Archive for February 2012
I remember my parents being much more successful with the whole not-laughing-when-the-child-is-naughty thing. Oh well, practice makes perfect!
I’d gone to collect Pudding from school one day, but she wasn’t in the classroom, nor could I see her in the playground. Her teacher saw me, and gestured for me to come over. Together we peeped round a corner down the side of the school where Pudding felt that nobody could see her. She was sitting on a training bike (a bike without pedals- the rider propels along using their feet on the ground).
Actually, no, she wasn’t. Given that the bikes at her school are designed for preschoolers, and Pudding is our five year-old floating around in the body of an eight year-old, she was awkwardly straddling above the seat. But the fact that she was even touching a bike was a big deal. After I wrote last year about our attempt to teach Pudding to ride a bike, we’d tried several more times, but with even less success. When we moved, we bought her a training bike for her size, but it just confused her further. Now she won’t sit on either of her bikes, and all my attempts at
bribery rewarding have only resulted in meltdowns.
So it came as something of a surprise to see her trying at school. But not that much of a surprise. Remember I said that Pudding believed she was unobserved? This was key, because if there is one thing Pudding hates more than not being able to do something, it is having others witness her mistakes. Pudding doesn’t like mistakes. If something can’t be done according to her idea of right, it is better not to attempt it. Or at least, forbidding anybody else from seeing you make a mistake.
I can appreciate Pudding’s reticence. Nobody likes making mistakes. I don’t know if she has yet perceived that things come harder for her than others. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know that she will have to try and fail many, many times more than most to do things that come naturally to everyone else. It makes perfect sense that she is more content sticking to the things that she has mastered- finding comfort in the repetition that has brought her success in some areas, and avoiding those things that are too challenging.
I get it, because parenting is harder for me than I ever expected. When I look around at others, they seem to have it all figured out, while I’m still learning. But then, I’ve also learned that there isn’t a right and wrong way to do things. Sometimes the mistakes I make with one child are the exact right thing to do with my other one. At times, it is the timing that is wrong, and I only find out when I try, and make a mistake. Maybe another time I’ll try and be successful.
Like Pudding, I’m going to try and fail many, many more times at doing something that comes naturally to most other people. Mistakes and Motherhood are synonymous, so I’m making every effort to show my kids that I make mistakes too, very often, and they help me to learn. They also help me to laugh at myself for thinking something this complicated could ever be easy, or this easy could be so complicated. I don’t mind having witnesses for that.
So M is for Mistakes, and Motherhood. Both are as natural as riding a bike- it just takes some of us a little more practice than others. I could still use a helmet and knee-pads on some days though.
This post is the letter ‘M’ in my A-Z series. You can read the rest by clicking >>here<<.
“Mummy, look: she’s got happy hands!”
Pudding and I had returned from an appointment, and Cubby was observing his sister. And he was right. Spot on. Pudding was flapping, but her hands were unmistakably happy. She gets flappy when she’s happy. She also gets flappy when she’s frustrated, or anxious, or overwhelmed, or terrified, but those are all different flaps. If you pay very close attention, you can tell the difference. This was a happy one. He knew.
Cubby flaps too. As he gets closer to 3, I’m pretty sure that he flaps like his sister, and he flaps to be like his sister. So essentially I’m just as certain about not understanding as ever I was. There are times when he deliberately imitates his sister: he watches her flapping and joins in. At other times, it is an unconscious reaction. He flaps for the same reasons she does.
I flap too. Less than either of the kids, and so infrequently most people don’t observe it. I flap at extremes of emotion. Which emotions? When I’m especially frustrated, or anxious, or overwhelmed, or terrified, or happy- just like my little ones. I don’t consciously flap: no sooner have I realized I’m flapping than I stop. It is almost like I’m overwhelmed by emotion, and it takes me out of myself for a few seconds, and in that time, my hands have their own plans.
So what are my hands’ plans? I don’t know. Maybe there is in fact a purpose to this automatic and subconscious gesture. This could be my brain’s way of calming me down when faced with an unexpected feeling, in the way that my eye will blink when an unexpected foreign body enters. Pudding and Cubby have a much greater degree of sensory dysfunction, and the world is therefore a much more unpredictable place.
But Cubby’s comment intrigued me, because it is entirely possible to read what she is feeling by the flap of her hands. What if this is also an instinctive communication tool? At those moments when our communication is challenged, the hands take over. I don’t know if this holds true for me- if by observing my hands alone you could tell if my agitation was due to a positive or negative event. I just know what always holds true: that behaviour is communication. Even if all I’m saying is that I need a moment or two before I can speak.
Cubby has the gift of being able to express himself much easier than his sister. But he has another gift: he is attuned to her. He understands how she expresses herself. Just like any other siblings, their relationship isn’t perfect, but there are moments they make my heart flap.
Though there have been times I felt like calling my agent because I didn’t like the way the script was going, I can’t really see myself playing any other role.
Read the post >here< at Hopeful Parents.
It started out as a romance. A pretty cliched love story, actually: boy meets girl, boy sweeps girl off her feet and whisks her off to distant lands. Before they knew it, a baby girl came along and the script had morphed into a screwball comedy. This was hackneyed fish-out-of-water stuff. Adding a baby boy moved the family straight into a farce.
Then there was a twist: a diagnosis- this was special needs parenthood. A showstopper. It couldn’t be a comedy any more, could it? Surely the next scenes had to be gritty. A kitchen sink drama. Moody stuff, filmed only in black and white.
Maybe, for a little while. But what if that was just one scene? What if the story continues in glorious technicolor, with joy and laughter, and plot developments we never saw coming? Perhaps as the camera keeps rolling it can return to comedy, or romance, or even an action adventure.
Last week, we drove an hour away from our home in Johannesburg to a wildlife reserve. We fed a family of elephants. The kids reserved at first, then curious, then brave, then gleeful. Picture a baby elephant raising its trunk, and Pudding reaching out her own arm in wonder, then tentatively stroking. It was a sensory experience like no other. After a few moments of silent greeting, Pudding raced off to place carrots between the “lips”.
My girl who struggles with social interactions with her own species was instinctively communicating with another. Then the elephant- scene-stealer that she was- sneezed on Spectrummy Daddy. You didn’t need canned laughter for that piece of improv!
There are some things you can’t capture on film, but these are the very scenes you will never forget. The diagnosis wasn’t the end of our story; it wasn’t even the beginning. There’ll be more tear-jerking moments, suspense, and side-splittingly funny times. Forget what they say about never working with animals or children: the show must go on!