Mother

How do you feel safe when the person you are supposed to trust the most, you trust the least?

How do you love yourself when the one person who is meant to love you unconditionally, can’t?

How do you cope when the person you share your secrets and fears with, tells others?

How do you feel when you discover that not every child is thrashed for stealing hundreds and thousands from the cooking cupboard?

How do you feel when you see hatred in her eyes?

How do you feel when you try to explain to those around you that you have chosen to separate yourself from her?

How do you explain to your children that you chose not to have her in your life?

How do you cope with the loss and grief that you feel, still?

The Edge

Ever had one of those days where you feel you are being pushed to the edge of madness?

Yesterday was one of those days.

Boy Wonder woke “with the devil in him”. From the minute he opened his baby blue eyes, I could do no right. He refused to eat breakfast. Told me he wasn’t going to school. “Everything” he said “is your fault”.

GOOD FUCKING MORNING to you too, I thought.

As with most of BW’s moods, they are prompted by something. So I cajoled, I soothed, I stroked his hair. “Are you worried about something?” “Did you have a nightmare?”.

He couldn’t explain why he felt so rotten. Tears started falling (not mine, for now).

Finally, Boy Wonder told me he had seen 1am on the clock and then 3am and I realised that he’d slept really badly. A duvet day was in order.

I snuggled him up on the couch with a duvet and hot water bottle. He seemed content to doze. Or so I thought.

At 9.45am I heard “Is it lunch time?”

Fark, this was going to be a long day.

I became the “Worst Mum Ever” again when BW realised that no, a day off to recover from a poor night’s sleep did not mean a day of playing Skylanders. I explained that CB didn’t play it when he was off sick, so he would have to wait until the end of the school day.

“How many more minutes?” He asked. Rinse and repeat until 3.30pm.

A nuclear meltdown occurred at tea time. It is ALWAYS witching hour in our house.

BW would happily eat the same 3 things every day of his life. Beef burgers, salad and macaroni cheese. I explain to him that my job is to make sure he has a variety of different foods so he grows big and strong. I also wanted to cook THE SAME meal for 3 people.

Oh I should explain he and his brother won’t eat what we eat, so each day I can often cook 3 different meals. Yeah, yeah, I know SUCKA!

What I really love about BW is that he often “goes off” meals, just as I finish cooking them.

Last night he had “gone off chicken stir fry”. He was rude and shouty and definitely NOT going to eat chicken stir fry.

I negotiated (The UN so need to employ my services in the Middle East) I cajoled, I soothed, I stroked, I begged.

I shouted.

Not proud of myself.

BW spewed hatred at me and threatened to hurt himself and me. I was scared.

He was sent to bed.

I poured a glass of red whilst trying not to hate myself for not coping better. I know he has Asperger’s, I know he can’t help it. But do you know what? I am not a saint. I had tried, I really had.

And this morning? A huge hug and an apology from him (and one from me).

But I can’t shake off the fear.

Sharing Your Child’s Diagnosis-Books That May Help

Sharing Boy Wonder’s diagnosis with him and other members of our family is probably one of the things I have struggled with most. (I could fill an entire blog with other people’s reactions!). He had only just turned 8 which we felt was too young, and anyway we needed time to process the information and learn more about how we could help him.

We were extremely lucky that his learning mentor in the UK had over 30 years experience with ASD kids and she helped to “break the ice” about Asperger’s Syndrome when he was around 9 1/2.

In the meantime, I looked for books that may help us as a family. I thought I would share my thoughts on two that I particularly liked.

Can I tell you about Asperger Syndrome? A guide for friends and family

The author, Jude Welton, is a psychologist who has a son with AS. She has written from the perspective of Adam, a boy with AS. Each double page spread features a simple drawing of Adam engaging in an activity with a brief description of the problem he may face. For example “I sometimes find it difficult to play with other children”. On the other page, Adam talks in more detail about how and why he finds playing tricky and makes some suggestions that could help people understand what to do.

The areas that are tackled include: reading feelings; tones of voice; playing with others; confusing groups; unexpected change; motor skills; special interests;What is Asperger Syndrome? and how you can help. There is also a section at the end for teachers which discusses aspects of learning that Adam may struggle with and offers strategies to make school less stressful, for example visual timetables.

I liked this book for its simplicity. Written as Adam made it feel more accessible. The book is aimed at 7-15 year olds, but I think it more suited to younger children as the pictures are quite simple and may not engage a teenager.I think I will find it useful when the time comes to share BW’s diagnosis in more detail with Cheeky Boy.

One of the struggles I found as a parent was making BW feel like there is something ‘wrong’ with them. I try to normalise it with him wherever possible. I say it’s PART of who he is, not the whole of who he is. That he has talents as well as everyone else.

That’s why I was so pleased to discover:

The Blue Bottle Mystery, An Asperger Adventure

On one level it is just an adventure story where the main character happens to have AS, on the other level it manages to explain what AS is, without getting bogged down with technical terms and psychology. The main character is diagnosed with AS during the story and credit to the author, Kathy Hoopmann, for doing this so well without ruining the flow of the story.

It’s great fun to read and the adventure would engage any child with or without AS. There are two other books in the series ‘Of Mice and Aliens’ and ‘Lisa and the Lacemaker‘ which I will definitely be purchasing.

BW hasn’t read this one YET! He won’t hear any mention of ‘The ‘A’ word’ without telling me off. When he found the pile of books I was reviewing for this post he immediately got very cross with me. 10 minutes later he cuddled up and asked me to read some of “Can I tell you about Asperger Syndrome?” and was very excited when he recognised some traits he has “I have a great memory too, mum!”.

Which goes to show, I can buy all the books in the world, but Boy Wonder will let me know when he is ready!

The Best Day

One of Cheeky Boy’s favourite sayings is “this is the best day EVER”, with extra emphasis on the EVER. I am sure most kids use this phrase but thankfully for us CB is easily pleased because we hear it a lot. A scoot to the park and an ice cream can elicit a TITBDE!

It got me thinking about how many Best Days EVER I have had over the years. My wedding, finding out I was pregnant, and holding my babies for the first time would definitely count, but since then? Hmmm. Since I became a stay at home mum, discovering I am wearing matching undies or finding a missing sock is enough to constitute a best day.

And then I cast my mind back to the day when I did something totally crazy. And I smile.

I should explain. Under no circumstances could you describe me as a thrill seeker. I am “Mrs Worry”, “Mrs Anxiety” and “Mrs What if?” all rolled into one. I have a phobia of heights, I hate anything scary and I don’t like theme parks. Get the picture?

It was the end of summer. I think we were coming up the first anniversary of BW’s diagnosis. Both The Saint and I were still in turmoil and the Black Dog had decided to visit again. I went to an event and happened to see an advert for a charity tandem sky dive to raise money for the children’s hospice where the event was being held. To this day, I cannot tell you what possessed me. I walked over to the stand and signed up on the spot.

Six week later we were on our way to the airfield. I will admit “Mrs What if” was present “What if the chute doesn’t open, what if I break my ankles when I land, what if I die?”. As we got closer to jump time, my mind cleared. Something in me needed to do this.

Sitting on the edge of the open aeroplane door waiting for the all clear, watching the pros hopping out, knowing that any second I was next, was truly the most terrifying experience of my life.

I’m falling!

And then we somersaulted out. I remember looking up at the underneath of the aeroplane, thinking “oh my god, we’re falling”. Right side up, I started to enjoy myself. To be above the clouds and surrounded by blue felt so peaceful in spite of the deafening noise of the air whooshing past my ears. All I could do was grin.

Grinning!

It did me the world of good to do something so out of character and started me on a new path to a more balanced me, not just a mum devoted to her kids. Whenever I have a niggling doubt about myself I remember that day.

What was your best day ever?

Breast vs. Bottle

This morning the lovely Kate from katesaystuff  tweeted a link to an article  headlined “Australian Breastfeeding Association class told baby formula ‘was like AIDS'” this morning which caused me to have a little flashback to my own breast vs. bottle experience.

I was in labour with Boy Wonder for quite a while – I think I was awake for 36 hours. Happy, but exhausted, I was thrilled when he latched on and started to feed. It wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences  but I couldn’t deny the positive benefits for both of us. One thing was for sure, Boy Wonder loved it. He loved it so much that he wanted to do it ALL the time. Not for him a feed followed by a nap, oh no, he wanted to feed for HOURS. Day AND Night.

I was beside myself with tiredness, on the brink of madness (I was weeks away from being diagnosed with PND) and had no family support. One morning The Saint called the Health Visitor. He could see I was struggling, he was so worried. He had begged me to give Boy Wonder a bottle, but I felt that was like admitting defeat and he knew I wanted permission from a higher being.

The Health Visitor arrived. She clucked over the baby and barely gave the haggard new mum a second glance. I falteringly started to explain my concerns. “Could I try mixed feeding?” I asked? “Maybe it’s what he needs, he seems so hungry, maybe my milk isn’t enough?” I rambled on.

She sighed. “Well you could… but you’ve been doing so well…. Giving him a bottle of formula now would be like spraying paint stripper over a freshly painted wall…”

I had no idea what to say. I was so embarrassed that I’d even dared mention my concerns to her. On my knees mentally, I just accepted that as a professional she knew best.

I persevered for 5 months, during which time I was diagnosed with PND and started to take anti-depressants. I did give Boy Wonder a bottle eventually, but the guilt I felt was all-consuming at times.

Looking back I feel angry that one Health Visitor could have been so unsupportive. I feel angry that she couldn’t see how desperate I was. Surely a healthy, happy mama equals a happy, healthy baby?

There are many reasons why some women do not or cannot breastfeed. They need to feel as supported as those to can and choose to do so.

(Incidentally, I had an excellent HV with Cheeky Monkey and thankfully history was not repeated.)

Guilt

I’m sure there isn’t a female blogger alive who hasn’t written about feeling guilty about how they parent their children.

Yesterday, I stuffed up big time. School discos for both boys on the same night as Boy Wonder’s art class. I’d planned dinner. I thought I had the logistics of getting everyone where they needed to be, at the right time, nailed.

Except, I had remembered my own personal disco times and not the ACTUAL disco times. Cue Cheeky Boy arriving to his disco at the end. A frantic phone call from The Saint with Cheeky Boy crying in the background made my heart sink to my boots. Balls (not what I ACTUALLY said, but you get the idea).

Bless him, with chocolate and Skylanders, Cheeky Boy rallied. “it’s not your fault mum, everyone makes mistakes”. He said, mouth full.

Why can an 8 year old accept that people make mistakes, but I can’t?

And so the spiral of guilt began.

What was my excuse? I don’t work. How could I mess this simple thing up?

I’m a bad mother.
I don’t do enough,
I don’t love them enough etc., etc., etc.

I am so scared of getting it wrong and messing them up. I wonder if somehow I am to blame for Boy Wonder having Asperger’s.

Where does this come from? Why do I feel so guilty?

My own childhood was sad. I think I probably carry some of those experiences with me. In my quest to give my children a better start than I had, maybe I am setting my standards too high.

I also think that as much as I love them, maybe motherhood hasn’t turned out how I had imagined it to be.

Oh god, there I said it.

I love them, I do. But Lordy, it’s hard. It definitely doesn’t come naturally to me. I look at mothers who declare that having children has made them a better person, or has completed them, in wonder.

I don’t recall screaming like a banshee very often B.C., so no, I can’t say my kids have made me a better person. I think of myself as a work in progress, so I am as incomplete now as I was B.C.

Then I stop for a moment. I remember that my children are blessed to have two parents who love them, and each other very much. We might not get it right all of the time (or some weeks, any of the time), but we are doing the best we can.

As I always remind my boys: “Your best is good enough”.

Boy Wonder all set to wow them at the disco