|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?