And just like that the summer school holidays are over … the bags are packed, lunches made, hair-cuts done (and they look great) and uniforms washed, ironed and hanging ready to be worn. This has been, without a doubt, the hardest summer we have had here at GGHQ. It was to be anticipated. The next Junior GG is moving from the security of primary school into the great unknown of secondary school. Although he’s been prepared with an enhanced transition, the apprehension of changing school has manifested itself in levels of anxiety never seen in him before… and, as a parent, it’s incredibly difficult not to be able to help nor know what to do for the best.
Our family holiday was in Campbeltown this year. Or rather, a couple of miles outside, in a wee cottage just 10 yards from the sea. The area where we stayed was stunning beautiful. Idyllic was a word both Mr GG and I used often while there. Seals basked on the rocks right outside the cottage we were staying in. Oyster catchers and cormorants were in abundance. And, I’m told that dophins are often seen in the sea but, if they were there, they certainly managed to leap and frolic well out of our visual range!!
BUT, it wasn’t home.
On the morning after we arrived, as we gloried in the magnificence of all around us, the boys wandered about exploring rock pools, counting seals and paddling around in the sea. Our ‘water boy’ was in his element … he was happy … truly at peace … something we so rarely see. A few minutes later he wandered back to the cottage and, as he passed me said, ‘My leg is stinging a wee bit. I’m going to have a shower.’ He wasn’t distressed, even when he appeared beside me a few minutes later with a leg like this …
Yes, he’d picked up a jellyfish and, fascinated with the texture of it, had set it on his leg. We scurried back inside, doled out some antihistamine and set off to find a pharmacy to see what else we could do. In true autism style, the sting (which looked agony) didn’t appear to be causing much discomfort whereas a tiny wee piece of skin sticking out from the side of his nail was enough to cause a full blown meltdown. I will never get used to autism, never fail to be surprised by the extreme reaction to a minor complaint as opposed to relative nonchalance when faced with much more painful (but less obvious) ones.
The combination of anxiety about leaving primary school and trauma of being away from all things familiar were, I believe, too much and, after a few days that I’m still struggling to speak about or recall, it was eventually agreed that we would return home a few days early.
The rest of the summer holidays continued pretty much in the same way. My boy was anxious going beyond our garden and I truly believe that if we’d left him to his own devices he would have spent the entire summer going between his bedroom, the kitchen and the garden … oh and the bathroom … he does like to be clean!
Anxiety is horrible. For years my boy has lists of words that upset him but is too frightened of them to tell us what they are other than they’re not swear-words. Now and again he’ll come to me and, making sure no one else can hear, will whisper ‘That word [you, Dad, etc] said. That was one of the words that frightens me’. Songs from TV programmes haunt him. He is utterly terrified of being in crowds of people (I’m with him on that one). The thought of someone dressed up paralyses him (again, I’m with him there!). Going somewhere new frightens him. Going somewhere we’ve been before traumatises him in case he meets someone he knows. Meeting anyone out of context is enough to bring a fun day out to a screeching halt. The cinema is an absolutely no-go, not because it’s noisy but because once he saw a school friend. And no amount of reassuring or therapy has made progress in reducing his anxiety.
Mr GG and I feel like we are constantly walking on egg-shells because we don’t want to frighten him more than he is already. Yes, definitely, the last months have been utterly mentally exhausting for our family.
Today’s Love Dare is about listening to our children. I honestly hadn’t read this dare before I wrote my last piece where I mentioned wanting the Junior GGs to grow up knowing they would be listened to by Mr GG and I.
Listening and hearing is such a vital skill to possess. How easy it is to just let our children rattle on while we shove ‘Uh-huh’ and ‘OK’ in now and again. Children aren’t daft, they know fine when we’re not really listening or interested in what they want to tell us and, in time, will just stop. I don’t want that for the Junior GGs. I’m not perfect, I fall into the trap of not really listening far more often than I should but I’m ever hopeful that practise will stop me from doing that.
The oldest GG is now into his teenage years and wholeheartedly embracing the teenage attitudes. I’ve often said, to him, to Mr GG and in prayer that I want to maintain the communication throughout these years so that when he eventually comes through the other side we’ll still have a relationship where he wants to and will confide in me.
I love this quote … it says so much more succinctly than I ever could, just what I’m striving for at home. ‘Too often young children, especially teenagers, keep the deepest matters of their lives buried and hidden from their parents. They don’t feel invited to share. Or perhaps they’re just afraid of being ignored or rejected if they pour out their true feelings, needs and concerns. But you, as their parent are the very one God has commissioned to love them at this level.’ (The Love Dare for Parents, Kendrick Brothers, Day 29)
The dare for today is to take each of my children out for a special meal alone over the next week. That’s not going to happen! For one thing, we just couldn’t afford to do that … rather, I’m planning to spend time alone with each of the boys doing something together with them. Maybe we’ll go out for a drink and a cake somewhere (but, one boy wouldn’t like that!) … maybe we’ll got out for a muddy walk somewhere (one boy DEFINITELY would like that) … or maybe we’ll send everyone else out and spend some time baking cakes (and everyone would like that!). I can’t always follow the dares to the letter … but I’ll most definitely be spending time over the next week finding opportunities to have one to one time with my lovely Junior GGs.
So, off to bed for the GG family … an early start beckons and the start of a new academic year with all that it holds. Despite the anxiety from one, excited anticipation from another and resignation that the ‘perpetual torture zone’ awaits from yet another none of us quite know what the next year holds … new teachers, new experiences, new lessons. It’s a time of change.