Pudding was on the verge of a meltdown. I seized the opportunity to guide her through a breathing technique for relaxation.
“Come on, let’s blow out the candles!”
With exaggerated puffs of air, I demonstrate. She giggles.
I try again. And again. Eventually she joins in with me. We are exhaling together…this is actually working! Then she stops.
“Mummy…where is the cake? I want cake.”
Cake, what cake? Oh, of course. Candles means birthday cake. We have a short exchange about the fact that it isn’t her birthday, or my birthday, or anybody’s birthday that we know, for that matter. And- even worse- there isn’t any cake.
So, inevitably, the meltdown comes anyway, and yet another relaxation technique has left us both more worked up than before.
Now, I know what you’re thinking- keep trying, right? Calm wasn’t built in a day. You’re right of course, wise reader. But the difficulty I have with self-calming, is that the self part has to be involved. I know exactly what works for me: a cup of tea here, a bar of chocolate there. Perhaps a shower, or a glass of wine, or even (unlikely as it seems to me) some exercise. I’m good.
But the thing about Pudding, in all her glory, is that she is fundamentally very different to me. What is calming for the goose just ruffles the feathers of the gander, or the gosling, in this case. I’m better than I used to be, but I still have a lot to figure out about my little hatchling. We know that preparing her with picture social stories works well. I could make a visual about breathing techniques, and that might work. Or then again, I could just make a social story about whatever upset her in the first place.
As always when I find myself up against the mighty force of Pudding’s brain, instead of looking at ways to change her, I try to change the environment around her. I aim to create a little corner of the world where Pudding can retreat and relax. In our new home, we’re very fortunate to have a wonderful garden. I’m looking at ways to turn it into a sensory garden, to stimulate and nurture her erratic senses. She has always liked the outdoors, and my tactile-seeking girl loves anything hands-on, so gardening might just be perfect for her.
It occurred to me as I was planting wonderfully fragrant herbs, feeling the silty texture of the soil, that plants present imagery that could be very useful as a relaxation guide. As I introduce Pudding to roots and talk about how they dig deep into the soil, maybe one day I’ll be able to have her imagine being a tree with deep roots sinking down into the earth, and have her gently blow at the leaves on her tree.
Maybe. One day. That is the other thing about gardening- like it or not, nature forces us to be patient. While we can cultivate and nurture, we can’t rush growth along. With a little luck, and some glorious weather, patience might flourish for both of us.
This post was originally submitted for S.O.S Best of the Best, Edition 10: Calming Techniques for Stress and the Special Needs Child.