiet time as my Dad has not been well.  To my surprise, my family had other ideas - and poor Angel had to cancel all her lie-ons. 

On Sunday morning we headed off early to this train station for a trip that I would never have considered myself. 


 We admired the engine and watched as the water tank was topped up.

Can you get a wheelchair on a train?  Apparently you can.  Arrangements had been made, ramps organised, and Smiley was installed in a carriage with the rest of the family.  She found it all very exciting.


We admired the scenery from the train.


At the end of the line is another village where we had a lovely lunch.  A post-food walk was planned, but this proved not to be wheelchair friendly, so I wandered around with my Dad and Smiley taking pictures:


Meantime CD had skipped off down the path with Angel and his cousins.  There were no complaints even though fresh air, exercise and sunshine were involved.  If I had organised a day like this with just my three kids, there would have been a huge battle, and I would probably have lost.  But because his cousins were involved, CD really enjoyed himself.

Anyway it was a tired but happy family that returned on Sunday evening to my Dad's house.  On Monday the family organised an early birthday barbecue celebration for CD.  His birthday is today and he is ten years old.  My baby is growing up, and while I do not have a whole village to help raise him, friends and family are all pitching in and for that I'm very grateful :D

Two hours sleep and a long drive ahead

11.30pm - I fall into bed.  Long trip in the morning so no wine even though it's Friday. 

1.30am - Mummeee! 

He needs me, he's scared, then he can't get back to sleep.  He wriggles and squirms and turns and talks.  "Mum, are you asleep?" he asks, every time I start to feel comfortable.   In desperation I go downstairs and retrieve his DS - he's 'too afraid'.  No better.   Even with the sound turned off, the tap tap tap of the stylus drives me demented.   He prods me to see am I asleep, and I try to explain patiently that if I was asleep he has now woken me up.  He says sorry so many times that I would like to banish the word from the English language altogether.  I ask him why he can't sleep.   At least he can now give some kind of explanation.  "I'm excited about today," he says.   Oops I forgot to mention that : The alarm was due to go off at 4.30am anyway as we had a big day planned.   I explained that I might not be able for the drive on 2 hours sleep and the whole day might have to be cancelled. 

I don't need a lot of sleep - luckily - but I don't function well on less than 6 hours.  As a new parent my top priority was training my children to sleep at night...please don't condemn me I was only being practical!  So all three went to bed earlyish as young children giving me an hour or so of child-free time in the evenings.  For many years I would expect to get up to different children several times a night, but would always go back to sleep afterwards.  Now as CD grows into his Aspergers, and I grow older, sleep is becoming a bigger problem.  I discussed my need for sleep with him and together we agreed that our day should not start before 6 am.   This week the 6am deadline has been breached twice and even the breaching of it makes me feel desperate.  If I can't hold that line, how am I ever going to cope?  In the middle of the night, it felt like torture when he kept rousing me just as I was about to drift off into sleep again, and I did not succeeed in staying very calm.  I know that many new parents also feel like this, but you keep repeating the mantra "this will pass" don't you? Except for parents of children with asd, then there is the fear that it won't. 

How do you manage a life of sleep deprivation?   If you have a crucial business meeting, do you go?  If you have to fly a plane, would you?  And if you were planning a long drive with your children would you reconsider? 

Driving tired is said to be very unsafe.  Perhaps even more so if one of your kids has aspergers and is also very tired.   But the trip has been paid for, arrangements made with family and friends.  CD has been prepared for this trip for several weeks...at least I thought he was prepared.  And now I'm too tired to know what to do. 

Should I stay or should I go?  If I go there could be trouble, if I stay there will be double...from disappointed children.

So what would you do? 

Drafted very early on Saturday morning

Don't cage me in


Aragorn to Éowyn,The Lord of the Rings

   

Yes I know I'm a bit obsessed with LOTR.  I read it over and over again as a teenager and the DVDs are still watched regularly by all of us, well except Smiley.  There's the wonderful language, the story, the escapism, but I also related to the characters, the lives they led and their dreams and values...well apart from the bad guys obviously.  Malory Towers was not for me.  

 

So I had my life planned out, four kids at neat 5 year intervals, so I would have the time for a husband, career and social life.  No way was I going to be stuck at home, caged in by four walls.  Growing up, I did not envy what I saw of the lives of my mother's generation: my friend's Mum, proud to be the only one on her street not on valium; my own Mum, always bent over the cooker or the sink or the ironing board, at least in my memory.

 

Of course life got in the way of all my plans and that thing I feared came true.  With an ex-husband and three children, my world shrank.   Sometimes I shrank too, and stayed in this little corner of Dublin.  Sometimes it seemed easier.  The demands of the kids seemed overwhelming and never ending.  But maybe we make our own cages and sometimes we don't realise that there is almost always an escape route somewhere.


I have my car, and I won't go on and on again about how much I love driving, especially when the sun is shining, the music turned up and I'm meeting friends.

 

My real friends, who keep the invitations coming, because they know that sometimes I'll be able to make it.


Angel, who is always encouraging me and helps out with the baby-sitting.


Smiley, who loves shopping.



And then there's Facebook and Twitter.  There for me every day, and in the middle of the night if I need it.  Facebook is like a cosy local coffee shop where I can hang out with my friends.  But Twitter, well it's more like a college party.  You never know what's going to happen next or who you're going to meet.   You need never feel lonely again, or sorry for yourself, as there's always someone else trying to cope with a bigger problem or a bigger cage.  Like Jean-Dominique Bauby who broke free  from the ultimate challenge of locked-in syndrome.  If he could escape, anyone can.  


I wrote this after reading Do You Ever Wish You Had Never Had Children? at Note from Lapland.

The Pregnant Duck is back

Yep, I've started running again and it's not a pretty sight.  Every January I run for a few weeks and then illness or events get in the way and I had begun to think that my running days were over.  

Other exercise programmes were tried.  The bargain bins were scoured for cut-price DVDs that promised to make me look like Z-list starlets if I would only follow their little routines three times a week.  I've done boxercise, yoga, Wiifit, Callanetics (actually I still do this occasionally), walking, cycling and trampolining.  But nothing worked as well as running.   

This year I didn't get sick - did the snow kill all the germs? - so I had no excuse, well once the snow was over I didn't anyway.  The tracksuit was dusted down and the runners were washed and with Angel's support and encouragement I managed a slow jog around the block.  A very slow jog.  A project was needed, so I decided to enter my favourite race again: the 10K Dublin Women's Mini-Marathon, held in June.  Plenty of time to train, or so I thought.  When I tried to enter I discovered that I need to prove I can run if I want to run.  If I can't prove it I won't be able to run anyway as I will have to start with the walkers.  Confused? Yes, me too.

Even getting new kit for the older larger me has proved a challenge: and the mirrors in sports shops are not the type that make you look thin, nor does the stuff they sell.  I finally got kitted out in something that fitted and was vaguely flattering in good old M&S. 

So my big goal right now is to make the qualifying time so I can start with the runners (me competitive? not at all!).  Running 10k in an hour should be easy.  Twenty years ago it would have been.  Now it's going to be a huge challenge.   Why?  Well just imagine an old fat duck running and you'll understand why... If only I'd listened to my Mum.  With more sleep, less weight and no sugar, I could be quite fast.  Instead my training is fuelled by Red Bull and pig-headedness.  This Sunday is the Day of Reckoning when I find out just how old and fat I've become - as I attempt to complete the Great Ireland Run in under an hour.  To prove I can, so I can do it all again in June... and raise some money for charity the second time around. 

If you are in the Phoenix Park on Sunday and happen to be watching the race, please give me a shout, I will desperately need it.  I haven't 'raced' for 6 years and only started training properly at the beginning of March.  I'm terrified, mainly that I'm going to make a complete fool of myself.  Watch out for the fat-looking one in the Port of Tilbury T-shirt.  And looking fat is a good thing, as it means I'm running with the thin people and so might just post a respectable time....

Aspie Boy and the cushions

It seems a long time ago, but it was only last July when we moved back into the family home, and CD got his 'den' as a sweetener.  He is almost too attached to it now.  It has become his safe place, where he can leave a tangle of cables and cases and consoles.  Unless it is cleaning day, I just shut the door on the mess every night: regular tidying is one battle I've not been able to face yet.  But today his den got a mini-clean...and he was not impressed!

Mum, you've messed up my room.

No, I've cleaned it.

But the cushions are all in the wrong place!

Sorry? I don't understand, it's all tidy now.

But that's not how I like it.  The cushions need to be arranged like this, with a gap there and the diagonal pointing over there.

Well who knew that cushion arranging could be so complicated?  There was only one thing for it: I whipped out the camera and took a photo.  Now I've no excuse for getting it wrong next time....


And now for the good news

I met a friend for lunch today.  She has a good secure job in the 'real' economy.   And surely this cannot be right?   The Irish media suggests that all the good jobs are gone, that people like her are all on the dole, or struggling with lower pay and higher bills.   

Her employers distribute high quality products. They're not cheap and they're discretionary.  The type of product that many of us stopped buying some years ago.  Yet the company is doing well, with a growing export business.  And as I looked around the busy buzzy restaurant and the queues at the food counter - on a Tuesday - it seemed that other companies in this part of Dublin are probably thriving as well.  Perhaps this is normal, after all I don't exactly go out for lunch every day.  But then I thought that nobody else did either.  Somehow I'd got the impression that the working population are now eating homemade ham sandwiches.  At their desk, or on the run.

I've noticed other surprising things as well.  On one road of rather lovely houses near me, four adjacent gardens have had professional makeovers.  There are plenty of 2011 registration cars on the streets.  Some people are spending money.  Some people still have it.  Yes, this is anecdotal evidence, but surely it means that things can only get better. 

Now if the people with money would just have a bit more compassion for those without, I would be feeling really positive...