Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Residential Day 1

The news so far from the residential is that Bobby's canoe didn't capsize.
So that's good.

The other kids were ambling up to school with petite overnight wheely cases as I dragged Bobby's 'compact' suitcase, which felt as if four elephants had managed to stowaway inside it, to the back door. I then took his poor teaching assistant through all the Bobby 'extras'. I don't think the tour manager for Madonna's Rebel Heart show had much more information to contend with.

If I were a normal parent, I'd be thinking that all this 'extra' represented spoilt behaviour. To Bobby, this change is massive and anxiety-provoking. Let's not make it any harder than it is. Even if it does mean having his own tour bus.

I didn't hear from Bobby early that evening, as he spoke to his dad on the phone whilst I was taking advantage of some quality time with Alec to take the train to Chester and back.

Still, I texted Gavin from the train after his brief (very male) text that said:
'Bobby's called. He's fine.'

Not enough information.'He may call you later,' texted Gav. 'Or he may not. I think they're only allowed one call. Like prison.'

This wasn't helping.

I was just watching Tony Hadley surviving his first conflict in the I'm A Celeb jungle when the phone went - it was Bobby's teacher. Apparently he was a little homesick.

'I had a good daa-a-a-a-a-a-a-ay' he wailed. 'But now I'm a bit...sniffle...sob....'

Okay so he's a bit homesick at night when finally faced with a bedtime routine that doesn't feature yours truly. Unsurprising. The fact that being outdoors in a boat hadn't fazed him was actually pretty amazing. His teachers reassured me that he was doing ok. I didn't feel nervous. I know he's in good hands and that they'll call me if he gets distressed. I trust those people and that's the main thing. On a scale of one to major meltdown, he sounded like he was having a minor hiccup. One that I wouldn't blame any 11 year old from having when away from home for the first time.

Let's hope he's busy building lots of memories that he'll look back on with pride.

Meanwhile, Alec is LOVING IT without Bobby around. Front seat of the car all the time. Fried eggs for dinner (Bobby doesn't 'do' eggs), lots of attention, no noisy 'bed engine' start up session from Bobby at night...he's not exactly being sentimental, put it that way.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

OMG It's The R-R-R-Residential

KAYAK OR CANOE? Neither if I'm completely honest

Well, I guess I should thank Bobby's school. After all, having gained a 'Miss Slinky 2015' title from my local Slimming World group last week (I kid you not, although I'll spare you the cringeworthy photo with sash) and only being 4lbs away from my target, I need a bit of angst to help me shed those last pounds just that bit quicker.

And I got it okay, in the form of Bobby's pre-residential freak out fest.

Year 7 are going on a little holiday. Two nights in Wales and you'd think that I'd signed off an application for Strangeways.

It was all going swimmingly well with not a wobble in sight, until tonight. We looked at the timetable together. Lots of questions were answered, but there were so many more, unanswerable ones. I couldn't tell him exactly what his room would look like. I couldn't describe exactly what each activity would consist of. I couldn't even guarantee that he'd enjoy it, although I did of course (by betting him a fiver that he would), because my confidence in him is, in these situations, akin to his confidence in himself.

So I've ommitted that story of myself age 11 hating every minute of camp, missing home terribly, looking at the communal tin of breakfast jam in horror (that for breakfast? But I have Rice Krispies!) and not much liking the toilet arrangements, either. Who the heck sent me to camp thinking I'd enjoy it? What about me said 'outdoors girl' to them?

Heck you don't have to be autistic to find a change in routine a nasty experience. Although to be fair Bobby won't be having to endure a crappy tent and sleeping on a surface that feels like rock.

What's frightening is just how much detail of my own experience (34 years ago) I still recall. The stakes are high here. If Bobby enjoys it, his confidence at secondary school will be boosted. But he's doing so well, has already gulped down many new changes... and if it goes badly, he may take a while to bounce back.

Here I have to set aside my own parental anxieties a little and trust the experience of the school, whose inclusion policy means that the trip is adapted for each individual pupil regardless of ability. Not a single pupil in Year 7 is left behind. That's got to be laudable.

Still, I can feel my heart ripping to little shreds as Bobby's anxious tears keep coming and he wails that 'Everyone else is excited about it! And I don't know anyone very well - not really...and it's going to be like the army...'

Here I have to correct him. Just because the word 'outdoors' is mentioned, it doesn't automatically mean that the army are involved. At least I hope not because when Bobby last attended a paintballing party, he polished off most of his own side.

To help him, I ask Bobby to recall some other situations where he was very nervous but came out smiling - solid evidence that will prove his fears unfounded. Together we think of a couple of examples and then he does that really scarey 'I'm pulling myself together face', puts on a fake happy smile and says 'You're right mum I am going to be brave and conquer this and stay for FIVE days...' There's an air of hysteria about him now and it takes a further 20 mins to calm him down again.

Blankies 1 and 2 will be packed. Weetabix will be packed. The iPad will be present, with yours truly reading bedtime story on it (yep I know he's old for a bedtime story but it's part of the routine). Everything will be fine, I tell myself, breathing deeply and reaching for the Valium.

Truth is, I climbed the walls when Alec was happily enjoying his residential in Bendrigg two years ago. Since Alec's accident in 2005, I've become a slight nervous wreck when parting with either of my lads overnight. I can't let Bobby see this of course, but I know that the minute he's gone I'll be worrying about everything from a coach crash to a capsizing canoe. I could probably even find a hazard in the Quiz Night if I thought about it for long enough.

I really understand this autism-anxiety thing. You can tell your brain that worry is illogical, but it doesn't stop it from happening. And it's true this is the biggest challenge Bobby has ever faced. I can't hide that from him. This is the newest of the new in every sense.

But he's growing in confidence and surprising us with his achievements every week.  I can't clip his wings with my over-protective worries whether he'd like me to or not. It's not good for him - and it's not good for me, either.

Bobby is growing up. However painful it is for both of us, I've got to let him.

Otherwise, how will he know just how much he is capable of achieving?

Monday, 2 November 2015

When anxiety is the soundtrack to your home life

Spectrumite Mum is experiencing a bit of emotional exhaustion at the moment.

To live with an autistic child means that anxiety is like constant background music. If like me you're being constantly reassuring, or trying to peel someone off the ceiling because their emotions have gone into overdrive a little too quickly, then don't underestimate the effect of absorbing all that stress.

After all, once you've absorbed it, it has to go somewhere.

Due to lack of exercise, meditation and the general peace and quiet afforded to me when the kids are at school, the stuff that I've absorbed in the last week has gone nowhere. Instead it's roaming around my body like toxic waste.

So this is my three point plan:
1) Do some exercise
2) Take some breathing space
3) Talk to noone unless they enhance my wellbeing

Sounds simple doesn't it? Try following it. It's harder than it looks.

Doing some exercise is no problem, I need to put the house the right way up again after half term. If you don't mind, AuKids Issue 30 may have to wait until the vacuuming is done. That's just the way we roll here. I can't work in a mess.

I'll also take a few minutes to just sit. This is a big problem for me.

Sit. Just sit there. Don't get up. Don't think. Look at the trees outside. Do that mindfulness crap. Argggh I need to get up and ....no! Sit down! 

After 60 seconds break I get jittery. But today I am going to assign myself my own personal coach - me - and I will just sit and finish my coffee. Recharge. Because a spent battery is not much good to anyone.

I'm also really careful about who I hang around with. I used to have endless resources - and so any friends who were anxious about something were very welcome to come over and transfer all their anxiety onto me. I liked it, I enjoy being there for people, being a helping hand, the voice of reason, a listening ear...

You can't avoid other people's problems and you wouldn't want to, not if they are true friends or family. But I do make sure that my resources are tip top before I see them. I am quite aware of how I feel before I pick up that phone or have someone over. I say 'no' a good deal more than I used to. You have to - 80% of your emotional resources are in use constantly. You have very little left.

Be mindful of it and use it well.