Month: February 2016

When the going gets tough

Life has been tough this past week … nothing in particular but just one of those weeks when I rail against life being difficult for my boys, when it breaks me seeing my two oldest sons unable to cope with “everyday” things, when I struggle watching my youngest son finding it tough having two older brothers with autism, when I get crabbit, grumpy and ridiculously stroppy about life and when I feel weighed down with worrying about things that probably don’t need worrying about.

This past week is one in which I’ve had, more than once, to seek out my sons (and Mr GG) to apologise for snapping or getting angry.  It’s been one of those weeks that I’ve ended up doubting my parenting, worrying that my sharp words will have a long-term negative impact on my children and, not least, yet again questioning why I think I’m capable of blogging my way through the Love Dare for Parents or even opening up to let people have an insight into me and my life.

I don’t, for a minute, think I’m a perfect mum.  I think I’m usually a good mum but perfect?  Absolutely not.  I’m harsh and feisty, I’m unrealistic and crabby, I’m tired and overwhelmed but most of all I’m a work in progress, incapable (in this life) of perfection.

Becoming a parent was one of the most traumatic, life-changing experiences I’ve ever had … I remember being handed this squawking little bundle and looking at him wondering who he was … I was, admittedly, suffering the effects of morphine and not quite at my most alert but I felt completely unprepared for the journey I was starting.  Twelve years on I’m not really sure how much more prepared I actually am!

As the Junior GGs get older our conversations change.  Son No1 is at an age now where we can talk about much more in-depth things, once we manage to move him away from Dr Who (his current obsession) that is.  Recently we were talking and I apologised that he seems, so often, to be my guinea pig … every stage he reaches is a first for me (and him) and he’s the brunt of all my mistakes.  In reality I make mistakes with him then go on to repeat them to varying degrees with his two younger brothers.  He smiled, hugged me and said “You’re the best.  Even when you’re making mistakes, I think you’re the best.  I love you.”  He made me cry!  I’ll never be the best but I’m winging it and trying to be the best I can … just like pretty much every other mum I know. 

This week the Love Dare has also been encouraging me to be careful not to show favouritism and to be fair.  I know that I love my boys with every fibre of my being, that one to one time with each of them is important to me and that I don’t have favourites but it’s encouraged me to consider how I’m treating my sons and how they see things …and it’s tough!

A few weeks ago Son No3 told Mr GG and I that he thinks it’s not fair that his brothers have autism, he feels that he’s missing out.  I understand him … he watches his brothers going off to the social work run activity scheme on five days during the summer holidays, hears all the stories of the fun they have and can’t understand why he’s not included.  After Son No3 told us how he felt we had a chat with Sons No1&2 and they agreed that this year they’d take a break from the activity scheme … whilst the scheme is a brilliant help to us all we have to do what’s right for everyone.

It’s not easy to be the only sibling without a diagnosis of autism.  Son No3 sees his brothers getting stressed and anxious about things that don’t seem a big deal to him.  He sees them getting “treats” like the activity scheme.  He sees them seeming to get away with behaviour he doesn’t get away with.  He sees them getting days off school (not often) or going to school late because things are difficult for them (for one of the boys Christmas parties at school are a trauma too much for him to bear).  It all seems totally unfair to him … his brothers are just that, his brothers … they love each other, they squabble, they torment each other and they complain about each other, just like any other family. 

I don’t have any answers, I wish I did!  Mr GG and I just continue trying to make sure that Son No3 gets to do fun things both with and without his brothers.  The reality is that the days he feels he’s missing out on the fun are the days he gets to choose exactly what he wants to do without any of the usual restrictions we normally have … I guess life isn’t always as we see it!

And, just in closing, the Dare for today was to make a box for each of the boys filled with memories, photos and achievements with the encouragement to look through it together from time to time.  I’ve kept lots of things for the boys over the years but I like the idea of a small box we can look through together filled with key moments and memories.

Just a moment in time …

Anyone who knows me knows that I love school holidays … I love having my boys to myself, having no time restrictions and having the freedom to go anywhere and do anything.  So, a happy mum is writing today as we’re slap bang in the middle of half-term.  To be fair, I’m exaggerating slightly by calling it half-term as it’s barely more than a long weekend but still, it’s time with the Junior GGs and it’s appreciated.

Yesterday was a lovely day … the weather was good, very cold but no rain or wind which is novel at the moment.  We wrapped up and went for a walk in the morning to a favourite haunt of the boys … originally I’d suggested going to the zoo but none of the boys were all that bothered so we went somewhere free instead … much better for the pocket!  We got home with rosy cheeks, cold noses and (via a trip to the supermarket) cakes … what’s not to like?

I’m continually struck by how quickly time passes and how little time I really have with my children.  Just yesterday as I took a photo of one of the Junior GGs I realised how much he’d started to change.  He’s 12 now and growing quickly … the shape of his face is changing and he’s entering those gangly, awkward, stroppy, angst-ridden days of transition from child to adolescent to man.  I don’t feel prepared, I’m not ready and I’m terrified that I’ll make mistakes that will break or damage him.  It’s happened all of a sudden, it doesn’t seem long since he was starting school, or learning to walk, or even, born!

Maybe that’s why I enjoy school holidays so much, I’m aware of how quickly time passes and I don’t want to look back when the boys are grown and realise I didn’t make the most of their childhood.  I get sad (and a bit annoyed) when people tell me I’m mad for loving school holidays … I generally smile but my honest reaction is “Why have children if you don’t want to spend time with them?”  I love the company of my boys, not always of course, there are times when they’re all fighting or stroppy when I don’t particularly enjoy their company and, to my shame, there are times when I’m tired and crabby and just don’t appreciate them but, on the whole, I enjoy time with them and I can honestly say I’ve learned more from my children than I can ever hope to have taught them.

Don’t get me wrong.  I totally understand that, for some, school holidays bring headaches in terms of childcare during work hours.  I’m in a very fortunate situation, I’ve been able to choose to work only a few hours each week but I understand that, for others, that isn’t the case and school holidays can be really difficult. 

Today’s Love Dare topic has been one close to my heart … “Love takes time”.  Time is something I long to give my boys and, equally, something that is so limited.  As part of the book there is an appendix detailing ways to maximise family time and some really strike a chord with me.

The first idea is to declare war on TV.  We did just that towards the end of last year … we had an electronic free month where the game consoles, Ipads etc and TVs were put away from 1 September to 1 October.  The Junior GGs missed their games but unanimously agreed that they didn’t miss the television at all.  We had a great month, out walking together, playing games … it would have been unfair to have made it last longer but I think it’s something that will be done again. 

Another suggestion is to date your children.  This is something that I love.  There is nothing like going out to the cinema or for tea with just one of the children … so precious.  Last May I had the privilege of going to the Zoo with one of the boys … even now, over eight months later, he still talks about our day.  It’s lovely having one-to-one time … you have the opportunity to give them absolutely all of your attention, something which is nigh on impossible when you’re all together. 

Time … it’s so important … and so brief … make the most of your moments with your children while they’re still small, enjoy each stage of life with them and treasure the gift that they are … all too soon they’ll be flying the nest!

Guarding the nest

Life is never dull in GGHQ and that’s mostly my excuse for not writing lately … I’ve been mulling over this post for well over ten days now but actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) has not been easy as there has been an atmosphere of chaos around our home that makes everyday life seem fairly calm by comparison!

The latest drama is that Mr GG has put his back out (whilst feeding the guinea pig no less) … poor man is in absolute agony but hopefully the physiotherapy is helping and he’ll soon be back to normal … in the meantime I’m having to be very sympathetic (which anyone who knows me knows is NOT easy).  I think that guinea pig feeding duty will be taken by Son No2 who is, in any case, the rightful owner!

The other day I was really excited to receive a gift from someone who reads my blog.  It’s my first “blog” gift and I was really touched.  So, thank you … you know who you are 🙂

And now back to the Love Dare.

Well, Day 19 was titled “Love protects”.  I really found this chapter helpful, especially as it’s something that Mr GG and I talk about so often … protecting our boys in a world that seems to be more and more frightening every day. 

When I first became a parent I felt overwhelmed by the responsibility I’d been given.  I wanted to protect my baby and keep all harm from him … well, twelve years and two more children later that’s not changed a bit.  I still feel overwhelmed at the thought of being a parent and the responsibility of protecting, teaching and parenting my lovely boys, I want to protect them from all danger but realise that, all too soon, I’m going to have to let them find their own way in the world. 

As a parent, it bothers me that so many of the games around now have evil undertones.  It scares me that my children are being opened up to things they just don’t understand.  It horrifies me that parents think disabling swearing from incredibly violent games means that it’s OK for their children to play them before they reach the recommended age.  I’m often told by my boys that “everyone else gets to” do such and such or go such and such a place … but as their mother I’m responsible for protecting them and sometimes that doesn’t match with the wishes of my children. 

My boys are obsessed with gaming … it’s something that Mr GG and I have struggled with and talked with other parents about (finding it reassuring that they face the same battles and concerns). 

A couple of weeks ago, in yet another attempt to monitor console use we came up with a plan to encourage our boys to work for game time.  A chart was made of all the chores that could be done around the house and an allocation of minutes attached to each one.  There are chores that have to be done before any games can be played at all … making beds and tidying bedrooms.  Two weeks in I’d say that it’s been our most successful plan yet.  The boys are putting on laundry, mopping floors, cleaning, emptying and filling the dishwasher, sweeping floors and asking for more to do … I’m so chuffed! 

Even better, just today Grandad GG called round and during his visit commented at the way the boys kept to their time … admittedly I have to keep track of three different timers now but when time is up the boys accept it and go off to do something else.  We’ve agreed that each day I’ll write a list of chores that I would like done through the day and it’s up to them who does them … when the chore has been completed properly then they get a wee card to exchange for minutes. 

Now, it seems as though I’ve gone off on a tangent but I’ve not … the dare for Day 19 was to work out a way of setting boundaries for the boys … I’m pleased with the results especially in relation to video gaming. 

There are so many issues that we face as parents, so many ways we need to protect our children and so many pitfalls but, despite all my failings, I’ll never stop trying to keep my boys safe and pray that, somehow, I’ll be an example to them.