Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Archive for the ‘A to Z’ Category

M is for Mistakes

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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<<.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm

L is for Love

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I told you she loved me- I just had to wait!

I know a lot of parents worry that an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis might mean their child will never know love.  All those challenges our children experience seem to thwart love and romance.  The communication challenges, both spoken and non-verbal.  The sensory challenge of being caressed.  Gazing adoringly into a loved one’s eyes.  They are barriers, for sure.

But I know my kid, and I know how she likes to hurdle her barriers, in her own way, at her own pace.

And I know love.  Love likes nothing more than overcoming the seemingly insurmountable.  Just ask the quirky English woman who met the odd American mere weeks before he left the country.  We had our problems of distance and communication challenges.  Rather than breaking us, it helped us to learn a different way of communicating, of being open and honest and prioritizing each other no matter how far apart we had to be.  Whatever directed us together, be it fate or pheromones, Love knew we’d find those lessons useful.

I don’t doubt Pudding loves me.  I know it though I’ve only had one spontaneous kiss on my cheek in five years.  I know it though she has voiced those words only a handful of times.  I know it when she makes me a Valentine’s Day Card, but I’m not allowed to touch it.  I know it when she’d can’t stand to be touched, and when being held isn’t close enough for her.  I feel her love.  I know her love.  Just like I knew the moment I saw her that no distance could ever break that bond.

When she was diagnosed, I learned that there would be challenges, but love won’t be an obstacle for her.  It will find her, if she wants it to.  All it will take is for somebody to see the magic of my girl, and if they are the luckiest human on the planet, she’ll see the magic in them too.  Love won’t weaken in the face of those challenges, it will teach her lessons she can’t learn any other way.  Just like it did for her parents.  I’m sure of it.

You know how I’m so sure?

When she showed me the Valentine’s Card that I may not touch, we were at her school, and her crush walked by.  I mentioned that she could have made a card for him.  Before Pudding even responded, Jimmy* spun around and agreed with me!

Somebody already sees the magic in Pudding, though he is going to have to wait a couple of decades to get past her daddy.  She’ll have plenty to learn about love during that time.  Like whether the barrier is Asperger’s or the Atlantic, she can overcome anything that comes her way, and Love will be with her always.

This is the long overdue L installment of my A-Z series.  If you think I’m a little hypocritical for writing a love post on Valentine’s Day, just remember that my only constancy is how fickle I am, but I really do love you every day of the year!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm

K is for Kindred

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My last post, in this series- J for Jealousy– was both easy and difficult to write.  Easy in the sense that I sat at a keyboard for twenty minutes and typed until I got it all out of my system, but hard in the way that I worried about how it might be interpreted…especially by my family and friends.  My kin.  The people in my life who aren’t dealing with autism, did they read that post and think I’m resentful of them?  I don’t know, nobody said anything to me.  We haven’t built that bridge yet.

That post was one of the most commented on, read, and shared posts I’ve written in a while.  I’ve noticed a trend: when I just share what I’m feeling without worrying about how I make others feel, especially when it is ugly and brutal, I feel supported and protected by you.  It is taking off the mask of normality, and being loved for the scarred and savage being that hides beneath.

When I became a special needs parent, I felt myself disengage from friends and family.  And I felt some of them distance themselves from me too.  I had no idea how to put my overwhelming, and often conflicting feelings in words.  How could I communicate, when I suddenly spoke a different language?  The more I kept quiet, the more isolated I felt.  Lost at sea, with no idea how to get back home.  While everyone else continued living as before, I was shipwrecked to a distant island.  Strangely, I never felt more alone than at the times I put my mask on, forced myself to be social, and visited the mainland.

It took a while before I realized that I wasn’t alone on my new shores.  There were other islanders, many of whom had been there for some time, and had developed survival skills.  There were even other islands, often with much more savage terrain than my own to deal with.  Most of all, there were people just like me.  It wasn’t so lonely any more, I had a new kindred.  In fact, it was impossible to be lonely, because more and more people are washed up on our shores every day, and they need us to show them they are not alone, will never be on their own.

Still, sometimes I get jealous of the mainlanders.  Sometimes I feel resentful that living on my island requires a lot of effort.  Sometimes I need to hear a, “me too” or a, “I know how you feel.”  The language of my people.

After some time on the island, I feel like a native.  Like I’ve always been here, like I belong here, amongst other kindred spirits.  My island has a rugged beauty that I love.  The citizens here holding each other so that were one of us to go adrift again, we could be pulled back home.

I found that once I accepted that I’m not a mainlander anymore, I could find a way to build bridges back there.  I can spend more time there now, as an expat, knowing that because I’ve changed so has the way I look at the place I once dwelled.  Many of my mainlander friends and family have found a way to reach out across the sea, or we meet on our bridge in the middle.  Though I’m foreign to them now, I’m still kin.  Some of them have told me about their own shipwrecks, different to mine, that left them floundering in their own abyss.  They let me know that I don’t need to wear that mask with them.  Most of the time I feel comfortable visiting the mainland,  but only because I know that when I don’t, I can come home to my kindred, and we can speak the language that unites us.

This post was written as part of my A-Z series.  You can read the rest by clicking >here<.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 5, 2012 at 8:52 am

J is for Jealousy

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I’ve mentioned before that for all the ways they can be different, my kids have an interestingly typical relationship.  They occasionally play together, in their own way.  They certainly seek each other out.  There are fights.  There is blaming each other for things they’ve done wrong.  There is teaming up as co-conspirators to wreak havoc.  There is a surprising amount of what you might call “normal” sibling behaviour.  And amongst all that, is jealousy.

Both of my kids like a lot of attention, and each becomes jealous of the other, particularly if I’m the only one around.  It is hard to handle, this push and pull, particularly when their needs can make it hard to be around each other.  Often I feel that if I’m not letting one down, I’m letting them both down.

And that push and pull goes a good way to describing my own jealousy.  I don’t feel jealous very often.  I like my life and the choices that I’ve made.  But I’m only human.  Once in a while, a feeling of jealousy will overwhelm me.  Like when I took the kids to the park.

Our local playground is renovating, so we went to the park near where Cubby plays football (soccer) which has a playground next to a cafe/restaurant.  A couple of times, we girls have gone there while the boys were at their game.  Pudding loves flitting between the playground and my table.  I’m free to relax over a pot of tea while keeping an eye on her play.  We both have a good time.

With Cubby there too, sitting at the restaurant is out of the question.  The push and pull takes me from one direction to another.  There is no relaxing and observing with the two of them.  I sit on a bench, knowing it won’t be for long, but I’m feeling unwell and could use the break.  Pudding pushes off, wanting to explore and take her dolly for a walk.  Cubby pulls in to me.  When we first arrive he is overwhelmed at first by the other children running around and making noise.  I gently encourage him to adjust to his new surroundings, and away from the safety of my proximity.

Pudding wanders too far.  I want to pull her back into a closer orbit.  I push Cubby to follow me closer to Pudding, but he isn’t ready yet, and refuses to move.  I watch her closely.  We’re not far, but she keeps going in the wrong direction.  She hasn’t turned back yet, and I wonder if she remembers where we are.  I call to her, but she doesn’t hear, or doesn’t respond.  The other kids playing, the other adults sitting and chatting make too much noise.

She turns around in a circle, but she still doesn’t see me.  I wave my arms like an air traffic controller, but it is too bright, and there are too many others running around her field of vision.  Now she is scared, and I hear her calling me.  Her face is a picture of anxiety.  I pick up the protesting Cubby and run to her relief.  All is well again.  I abandon the bench, and draw both of them back to the playground, warning Pudding that she needs to keep looking for me.  She doesn’t stray again.

I want to rest.  I feel the first sting of jealousy as I look over at them.  Tables of mothers with their friends.  Worse, with their own mothers.  At that moment, I want nothing more in the world than to be sitting over tea with my mum.  I force myself to concentrate on the kids instead, so the emotion doesn’t take over.  Another child takes Pudding’s doll stroller without asking, and she lets her.  She just stands there, until I ask if she wants it back.  She does, and I coach her through asking the girl to return it.  And when the little brat refuses, I intervene myself, because her own parent who should be watching is at one of these tables, doing something other than paying attention to her child’s behaviour.

And the jealousy is throbbing now, because there is never a moment when I’m not paying attention to my kid’s behaviour.  This luxury of being able to ignore, to content yourself that your child will be fine is something all these mothers take for granted.  I can’t even sit on a bench when I feel sick.  I can’t even visit a doctor unless they’re in school.  I live on a different continent to all my relatives, and right at this moment I’m bitterly jealous of the carefree families relaxing in the sunshine.

I take the stroller and call Pudding and Cubby to join me on a climbing frame in the shape of a rocket.  My mood calms down as we play.  Cubby is driving us to the mall.  Pudding has her doll on her lap for the journey.  I’m pretending we can see planets and spaceships on our journey.  We have a few minutes of uninterrupted contentment.  Then we are disturbed.

A boy, probably eight or nine years old comes over to the rocket.  I get down so there is plenty of room for him to play as well, but hang close by.  He climbs up on top, over the area where my two are sitting.  Cubby moves away from the driver’s seat, and Pudding uses the space to lie down- she and Kelly doll are taking a nap.  A smile at the unexpected gift of pretend play.

The first time he does it, I think it was an accident.  He was trying to get down, and accidentally stood on her head as he looked for somewhere to place his feet.  That must have been it.  Even though there was plenty of other space around, he didn’t look before he started to climb down.  That had to be it.  She doesn’t react, though it must have hurt.  I look up at the boy, and he is looking down at Pudding.  But he isn’t climbing down.  And he raises his foot again, and stomps down harder on Pudding’s head.

This time I’m sure it is deliberate.  I’m too shocked to speak, and it is Cubby’s voice I hear telling me that the boy is kicking his sister.  He lifts his leg again, and before I know it, I’ve pulled myself up on the climbing frame, and we are face to face.  He freezes.  I don’t say anything, but the look on my face is enough.  He backs away and scampers off the rocket.  I go over to Pudding, still lying there, not even able to put her arms protectively around her head, but she is okay.

I’m not.  I’m not interested in the boy, but I’m poisoned with rage and I need to find this child’s parents.  He has already run out of sight.  I cast my eye over every table, but not one person is looking, or following in his direction.  Pudding wants to go home, so we do.

But even once we’re home, I can feel that jealousy like venom spreading through my body.  Because if my child attacks another, whether provoked or not, or under sensory assault, or just because they are plain mean; we have to answer it with more therapy.  With more hours spent helping our children learn to respond to the world in a socially appropriate way.  We don’t get to ignore it, and we don’t get to sit over a latte oblivious to the damage being done.  We can’t absolve ourselves of responsibility even for a moment.

There is an antidote, of course.  Those other parents don’t know what they’re missing out on, and they really are missing out on so much.  You can’t fully appreciate what you have when you’re not paying attention.  And not every parent of typically developing children is inattentive, not by a long shot.  But some are, and at times I’m just plain jealous of them, when perhaps it should be the other way round.

This post is part of my A-Z series.  You can find the previous ones by clicking >here<.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I is for Infatuation

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This morning it started at 4.07 am.  Pudding was awake, and, as usual, had been in our bed for most of the night.  Already buzzing with excitement, she couldn’t hold it in any longer.

“What’s the boy’s name?”

It isn’t yet 6 in the morning here, and already she has asked me 54 times what his name is.  This has been going on for weeks.  Pudding has a crush, an infatuation, a special interest in a boy at school, and boy do we know about him.  This boy is twice her age, and also on the autism spectrum.  He attends her school, but is not in the same class.  His name is Jimmy*, and Pudding knows this well, but it doesn’t stop her asking.

“Mummy!  What’s the boy’s name?”

I am tired.  And cranky.  I don’t feel like playing this game, but the rules are that she won’t stop until I answer appropriately.  I tell her his name, and that leaves her satisfied, for now.  It doesn’t last long.

Pudding gets a little obsessive-compulsive with regards to her infatuation.  I was initially hopeful that he might be oblivious to Pudding’s interest, but no such luck.  He knows.  Fortunately Pudding knows no embarrassment.  Or does she?

When she sees Jimmy, she covers her hands with her eyes.  In fact, just at the mention of his name, she covers her face.  Even though she was the one to raise the subject by asking his name.  Again, I don’t make the rules.

Jimmy is a nice enough kid, and he is very verbal.  I’ve spoken to him a few times, and I’ve had worse crushes, I can tell you.  I initially had some hope that she would be interested enough in him to facilitate a conversation, but no such luck.  When he tries to speak to her, she goes back to covering her eyes and repeating no.

All she really wants to do is ask his name.  I’ve tried (oh, I’ve tried!) to expand the conversation to other things about Jimmy, but this isn’t what she wants.  I’ve tried to joke around with hey by changing up the boy’s name, and she REALLY doesn’t want to do that!  Of course, Cubby thinks the boy’s name should be Cubby.  Pudding passionately, sometimes violently disagrees with this.  She doesn’t have the self-control to limit the time asking her question yet.  Our only hope is to submit, or to steer her interest to something else, and hope that she’ll grow out of it.  Like any crush.

This infatuation does have some uses though.  Pudding’s OT tells me that when he is in the gross motor room, she suddenly begins to perform to her audience.  With a developmental coordination disorder, and motor-planning challenges, gross motor is Pudding’s idea of hell.  If she struggles to do something, she has no interest in trying.  So it is nice to have an interest there to encourage her.

The teachers think Jimmy quite likes the attention, and what Aspie pre-teen couldn’t use an ego boost?  For right now, there is no harm, I just hope we can encourage her to actually speak to boys she likes.  Of course, when she is forty, and her Daddy has come to terms with his little girl having romantic feelings.

Jimmy does have another use too.  One day at school another boy tried to take Pudding’s strawberries from her lunch box.  He swooped in and rescued our damsel in distress.  Of course, Pudding isn’t the kind of girl who needs saving, but who doesn’t like somebody else to do their bidding?

Speaking of doing her bidding, she just asked me a question.

Jimmy, honey.  The boy’s name is Jimmy.**

*No, it isn’t.

**It still isn’t, but if I don’t use my own kids’ real names I shouldn’t use another child’s, right?

This is the letter I in my series of posts from A-Z.  You can find the others >here<.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 1, 2011 at 6:23 am

H is for Hope

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Lord save us all from a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.”

– Mark Twain

I was torn between writing about Hope and Hyperactivity for my H post, but hope won.  Hope always wins.  It beats despair and despondency.  It makes us rethink yesterday, enjoy today, and look forward to tomorrow.

I wasn’t always a hopeful person though.  In fact, the fast majority of my life I was a pessimist.  I don’t know if this is unusual, but I became optimistic and hopeful as a person only after the diagnosis.  A defining moment in my own experience as an autism mother was the day I felt hope return, and once it did, I held on tight and decided I wouldn’t let it go again.  If this was to be our journey, hope was going to be our fuel.

Yet you can’t make hope.  You can’t will yourself to feel hopeful.  At the times you most need it, it is the most elusive.  So what do you do then?

You find a hope tree that is in blossom.  If you’re in the depths of winter, find someone in spring.  It may be your partner, or a relative, or a stranger from the interwebs radiating joy in today and belief in tomorrow.  It may be a young child who doesn’t even know what hope is, but who lives as an eternal spring, with all the bounce included.  Find it, and feast your eyes, inhale the scent, feel the sturdiness of the trunk.

It isn’t a hope based on goals and milestones.  I don’t look ahead to a “cure” or “recovery”- if I did, I think I’d still feel the chill of winter, with my hope always out of reach.  But I can’t live so close to my own hope tree without smelling the fragrance of the blossom, and feeling the sun beating down on us.

Hope really is like blossom, it buds and it flourishes.  No sooner are you enjoying another’s bloom, than you feel it germinating yourself.  Then all you need to do is put out your blossoms for everybody else to see.  I’d love to picture our own forest in bloom.  Every one of us experiencing the magical new beginning of the season.

That is what Hope does for me.  It chases away the drab, and lets me see life in glorious technicolour, like the incredible blossoms of the Jacaranda trees here in South Africa.  Almost dazzling in their brightness, yet real enough to touch.

But if you really don’t feel it growing inside of you, try this quote instead.  You may find that you’re already halfway there.

“Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters. Awful proceeds from the same root word as awesome. Terrify and terrific. Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation.”

– Alan Cohen

This post is part of my A-Z series.  You can read the rest here.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm

G is for Google +

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lowercase "g"

Image via Wikipedia

Okay, I have to admit that I’m somewhat cheating on my G post.  Firstly, the only G I could come up with relevant to autism was Gross motor, and other than to say that Pudding hasn’t made much progress with her gross motor skills in some time, I don’t have much to say about that.  Instead, I thought I’d take another look at the way Google ensnares unsuspecting visitors in my part of the web.  If you’ve ever typed in an innocent web search and ended up here, this is why…

caregiving and lifting someone and hurt back Ouch, me too, though is is back to normal apart from a few random clicks and cracks.  Take care of your backbone, people!
kid drinks coffee and acts autistic Well, where to start on this one?  I’d be offended, but I’m too busy giving my children triple espressos.  Oh wait, were you a witness on this day?  Yeah, you might have a point in my case.
i’m living in a constant deja vu Me too.  Wait, didn’t I wrote this before?  Déjà vu of déjà vu- I must be having flashbacks.
how to go to the bathroom in africa Okay, you are my favourite so far!  I don’t venture to speak for the rest of the continent that is currently my home, but I will tell you how I go to the bathroom in Africa: WITHOUT PRIVACY!  In fact, if you happened to be in one of the bathrooms at the mall yesterday, Pudding kindly demonstrated how I go to the bathroom by opening the door too early.  Wait- did you know they have malls here as well as bathrooms?  Did that blow your mind?


surrealist pudding Well done Google, you brought this dude to the right place.  If they weren’t looking for us though, I’m curious…
bichon+frise+bit+me Yes, me too earlier this year.  Cubby swore it was a sheep though.
feeling stressed and anxious being mummy Oh yes, you’ll find that here.  In good news though, you’re just guilt away from being a good enough mother.
what kind of goat cheese would i find at grocery store Oh, so many foodies were inadvertently lured here with the promise of goat’s cheese.
kombi death trap Right?! Actually, I’m finding it a little meta that my G post is referring to me C post.  I feel like Keanu in The Matrix, only I know they didn’t have kombis in the matrix.

paper cut healed but still stings Oh, they do, don’t they?  Now you see why I can’t write about gross motor skills.  Cubby surpassed his big sister several months ago.  It stings, like paper cuts always do.
what is an anticipated problem for a pumpkin patch field trip What kind of super-prepared Scout Leader are you that you’re preparing for problems in the future?  I’m in awe!  Oh wait, I prepared that time we went to the eye doctor.  Still, googling potential pitfalls?  You take it to a whole new level.  I’m impressed!


mummy being prepared Don’t look at me, try to find the person above.


american girl Oh yes, you’ll find one right here.  But you know that she is half-English, was born in Luxembourg and lives in South Africa, don’t you?  Oh, and if you find that complicated, you might not want to read on.

santa mummy Uh-uh, *shakes head*, no way- if Spectrummy Daddy can’t pull it off, I’m not even going to try!
personal space invaders children’s song Is there a song?  That would be awesome?  If not, these Space Invaders might come up with one.


>Here< is the original post I wrote about being googled.  This post is part of my A-Z series, and you can find the rest of those >here<.  Now I have to think about H….H is for help!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 14, 2011 at 7:20 am

Posted in A to Z

Tagged with , , , , ,