Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘foreign service

Fan

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Back when we first started planning our trip to England, I wasn’t working.  By the time the trip came around, I was employed, and things were busy.  Not only was I new to the job, but the last couple of months are the busiest time of year, and then because of certain organizational changes, and certain people visiting, things were even busier.  There wasn’t time to think in those last few days, let alone pack, prepare the kids, and prepare the office.  Which means it was perfect timing for things to go horribly wrong.

In the week leading up to our departure, Cubby was ill, followed by myself and Spectrummy Daddy in quick succession.  We all recovered, and were feeling well by Friday, the day of departure.  I hadn’t been in the office for long when the call came from Pudding’s school that she was ill.  I raced out to get her, and out to the doctor.  She was feverish, and looked miserable, which was just how I felt.

Pudding was much more defensive than she usually is with the GP- a sure sign that she was ill.  With much patience and coaxing, the doctor managed to assess her, and promptly diagnosed Tonsilitis and a chest infection.  I must have looked how I felt, because the doctor told me she’d give Pudding some medicine, and she’d be fine to travel.  Really?  Yes, because I was her patient too, and she knows how much I needed to get away.  Pudding could be treated, and would soon be back to full health.

I asked our Regional Medical Officer for a second opinion, and he concurred.  The trip was still on, we just had to get the medication inside her.

That was easier written than done.

Pudding refused all medications, both tablet and syrup forms.  We tried mixing it into drinks, we tried bribing her, she refused.  She was not going to take that medicine!  And I wasn’t, I mean I just wasn’t going to put her through that flight without medication.  I couldn’t.  I didn’t voice it out loud, but I mentally prepared myself for not boarding.  Time ticked on, and we were sent to the gate, still without Pudding taking her medicine.

And then I saw it….a Hello Kitty fan!

Now, Hello Kitty is the tops for Pudding in terms of special interests.  But fans are the most stimtastic things for Pudding.  She learned at just a few weeks old that if she screamed if the fan was turned off, we’d turn it back on for her.  I remember Pudding not engaging in most of the assessments during her evaluation because there was a fan in the room, and she just had to keep telling us about it, and staring at it, and spinning like it.  Fans?  Fans are big.  Hello Kitty fans?  Colossal.  I instructed Spectrummy Daddy to furtively buy one.

And moments before boarding, I showed it to her.  She could have it, but she had to take the medicine.  And this time, no fuss, no fight.  She took it all.  Her temperature started to drop immediately.  And for the first time that long day, she was all smiles.

As we passed through the entrance to board the plane, one of the ground staff asked Pudding if it was her magic wand.  And of course, Pudding corrected her that it was a Hello Kitty fan.  She was right, but it was my magic wand.  And to England we did go by the grace of that Hello Kitty fan.  We ended up losing it a week or so later in some motorway services in the north of England with some other Kitty paraphernalia.

I like to think that some magic rubbed off to whoever was lucky enough to hold it next.  Because in spite of that truly turbulent start, the rest of the flight was smooth…and Pudding recovered quickly, and well, I’ll tell you some of the rest of our magical adventures another time.

 

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Wordless Wednesday 12 Sep 12

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Pudding finds her peace looking out at Lake Windermere. We are forever endebted to those who have given their lives in pursuit of peace. RIP.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Ten Things About Johannesburg

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Johannesburg Skyline

Johannesburg Skyline (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband likens Johannesburg to Angelina Jolie.  She is glamorous, wild, and a tiny bit dangerous.  Oh, and if I had Angelina’s income, I’d also be adopting a bunch of orphans here too.  Life in the ‘World Class African City’ is an experience in extremes.  You might love it or hate it here, but you’ll never be bored.

Ten Best Things

1. The Weather.  I may not ever again live in a more perfect climate.  The summer was hot, but not too humid- such a pleasant escape after a DC tour.  We’re in winter now, but only a couple of days has it dipped below freezing.  Oh, and the sun shines every day, restoring vitamin D levels after a rainy three years in Luxembourg.  What’s not to love about that?

2. Community.  From cups of tea and a chat, to getting together for book club and talking about everything but the book- we have felt incredibly welcome here, quirks and all.  Perhaps because it is my first time at a Consulate rather than an Embassy, or perhaps I’d just had an isolating few years, I’m especially grateful for the warm and inclusive support here that comes straight from the top.

3. Children’s Activities.  I don’t know that there is anywhere in the world that is Johannesburg’s equal when it comes to family-friendly things to do.  Just about anything that interests your child is available here, from cutting-edge art spaces, to polo.  The best part for us was finding a swim instructorwho was experienced with special needs children.

4. Dining Out.  It is very affordable to eat out as compared to a domestic tour, and just about every dietary requirement is catered to here.  But the best thing for us is having decent restaurants which not only welcome children, but often have supervised play areas too.  You could still hang out at McDonalds, but there is no reason to do so here.

5. Language.  Okay, so there are eleven official languages, and the people here rightly take pride in that linguistic heritage.  But the official language is English, and almost everybody you encounter speaks it fluently.  Much as I am a language nerd myself, I wouldn’t much fancy trying to find therapists and schools that can support my kids’ special needs in any language other than English right now.  After almost a year, I even like the accent now- which is just as well because Cubby is picking it up a little more every day.

6. Woolworths.  Woolworths is not the same as the former Woolworths of England or the US, but part of the Marks and Spencer family.  To know Woolworths is to love it.  To know their Chocolate Millionaire Brownies is to develop an addiction that makes your clothes stop fitting.  Everything you’ll ever need in one store, and it is still cheaper than grocery shopping in the US.  It will give us Hot Cross Buns at Easter, and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.  Pudding appreciates it as a regular supplier of Hello Kitty products, from clothes to nut-free advent calenders.

7. Tea and Coffee.  I like my tea, and used to have my parents bring huge quantities to wherever I lived, but no need here.  Five Roses tea is wonderful.  Rooibos tea is a refreshing delight.  I can go out to any cafe or restaurant and the quality is equal to what I would drink at home.  Living in the US I developed a certain fondness for Starbucks, so was dismayed to find that it hasn’t made its way over here yet.  Imagine my delight to find several quality alternatives here, from Mugg & Bean to Vida e Caffe.  And they make babyccinos for the kids.

8. Comforts.  I’ve been known to enjoy the finer things in life, and the same can be said of the good people of South Africa.  For instance, it was a little chilly in Sunday morning, so we popped into a coffee shop where I could sip a Lindt hot chocolate while wrapped snugly in the cosy throw provided on the oversized leather chairs.  Bliss.  Did I also mention that South Africa is wine country?  If you like a glass, trust me, you’ll enjoy it here.

9. Wildlife.  Can you believe we haven’t gone on safari yet?  We want the kids settled, and a tiny bit older to fully appreciate it.  But we have been to game parks and wildlife reserves that have taken our breath away.  It is incredible to see such creatures as giraffes and lions up close.  We actually stayed at a crocodile reserve (though alarmingly, it sold crocodile skin handbags).  One of the highlights of my life so far was feeding a family of elephants, and I know we haven’t even really begun our animal adventures here.

10. Scenery.  You don’t always hear about South Africa being a beautiful country, but that just makes it even more incredible to discover.  The Drakensberg mountains are incredible, and I can’t wait to add trips to Cape Town and Durban.  I don’t think we’ll come even close to exploring everything we want to, but if we do, there is always Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique to check out, all (relatively) close at hand.

Ten Worst Things

1. Crime.  You might know that Johannesburg is considered the most dangerous city in the world before you get here, but living it is an entirely different experience.  That feeling of security I’ve always known is absent here, and for all the precautions you can take, you can’t change the amount of crime that happens.  There are sections of this city that I’ve never been to, nor will I.  Even in the suburbs I don’t feel safe at night.  A woman is raped here every thirty seconds.  There was an armed robbery right where our children play.  I’ve held a woman who had just been told her son was murdered, and not had the words to comfort her.  Crime is by far the worst thing about Johannesburg.

2. Driving.  I have to drive a lot here, so my experience is probably a little different to those who manage to avoid school run during the rush hour.  You have your usual big city lack of courtesy, together with potholes and traffic lights that don’t work.  I also have a lousy car, so I’m just grateful if I get through the day without being towed.  This is not the place to have an unreliable vehicle (see above).

3. Kombi Buses. Perhaps they should just come under the driving header, but I hate kombi buses so much that they get their own special heading.  From constantly honking, to driving on the wrong side of the road, to pulling out without looking: a day driving amongst these vehicles feels like you’re in the middle of war zone.  Needless to say, we’re not actually allowed to ride in them.

4. Growing Pains.  You’ll sometimes hear South Africans refer to their country’s struggles as ‘growing pains.’  Indeed, the post-Apartheid nation is still young, but still an interesting way to describe such deep inequality and corruption.  Sometimes living history comes at a cost.

5. Racism. Apartheid may have ended in 1994, and South Africa probably has the best constitution in the world, but there is still disproportionate challenges facing the black African population here.  When you go to a restaurant in the northern suburbs, you still tend to find that most of the customers are white, and the serving staff are black.  There is a reason why ethnic tensions still exist here.

6. Inequality.  The flip-side to living amongst these luxuries, is knowing that you are surrounded by people who will never know these creature comforts.  I find it hard living in relative wealth when I see the extreme poverty of those living in settlements or more rural parts of the country.

7. Poaching.  Rhino horn poaching is brutal and tragic, and actually increasing here.  Although the horn is made of the same material as fingernails, rhino horns nets a fortune for poachers selling to the Asian market.  Poaching is so endemic that some wildlife reserves are actually removing the rhino’s horns in an effort to protect them from slaughter.  There are few things that make me sadder than the thought of this beautiful animal becoming extinct because of man’s greed.

8. Window washers.  With official unemployment rates at 25%, and unofficial ones even higher, I can understand people looking for ways to make money.  That said, the people who clean my windscreen at the traffic lights have been unreasonably aggressive.  Driving alone with young children, I feel particularly vulnerable to their hostility.

9. Disability.  This is another world of contrasts in South Africa.  There is a young disabled black African girl who frequently sits at the traffic lights close to our home.  Who knows how many years she has been doing this, but she certainly isn’t getting a decent education.  Often you’ll see (presumably) family members leading their disabled companions through traffic to beg.  It is inconceivable that the famous disabled athlete Oscar Pistorius comes from this same country, but with a radically different experience.  Likewise, my autistic daughter’s education is entirely different to if she was born here in rural poverty.

10. Distance.  South Africa is a large country, but this is a HUGE continent.  At times it feels really far from home, and the internet doesn’t always behave as kindly as it could to the homesick.  This country has a wealth of attractions, but it can’t always compete with a 17 hour flight when you’re looking for visitors.

So there you have it.  Johannesburg is like nowhere else, but for us it feels like home.  I’ll probably never feel easy living here, but at least we’re very comfortable.  This post was inspired by a fellow Foreign Service Blogger’s contribution: Fabling.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

June 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Jubilee

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Last week I was talking to another “foreign born spouse” as people like to call us, about how things are different for us.  When we move to a new country, our husbands go to work the next day, and essentially return to America.  They have all the structure, routine, and familiarity immediately in place.  Not so for us, who are immediately trying to find ourselves (again) in a foreign land.  We are the ones getting lost as we drive around trying to find new schools, and so on.

Now, likely all those married into the foreign service are nodding their heads at this point.  But things are different if you’re not US-born.  We get lost in a different way.  When homesickness creeps in, you know that it won’t be long until there is a Thanksgiving, or Independence Day celebration.  You know that when it is time for home leave, you’ll actually go home.

It is over three and a half years since I was in England.  My son has never been to the mother country.  I have nephews and a niece I’ve never even met in person.

The same day we had this conversation, we went into one of those fancy shops that make you forget which continent you’re one because everything is imported.  Lo and behold, there was an entire table of decorations and accessories for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee that had been imported from Blighty.

My husband often laughs at the way I’ve become so much more English since becoming American too.  He was particularly perplexed when I suggested demanded that we host a Jubilee celebration in honour of Her Majesty!

I’m the same person who, when living in England, was so disinterested in all things to do with the monarchy that I don’t even remember The Golden Jubilee taking place.

But then, am I the same person?  It isn’t just about being an expat now.  Since being married, my identity has changed so much.  First I was a wife, then a mother, then American, then a special needs mother.

Soon I’ll be a working mother too, and I’ll proudly serve my American community here, but at times I wonder if I’m losing every part of who I used to be, as I become identified only in relation to somebody else.  I’m Spectrummy Daddy’s wife when I go to the Consulate.  I’m Pudding’s or Cubby’s mum at their schools.  I’d say there are many people here who don’t even know my name, let alone who I am.

Later that evening, I tried to explain things to Spectrummy Daddy.  I turned to Cubby (my kids are also dual nationals) and asked him if her was American or English.

‘Merican.  I’m not English, I’m a ‘merican.

Spectrummy Daddy tried to rememdy things by asking him if he liked soccer, I mean,  football.

I like soccer!

Sigh.  With no further delay, I set to sending out invites, making the decorations, and creating a menu as British as could be for our very own Jubilee celebration.  Pudding only became involved when she saw what amounts of cream and sugar my people use.  But every royal kitchen needs an official taster, right?

The party was a great success, and it sated my inner Brit until we get to go to England in September.  We toasted Her Royal Highness, we read out loud the Duke of Edinburgh’s gaffes, we drank Pimm’s and ate coronation chicken, cucumber sandwiches, scones and trifle.

But all this was for me.

The kids ate, then disappeared.  Cubby was upstairs playing with his  American/Chinese-Australian friends, while Pudding played outdoors holding hands with our American/Australian neighbour.  Our community is nothing if not like a 1980s Benetton commercial.

Proving once again that my kids have figured out lessons I keep having to live through.  It isn’t about where you hail from, or what your passport says, or where you call home.  It is about being true to yourself and enjoying every moment life has to offer you, no matter where you happen to be.

I’m going to start right now- by enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit.  I’m sure Her Majesty would approve.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

June 4, 2012 at 10:44 am

N is also for Nipples

with 11 comments

Breastfeeding symbol

Breastfeeding symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know there was a hugely divisive edition of Time magazine recently?  Oh well of course you did!  You read that article and the aftermath so long ago you’ve forgotten about it by now.  And I’m still here waiting for my edition of Time come through the diplomatic pouch.  We have to wait a little longer to get our mail as we’re in the foreign service.  Whatever your thoughts on attached parenting and breastfeeding, don’t you find it interesting that the whole thing blew up around (US) Mother’s Day?

I have boobs, with nipples attached, and they’ve served me well during my time overseas.  In fact, I breastfed in eight countries, some of them more accepting than others.  That is just another reality of life in the foreign service.  I fondly remember a sweet elderly lady in France tenderly stroking my shoulder in support as I nursed my hungry infant.  Or the midwives in Luxembourg who marveled at Pudding’s ability to eat and eat from the moment she was born.  During one notable incident in Germany- I even got paid for it!

Pudding was a mere two weeks old, and we’d gone to a Christmas Market in Germany with my visiting parents.  Recovering from Pudding’s birth took a long time, and she had the biggest appetite, so when she began screaming in the middle of the market, I abandoned my parents and looked for somewhere to nurse.

I found some steps, sat down and used our American stroller (pushchair) to block the view as best I could (not very well).  As Pudding screams turned into contented suckling, I noticed that the steps I’d chosen to sit on were actually part of a huge Nativity scene.  I was torn between moving so as not to upset anybody’s religious beliefs, and telling myself that Jesus nursed at the breast too.  Plus I figured people would be more disturbed by the fury of Pudding if I were to stop her when she hadn’t had her fill.  I decided to nurse it out.

A few minutes later, I noticed a man coming towards me.  I can’t see my parents anywhere, and I realize how both public and vulnerable I am at this point.  If I’ve upset this man’s sensibilities, I’m a sitting target.  I want to tell him that I’m not actually a lactivist, but a mother trying to do her best, but I don’t speak enough German for that.  He marches determinedly up to me, then puts something in the cupholder of my stroller.  When Pudding finally finishes her meal, I discover a shiny new 2 euro coin!  Obviously in my bedraggled state, without a fancy European stroller accessory, I looked like I was begging!

I was part of a group of international mothers all living overseas at the time, who all found this story hilarious.  Some of us breastfed, others didn’t.  Some of us worked, others didn’t.  It’s all good in the Motherhood.  Rather than judging one another, we offered as much support as we could- all of us sharing the not-so-simple task of raising our children in a foreign country without any family support at hand.

A couple of weeks ago, here in South Africa, I had a breast exam and the doctor described my breasts as ‘lumpy.’  She wasn’t immediately concerned, but she feels that sooner rather than later, I need to have a mammogram, rather than waiting until I’m 40 or 50 or whatever my heath insurance dictates is the optimum time.  I immediately thought of my foreign service friend Jen, who bravely navigated the process of discovering a lump to multiple surgeries, and blogged about the process of dealing with that, children, oh, and her husband on an unaccompanied tour in Iraq.  Amusing anecdotes aside, I don’t have much to say about my boobs.  Jen’s on the other hand, have a very important and relevant story to tell.

This week, Jen and her nipples have been dismissed from the State Department’s foreign service blog roll.  When she asked why she had been deleted, she was specifically referred to a post about her nipples which was deemed ‘too personal’ to be seen by other members of the foreign service or potential candidates.  Not only does her family have to go through one of the most traumatic experiences, deal with how that affects her husband’s career (and by extension their entire life), but then to be told that is the reason she isn’t a relevant part of the foreign service community is entirely too much.

It came as no surprise to me to find that my blog was never added to the list.  This kind of exclusion comes in stark contrast to the supportive and welcoming foreign service community that is my extended family while overseas.  One that I’m proud to begin representing soon as Community Liaison Office Co-Ordinator.  I’d like to know exactly why our family isn’t considered a relevant part of the foreign service experience.

Being the parent of a special needs child certainly changes your experience of the foreign service.  And being part of the foreign service changes your experience of special needs parenting.  I’d say, like Jen’s nipples, this is something we should be talking about.  Indeed, considered a vital resource for anybody else who finds their life- foreign service or otherwise- is turning out differently than expected.  Sooner or later, life will get too personal, and if that happens to be because of cancer or autism, you might just want to read about someone who has been through it too.  I believe our stories show that even when your world gets rocked, it keeps on spinning.  A lot of spinning, in our case.

I don’t mind being excluded because I chose to write about my money-makers, they aren’t important like my friend’s.  Just note that we usually call them galou-galous around here.  Please don’t exclude any of us for talking about things that are important, and essential, but not always pleasant.  And please don’t try to paint a picture of a homogenic community, because that is a far more distasteful than nipples as an image for the foreign service of today.

Now I’ll return to waiting to collect the diplomatic pouch with my Time magazine.  It asks ‘Are You Mom Enough’ and I would reply- absolutely, I just might not be Foreign Service enough to blog.

This post is sort of part of my A-Z series, but not really because people have gone a little crazy over breasts and as well as all my other hats I wear, I’m a female blogger and it makes me mad.  Perhaps instead I’ll file it under Foreign Service Life instead.  And then begin to fear what google searches will come my way now…

Here are some other very relevant foreign service bloggers talking about what has been descibed as “Nips for Dips”:

Nipped in the blog

Nipplegate 2012

Nipples, Nipples, Everywhere

Nippletastic

What makes a Blog an FS Blog?

Don’t tell us who is relevant to us

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 17, 2012 at 10:14 am

Safe House

with 3 comments

Once Pudding’s birthday is over and done with, I give December over to Christmas.  We pulled out our not-so-authentic tree and boxes of ornaments, and realized that we must have inadvertently sent a box of decorations to storage.  We can’t find our stocking holders here, and probably some other things that I haven’t yet noticed.  We waited until Cubby went down for a nap, then got to work, knowing that otherwise we’d have two sets of hands thwarting our efforts.

Pudding adored getting into the boxes.  She delighted in unwrapping our ornaments, recognizing them from Christmases gone by.  It always make me wonder just how far back she can remember.  For those of us who aren’t blessed with such a sturdy memory these days, I could look on the bottom of my ornaments to see where on our travels I’d collected each one.  I didn’t need to write on my Red Sox ornament to remind me of my day Defying Gravity in Boston.  The following day, we headed out to the craft market so that South Africa would be represented on our tree of travels.

And of course, there is our other collection.  A steady record of our kids’ special interests through the years.  Pudding loves these.  It reminds me I need to find a Hello Kitty ornament to out on our tree this year.

Having a tree up is a challenge.  There has already been casualties, including the beheading of Santa on my favourite ornament bought one snowy December in Germany.  The kids can’t help but touch, and it takes all the patience we can muster not to chastise them for something that can’t be helped.  Unless, of course, we were to skip the ritual for a year.

I find that as I get further away from my traditional expectations of Christmas, I cling harder to the rituals that we are able to keep in place.  It is summer here in

Shortly before he was beheaded

South Africa, and it feels very different from every Christmas I’ve ever known.  I feel very far from home.  It is tempting to skip, to ignore the time of year when it just feels so wrong.

But that is the thing about rituals- they’re the thing that make us feel safe.  We need them.  This won’t be our home until we’ve spent a Christmas here.  I’ll be homesick until here feels like home.  It may not be the kind of Christmas I’d choose, but this is the Christmas we have, and we’ll make it our own.

Earlier today I was going through old paperwork, and I found some language tests the Pudding’s teacher had carried out over the previous year.  One test was the question: Who keeps you safe?  Pudding had answered incorrectly all three times she’d been tested, including the last time, in May shortly before we left, when she’d answered “home.”

A telling mistake, she’d confused “who” with “what” or perhaps “where.”  But even though she was incorrect, I know how right she is.  I can’t help but be glad that she associates safe with home.  And every ritual, every memory we carve from this house, from any house, will add to that feeling of security.  So we’ll have our first Christmas here, and I might have to sacrifice some of my ornaments in the process, but we’ll make new memories in the process.  Safely at home, where Christmas is supposed to be.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Community

with 11 comments

Community. It is a word I’ve used a lot in the last two years. I’ve written about the autism community. In spite of the divides and differences, it is a place I’ve considered my virtual home for the last year. But apart from an all too brief day in May to meet my friend Alysia, my community has been distinctly virtual. I’ve felt the loneliness of being the only family like ours, and loneliness might just be the opposite of community.

Loneliness is what compelled me to write my first blog post. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, it was that I struggled to communicate my experiences. Spectrummy apples don’t fall far from spectrummy trees. Many of my friends did read, and began to understand our version of autism. They became part of my community too, just as the other parents of children on the spectrum, and adults with autism who read and commented, and shared their stories were my community.

I didn’t feel lonely any more.

And then we moved. Not just a little move, but to another continent, far away from my community. I wasn’t just cut off from my friends and family, everyone I’d ever known, but no Internet connection meant I was absent from my virtual family too.

But not without community.

In the State Department, each officer and their family are assigned a sponsor to meet them at the airport, buy some essential groceries, and answer questions about life in the new post. Our sponsor also had a foreign-born spouse, and two children aged 2 and 4. They were kind enough to take us along with them to some of their favourite places. They also threw a party to welcome us to the rest of the consulate community on our first weekend.

We were welcomed. Several times I felt compelled to explain or apologize for Pudding’s behavior- after all, strangers and the intense social experience of a party was overwhelming, particularly for a child with Asperger’s who had just moved to a new country. But every time, I was told there was no need. We were all accepted there. And just like any community, the consulate is full of different kinds of people, our own particular brand of diversity just as acceptable as any other kind.

A few days after the party we went out to an elaborately family-friendly garden centre with some of the other consulate families. After spending the morning at a huge playground, we went for lunch at a restaurant where Pudding made her own pizza. The sensory experience was just what my little seeker was craving, and she was in heaven pressing out the dough, rolling it out, smearing the sauce, and sprinkling on the other ingredients.

Then the chef took it away to cook, and the trouble began. Pudding had been enjoying herself, and saw no reason why her creation was taken away. We carried her back to our table kicking and screaming. I held her thrashing body as Spectrummy Daddy helped ease her into the comfort of her weighted vest.

I began to explain to her that she would have the pizza to eat soon, but as always during a meltdown, I was unclear as to how much she heard, or understood. As I gestured over to the brick oven where we could see her pizza, I noticed a table of three women with a baby and toddler. Staring. Talking to each other and staring at us. We were the car crash from which they couldn’t avert their eyes.

I hate those eyes and the challenge they represent for Pudding, and for my parenting skills. I don’t discipline during a meltdown, and I know that is what is expected by those who don’t understand. Sometimes I’m understanding of their lack of understanding. After all, I was once blissfully ignorant too. But sometimes I don’t have that composure, and in the company of my new community, we were in the midst of our greatest challenge.

As Spectrummy Daddy explained to our new friends about a meltdown, and why Pudding needed to wear her weighted vest, I glared back at the table of witnesses. Though they quickly averted their eyes, they whispered to one another, and looked back. In anger I mentioned my frustration about the stares to the rest of the table.

One of the other mothers gently touched me on the arm, and told me to turn around to face the rest of the group. “You’re with us now, we don’t care what they think.”

Community. Instant and accepting community. I smiled, and did exactly as she suggested. Pudding calmed down a few minutes later, just in time to devour her creation. By the time I turned around again, the table was empty, no more eyes upon us. We went on to enjoy the kiddie rides. Though there were some emotional moments, I no longer felt tense about anybody’s judgement.

I’ve mused since then about how different it would be for families like us if we had a sponsor from the beginning. One who met us at diagnosis when we were so overwhelmed and disoriented that we we felt jet-lagged. Someone to pick up the therapeutic supports we needed and helped us to shop for services. Then held our hands for those first few days, weeks, and months as we navigated a whole new landscape. How different things would be.

We’re in this together. We may be diverse and divided as a community, but you need never feel lonely again. You’re with us now.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 14, 2011 at 8:43 am