Holidays can be hard. I always forget this. Instead, I look forward to them, to officially Spending Time Together. Why, why would I do this? What do I think will be glittery and playful about 4 people with varying needs thrown together into a world filled with:
- No Routine (People ask: What time do the kids usually wake up? We have no idea. None. Some days it’s 5am some days it’s 9am – this is holidays, perpetual confusion and no knowledge of what is happening or when it may be happening).
- Loads of Toys (So. Many. Toys. Christmas Toys, Birthday Toys, Oh My God I Can’t Take It Anymore So Yes I Will pay $10 For This Crappy Toy So I Can Perhaps Have 10 Minutes Of Peaceful Grocery Shopping Toys: Do these toys equal happiness? No. No they don’t. We know this. We KNOW this. But we still do it. Clearly, we are lacking some serious causation skills. Don’t get me started on batteries.)
- Lack of Food (There is never breakfast food at breakfast time, there is never dinner food at dinner-time, and lunch is just this vague time throughout the day where we sob and eat crackers).
- Negotiating (Due to lack of routine/food we require negotiation to get food and go places. This is difficult enough between 2 adults who have probably eaten ½ bag of crisps and a nectarine for breakfast but when you add in a almost 5yr old who can sideline a conversation about perhaps putting on shoes to go shopping into a discussion about the mating habits of hermit crabs it can be time to sob and eat crackers before you’ve even brushed your teeth.)
There is too much noise for me. Too many voices, too many options and too much begging other people for 5 minutes to finish a cup of tea. I have that constant itchy awareness of dishes in the sink, clothes in the laundry basket, on the line, folding to be put away and the high possibility that there is wee on the carpet in the toilet. Tempers are frayed, instead of asking questions I make demands. Which, inevitably leads to the Boy yelling ‘I get to choose! I am putting my room in LOCKDOWN’ (a phrase which he got from I don’t even know where) and the Girl quietly but definitively saying ‘No Mummy’ and plopping down on the floor with the air of someone who is Not Moving Ever.
We attempt to placate the children with TV so we can work out what we’re doing, what we need to do and what is humanly possible to achieve. We say maybe 3 words to each other before Boy and Girl run into the bedroom and jump on the bed. The plan when we decided to have children in our lives was to respond to their needs with love and care and general respect – I do not follow the plan at this point in time. I yell, loudly.
This helps exactly no-one.
Having been told that your child is Autistic and that this involves ‘Deficits in Social Communication’ (Differences in Social Communication) there is an impulse to find the Learning in a lot of moments that may not necessarily have anything to do with learning and perhaps have more to do with me and my insecurities than him. This is especially true when I’m struggling myself. Instead of meeting the Boy where he is, I suddenly and inexplicably expect him to meet me where I am. At this point, I was consumed with ‘Why won’t my children Listen to me?’ with a side of ‘What about my needs?’ It’s easy to be sucked in by that fear that your kids won’t learn unless they’re explicitly taught every single thing. That fear that tells you that A Bad Day = A Bad Kid.
The Boy gets up, quietly goes into the back yard, comes back and stands in front of me with hands clasped behind his back and whispers ‘Mummy, I have a surprise for you. It’s not a butterfly. It’s a flower. You have to guess flower.’
I guess flower.
He presents me with a beautiful red hibiscus flower. ‘Now you’re happy!’
And once again, I politely tell that fear to Fuck Off. My child is learning. My family is learning. But most importantly of all, I am learning. I am learning where my own limits are, I am learning how lucky I am to be parenting these children, and that even if my Boy didn’t give me a flower today, that we would all still be ok. And that if I put my family in an uncomfortable situation (eg, holidays) then I don’t get to be all shocked when we react in uncomfortable ways.
I tickle bellies, I agree that today is a Not A Clothes day and we read books on the floor while munching on apples. I apologise for yelling and we all move on peacefully.
More or less.
L and I agree that today is a Shit Day and make amusing drinking signs at each other while pretending to play Garbage Trucks with Boy. After being wee’d on for the third time by toilet-learning Girl I hide in the pantry and scoff chocolate. This does not make the wee disappear. But it does make the chocolate disappear.
We wait for bedtime, we feed Boy and Girl in the bath. Baked beans. From the tin. They don’t even get separate spoons. We are ok with this. They are happy! They are playing penguin games and giggling. Happy! Finally, they are in bed, Boy is still wearing the same pyjamas he’s worn all day because they’re ‘cuddly pants.’ Again, we are ok with this. Happy! I kiss his baby cheek, stroke his face and tell him how much he is loved. How tomorrow will be a better day and that he is My Favourite Boy. He pulls his blanket around him and says ‘Yes, but tomorrow Mummy, if you yell at me, I will say ‘No Mummy! This is not a yelling house!’ and you will stop, DEAL?’ And I am so aware that this is a Learning Moment for me, not for him, and the best thing I can do here is make my beloved Boy feel less shit about a fairly shit day. So I say the only thing I could reasonably say – ‘Deal, ratbag, deal.’
And I go turn those amusing drinking signs into reality.