Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Service Life

Here and There

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Tuesday was a really hard day.  We haven’t had a break in a while, and I was itching to escape.  I booked a night away at the weekend, but it has been a relentless run of a couple of months without stopping, and one night away seems like too little, too late.

After another draining day at work, I collected the kids from school, and got ready to head back out- Tuesday evening was the back-to-school open evening for parents at Pudding’s school.  No time for dinner.

To say I didn’t feel like going out there would be understatement.  The school is a 45 minute drive at the best of times, and after dark in Johannesburg?  Not so much the best of times.  I try my best to avoid ever driving alone at night.  But Spectrummy Daddy was staying with the kids, and I felt like I couldn’t not go.

Traffic was even worse than usual.  I left at 5:10 to be there in plenty of time for a 6:30 start, but I soon realized it wasn’t going to be enough.  All in all, seven (7!) traffic lights were out on the busy route, and not one of them policed.  I turned on the radio only to hear that the alternative route by motorway was in the same condition.  As day turned to night, and gridlocked in traffic, I felt a growing sense of unease.  My frustrations darkened my mood further, and I let myself go…there.

There is where I imagine an easier life.  Where we live close to family and friends, and I can count on them to give us a break when we need one.  There is my kids going to a local school and growing up with the same community.  There is building a life for us, and living it- not having to do the same thing over, and over, in far away lands.  There is easy.  Here is hard.

My legs were cramping from riding the clutch for so long that I almost missed driving an automatic.  I did my best to avert my curious gaze from the casual prostitution happening at a particular traffic light where I idled for too long.  I wanted to call my husband and tell him I was done with here, with this whole Foreign Service life, but I know better than to use a Smartphone here while driving alone in the dark.

Finally, finally, at just after 7 pm, I arrived at the school.

The Director saw me first, and gave me a friendly greeting on first name terms.  Next I saw the mother of a child who was in Pudding’s class last year.  We hugged, and I started to feel better.  Next I got to check out her new classroom, where she’d left me a note asking to check out her “portit.”

I left her a note in return, then got to check out her new classroom, taking note of the many accommodations. As Ms. A, her new teacher had previously let me know- these supports are actually beneficial for all kids, and having them available to all ensured that Pudding isn’t singled out.  I felt all my tensions slip away.  My girl, she is right where she needs to be.

Next I got to meet Pudding’s art, music, and PE teachers.  I had to smile as the new teachers shifted from polite interest to excitement as they found out I was Pudding’s mother.  That kid really is a rock star, and I loved hearing all the anecdotes: such as Pudding turning on the music in class- the music teacher convinced it only happens when she talks for too long!  Yes, that absolutely sounds like her.

Though it was getting late after a long day, I couldn’t resist popping in to see Pudding’s kindergarten teacher, who was in the middle of reassuring a new parent that her child (who had some differences of their own, but not like Pudding’s) was in the right place.

I couldn’t agree more.

The drive home was just about the complete opposite- I practically flew.  What was I even thinking on the ride out there?  Of course this isn’t easy, but she is where she belongs, and when we move again, we’ll start up a whole new village.

Here or there, it doesn’t matter.  We are always right where we need to be.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 30, 2013 at 11:05 am

A Life Less Ordinary

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I haven’t blogged much lately.  Ordinarily I don’t have much time: I’m a working mother raising two extra-ordinary children overseas.  But then the last few weeks have been far from ordinary.  In case you missed my last Wordless Wednesday, we had a visit from President Obama.

Leading up to that weekend, our regular life was put on hold, and working late and weekends became the norm.  We’d flown in the grandparents to take care of the kids, but even that is a change of routine.  All the things that typically punctuate our everyday lives were temporarily suspended.

The kids handled most of the disruption well.  Indeed, I’m always surprised when Pudding gets described as inflexible.  She handled the disruptions to her routines far better than her brother did.  I dare say far better than most 6 year-olds would. 

When my event was over and I gratefully shook President Obama’s hand, I was the one who wanted things to get back to normal.  I craved just spending time with Pudding and Cubby.

 When I asked Pudding what she wanted to do, she told me she wanted to go away on holiday.  Lately she and her brother have become interested in maps of the world: Botswana has become a favourite, for reasons they haven’t shared with me.

Cubby also wanted to do something different: to go to the movies.  We hadn’t done that since living in the US, where sensory accommodations meant it wasn’t just comfortable for us, but a place where we belonged.  Without sensory-friendly showings, I wasn’t sure we could get through a whole film.

We went to see Monsters University, and deliberately picked a 2D showing as early as possible on a Sunday morning, and as it turned out only one other family had the same idea.  I loaded my bag with the ear-protectors, snacks, drinks, and a Nintendo DS.  If you were watching me pack, you’d swear we were going a lot further than to the local mall.  

Once inside, I’d asked the kids to behave like they were on a plane.  It occurred to me that our children have flown many, many more times than they’ve been to the movies.  Somehow, our routines are the extraordinary.  We move every 2-3 years to a new home, school, country, even continent- and we take that in our stride.  Yet somehow every day activities are challenging to us.

Pudding was not at all interested in the movie, but she mostly sat, and was mostly quiet.  This particular movie was very loud, but she soon discarded her ear protectors, as did sound-sensitive Cubby.

We made it through the whole film.  Cubby loved it, and Pudding even watched parts of it in between playing her Hello Kitty game.  Spectrummy Daddy and I felt that we had earned a celebratory coffee at a nearby place that had just opened and we hadn’t tried before.

This is where Pudding baulked.  All her reserves were used up, her tolerance at minimum.  She wasn’t going anywhere near the café kiosk.  Believing the discomfort to stem from the noise of the machines, I offered her back the ear protectors, but she threw them in disdain, and the meltdown became very public.  Was this an autistic child being inflexible?  Or was she communicating to us that she has had enough?!

Spectrummy Daddy led her away to soothe her, while Cubby and I placed our orders to go.  Pudding returned and told me she didn’t want to go home- caught between enjoying the change of routine and not being able to handle it.  She really is my girl…

Thrilled by the excitement of a Presidential visit, I’m much happier to have it over and done with. Unable to go to a new coffee shop, she is perfectly happy to go on vacation to an entirely new place.

Maybe our routines are about living the extra-ordinary life, and we have to find our own ways to get comfortable with them.  Once again, I can’t help but notice that we are a lot more alike than we are different.  One adventure over, we are ready for the next.

 

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 8, 2013 at 10:10 am