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Running away?

A few weeks ago our church house group did a study on Psalm 18 … one of the questions was “When do you feel like running away?”  I didn’t say much but kinda felt I was on a different track to the other folk there … you see, I often feel like running away, I often feel totally overwhelmed and inadequate for the role I play.  Tonight is one of those nights.

Doors have been slammed, books have been thrown, clothes have been thrown, we’ve been yelled at, screamed at, physically threatened, locked out of rooms.  The turmoil was real, brothers were frightened and cross that it was happening again, Mr GG and I struggled to stay calm and not flip out.  And the reason?  I had set aside a piece of turkey for the cat to eat and a Junior GG wanted to eat it as seconds after his mahoosive meal.

This is a side of autism that few people see from our family.  Most people see us generally happy and coping.  The meltdowns are saved for the security of home.  Now and again, but rarely, a minor meltdown happens outside home but, generally, they’re saved for us.  In a way, I guess, it’s a compliment that he feels secure enough with us to let out all the tension that has built through the day but right in the middle of it, it doesn’t feel very complimentary at all.

Meltdowns happen in different ways … our experience is that sometimes they manifest themselves as hyper behaviour, silliness and rude comments … other times, like today, they manifest themselves in rage.  Whatever form a meltdown takes, they are absolutely, totally, overwhelmingly, bone-achingly exhausting for all involved.

So, right now, I’m sitting downstairs in tears.  All is quiet now and, I think, calm.  One of two things is likely to happen, either said child will fall asleep, having exhausted himself completely, or he will appear downstairs, unable to sleep because he feels so awful about all he did and said.  And I struggle.  It hurts, it really does.  I love my boy entirely, I love spending time with him and, believe it or not, I sometimes think he’s the easiest of our three children.  But right now, part of me wants not to have to hug him, or hold him, or tell him it’s OK.  Part of me wants to run away and not have to deal with any of it.

I won’t run away.  I couldn’t, no matter how much, right in this moment, I think I’d like to.  A mother’s love runs far deeper than that.  A mother’s love is unconditional and forgiving.  A mother’s love is too big to hold on to the emotional and physical pain of a meltdown.  I know that I’ll hug my boy, I’ll tell him how much I love him, I’ll pray with him and kiss him and make sure he knows he’s safe in my heart.

I’ve been trying to write about Day 27 of the Love Dare for ages.  I’ve started and scrapped several posts unhappy with the content of them, unhappy with what I was writing.  Tonight, writing has been easy, cathartic.  I find it difficult to truly let people in to see what life is like in GGHQ, I prefer to focus on the positives, the good times and my own weaknesses, I don’t like to share the struggles that autism brings to our home.  I don’t want people to think badly of the beautiful, funny, charming, dismissive, feisty bundle of contradiction that I love so much and (nearly always) delight in parenting.  But here it is, raw, open … tonight isn’t a one off, I’ve no idea when the next meltdown will occur, what will trigger it, nor what form it will take but it will happen, and each one is a little more scary than the last … for him and for me.

The subject of the Love Dare today is being satisfied in God and not solely finding our identity in our children.  The thought makes me smile as, for the first 19 years of my life I was known as “the Pastor’s daughter”, I didn’t mind being the Pastor’s daughter but I was ME, I had my own identity and wanted people to know me for me.  When I left home I delighted in my anonymity … I was just me, and I loved it.

Now, however, I’m known as Mr GG’s wife, Son Nos 1-3’s Mum, Grandad GG’s daughter in law, and, Gran & Grandpa GG’s daughter but I’m also known for being me … and I’m content with that.  I’m happy with the hats I wear but the hat I love the most is the one of being a Child of God.  I love that my safe, secure place is resting in the arms of God, protected by his shadow (a wee reference to Ps 91:1, my comfort verse) and I’m grateful for all that God has done for me.

In these weeks leading up to Easter there has been discussion around our table about the sacrifice God made for us, allowing his son to be killed to save us.  We’ve talked about Lent and why people give up things as a reminder of the sacrifice that was made … the end result is that, as a family, we’ve given up games consoles and tablets (only fair to add tablets, as Mr GG and I don’t use the games consoles).  I’m pleased that the boys have been willing to do this, it’s a huge sacrifice for them but they’ve not complained and are entering into it well.

So, the dare for today was to read Matthew 11:28-30 and ask God to help me find ways to walk closer to him.  It’s a continual journey for me … my Christian walk never ends, I’m always moving and I can honestly say, that I want nothing more for my children than that they grow to know God more in their own lives, and live the lives that he wants for them.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

Be patient with me, I’m a work in progress

I’m trying to do everything today.  I’ve made a completely unrealistically long to do list and, so far, I’ve been distracted, I’ve procrastinated, I’ve taken one or two coffee breaks (well tea!) and now I’m determined to, at least, get my blog written before lunch.  The motivation (or lack of) today is the fact that I’m scheduled to have surgery on my hand on Tuesday, nothing major but it means that I’ll be restricted in how much I can do for a wee while after.  I’m not worried about the surgery, not at all, but I’m very worried at the thought of being awake for it, being able to hear the surgeon cutting and poking around in my hand *shiver*.  The Junior GGs have a mixed reaction to the whole thing – one boy is worried and anxious (as is his wont) whereas his brother has asked me to get photos of my hand when it’s cut open.  One thing is for sure, I’ll be well looked after by them all afterwards.

So, here we are at Day 26 of the Love Dare for Parents.  In reality I’m probably at Day 450 or something as I’ve taken so many breaks but slowly I’m making my way through the book.  I’ve a whole pile of books to read so I’m hoping that next week I’ll get lots of reading done while I’m “resting” (or learning to delegate!).

Today the focus of the Love Dare turns towards my relationship with God and how I’m displaying it to the boys. 

I make no apologies for calling myself a Child of God, I make no apologies for loving God, giving thanks for Jesus and am grateful for the privilege of being part of a loving, vibrant Church family.  when-i-say-i-am-a-christianBut, this quote tells how I feel far more eloquently than I ever could.  This is what I’m saying when I say I’m a Christian … I don’t have all the answers, I’m not saying I’m perfect (anyone who knows me knows just how laughable that idea is) and I’m not trying to look good.  I have moments of doubt and times when I feel incredibly close to God.  There are times when I feel I’ve let God down so badly that I’ve blown it and yet I never, ever have.

A few days ago I was driving home with the Junior GGs and, as I sometimes do, I’d taken us on a roundabout route because I wanted to see the hills.  There’s something special about hills and mountains … they are never the same from one day to the next … there’s always something new to look at.  I can’t help but think of God when I look at the hills.  I just can’t stop giving thanks for the Creator who made this amazing world for us to live in … there is so much beauty in creation.

Anyway, as we drove, I asked one of the boys to plug my phone in to charge.  For some reason (technology baffles me) music started playing … one of my favourite songs … MercyMe “Flawless”.  I love the words of the song … it reminds me of all the God has done for me, every time I hear it and it comforts me. 

But what about the example I’m setting to the boys?  From the moment I found out I was pregnant with each of the boys I’ve prayed for them.  I don’t care if they grow up to be doctors, or astronauts, or cars (that was seriously the ambition of one of them at one point) … I only want them to be happy and, more importantly, to have a real, living relationship with God.  As a mother, I find it so hard to be an example to my children.  The people that see me out and about see part of me but the Junior GGs and Mr GG … well they see the crabby, grumpy, impatient side of me that I save for them just because I love them.  Crazy isn’t it?  My relationship with God is something that arises often in conversation with the boys.  I talk to them about prayer and remind them often that I pray for them.

I can’t and won’t try to guilt my children into loving God.  I can’t force them into a relationship with him.  But I pray that they see something of God in Mr GG and I and want that for themselves.  I was 18 when I became a Christian.  I grew up in a Christian home, in a pastor’s home and I was taught about God and the importance of a relationship with him from ever since I can remember but it was seeing a friend’s relationship with God that really touched me.  I’m thankful for the background I have … I’m thankful for my parents’ faithfulness in praying for me and for the teaching of my Dad … for the first 19 years of my life he was my pastor and I count that a gift from God.

One my “things” is practical Christianity.  I think most people who know me know that that’s my “thing”.  I’ve been given the privilege in my church of organising meals for families who need a bit of extra help … whether it’s because there’s a new baby in the family, or someone is ill, or for whatever reason.  The members of GGHQ are all used to us jumping in the car at teatime to deliver food to someone or pick up a meal that someone else has made and deliver it to the family it’s for.  There’s one day that stands out in my mind though … I was making a meal for someone and one of the boys came into the kitchen, sniffed longingly and said “What’s for tea?” as he gazed at the pots bubbling on the hob.  “Pizza” was my hassled reply.  His wee face dropped and it struck me there and then that I’d got it wrong.  I’d love to say that I swapped things round and sent pizza to the recipients but I honestly can’t remember … however, I promised myself that day that I wouldn’t neglect my own family when I was looking after others, that I’d show practical Christianity at home as well as outside.

The dare today was to think about my relationship with God and talk with my children about it.  I try, everyday I try to be an example to my sons, to show them the love of God … I’ve been given this amazing gift and I know God is helping me as I parent and guide my sons … I’m a work in progress, but I’m thankful to be on this journey.

 

 

Sorry seems to be the hardest word …

 

In my last blog post I wrote about forgiveness … well, my ability to forgive has certainly been put to the test lately and it turns out I’ve a very nasty habit of resisting forgiveness when Mr GG or one of the Junior GGs are hurt by someone.

 

I honestly don’t understand why, so often, our world seeks to ridicule and take advantage of those who are different.  I speak about autism in our family often, I’m not ashamed of it, not in the least, rather I take delight in having the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of my children.  I maybe wouldn’t have chosen this path for their lives (or mine if I’m totally honest) but this is the path we’re on and, from day one, Mr GG and I have taught the boys that there is nothing they can’t do … maybe their path to success will be different, or even longer, than others but they can do anything.

 

From pretty much the beginning of my oldest son’s life I’ve known he was autistic … as a teeny baby he wouldn’t make eye contact but rather look just to the side of our faces.  He was happy and friendly and anyone who spoke to him was greeted with a huge, gummy smile but the eye contact wasn’t there.  I remember those days so clearly … he was a jumble of inconsistencies really … he was incredibly sociable and loved being with people but he wouldn’t make eye contact, he didn’t sit until he was well over 9 months but was commando crawling from 5 months.  He reached milestones for walking and talking but Mr GG and I never had a typical parent/child conversation with him … his first word was ‘bath’!  And when other little ones his age were learning animal noises he was learning the alphabet and barking ecstatically at pigeons. I was never able to set my boy down without him taking off at a run … outings with friends were torture as they sat and played with their children while I spent all my time racing about trying to catch mine. 

 

I look back at that time as one of the loneliest times of my life.  I knew deep in my heart that my son was autistic, but no one heard me so I carried it around with me as a nasty little secret chewing me up inside, all the while trying, desperately, to fit in with the folks around me.  I’m so thankful that those days are past and that there’s no secret anymore … and I’m thankful too for those tough days, for they gave me a strength and determination to work with and for my boys to give them the same opportunities as anyone else.

 

So, anyway, back to forgiveness, it turns out that my boy has been being bullied again … maybe it doesn’t seem like bullying to the other folks involved but to me, taking advantage of the innocent, accepting nature of someone in order to mock and ridicule them online is most definitely bullying.  We sat together as a family and talked it all through, talking about how folks make mistakes and sometimes regret what they’ve done.  We talked about forgiveness and that’s when it hit me … I’m cross, I’m angry and I’m finding it really hard to practise what I preach.  I hate that my amazing lad who takes people at face value has been so hurt and yes, he has been.  This is the first time that I’ve seen him truly struggle for more than a day or so … he keeps asking about it and cannot understand why someone who knew him so well would hurt him so badly.  My heart breaks for him and I’m finding it hard to forgive.  I’m working on it, but, to my shame, I’m definitely not there yet.

 

Maybe it’s timely that the focus of the Love Dare for Parents today is ‘love takes responsibility’, talking about being honest about our mistakes with our children.  Asking our children to forgive us when we let them down, when we’re sharp-tempered and crabby and take it out on them (I’m, oh, so guilty) and encouraging us to be humble enough to admit our sins and mistakes to the very people we are trying to parent.

 

A few weeks ago a lovely friend tagged me in a post on Facebook … it was a link to a new book that will be published soon called “Different”.  The book is written by Sally Clarkson and her son Nathan Clarkson who is described as an ‘outside the box kid’ … I can’t wait to read it!  

 

After pre-ordering the book I had a look at some of the other books Sally Clarkson has written and was struck by one called “Desperate” which she has written with Sarah Mae.  I’ve just finished reading it and I’d totally recommend it to any mum who is feeling overwhelmed (I’ve yet to meet a mum who has never had the experience of feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped for her role).  I found it refreshing to read of the experiences of other mothers … one who’s children are still little and another who’s children are grown and, mostly, gone from home.  It’s given me pause for thought, that’s for sure, and a book I’ll be referring back to from time to time.

 

One key thing that struck me as I read was a chapter entitled “Taming the beast of housework” … I felt challenged and convicted as I read and realised that I’m so much in danger of focussing on keeping a tidy house while forgetting that I really want to be creating a homely home.  I’m trying hard to shift my focus and realise that this is something I need to ask Mr GG and the Junior GGs to forgive me for.  My home is, by no means, immaculate but it’s a home and I’m learning to be content

 

So, a few days ago, I had to talk with Mr GG and the Juniors and ask them to forgive me for putting more emphasis on what other people think of our home rather than concentrate on making it a warm, inviting, comforting place for the people that live in it. 

 

I spoke with Son No1 and confessed my lack of forgiveness for what’s happened to him and asked him to forgive me for not practising what I preach.  I’ve spoken to him so much about forgiving those who have hurt him and I realise now I’ve not given him a good example to follow.

 

I have made a point of trying to catch myself when I’m being distracted by housey stuff and not giving attention to my boys, I’ve tried to keep a short account with them and, straight away, ask them to forgive me when I’m not being fair, or I’m being sharp, or just not the parent they deserve.

 

And you know what?  It’s not easy but it feels good, and I’m totally humbled by how forgiving my wonderful family is.  Blessed indeed.

 

 

 

Forgive and forget

And just like that we’re back into the routine of school and work.  I find January a strange month … I struggle to get used to the Junior GGs being back at school and miss their company so very much (including that of Mr GG, I’d hate him to feel left out).  However, the February holiday is not so very far away now and, if my maths is right (which is doubtful) there are only 22 more school mornings to get up until they arrive.

As usual, life in GGHQ has been helter-skelter with rare dull moments hidden amongst the mayhem.  The weekend flew past in a flurry of mud and muddy walks (and a migraine for poor old Mr GG).  On Saturday morning we tried to clear and create some order in the new part of our garden … the outcome is that it looks a lot worse but I’m consoling myself that it’s a work in progress. 

January also brings the anniversary of the first of our babies born straight to heaven.  January 10th is the date that stands out in my mind and is the day that I generally remember, give thanks for, and often, have a wee cry about the four babies we didn’t have the chance to meet.  I’m thankful that they will never suffer pain or heartache and look forward to, one day, being reunited with them.  I’m thankful too that through the heartache God taught me to rely on him more and to trust that he had a plan.  I’m thankful every day for the three babies that were born into our home, the Junior GGs who fill my life with laughter, hugs, tears, obsessions and laundry … you can never forget the laundry!

So the Love Dare for today was all about forgiveness.  All three boys have been brought up learning about forgiveness … if one hurts another (it happens!) then when the guilty party apologises the injured party will tell them they forgive them.  They don’t always find it easy to forgive, especially if someone has wiped their progress on a game but they always manage to even if it’s grudging at first. 

The challenge today is the first one that I’ve not really seen the point in … maybe that’s a failing on my part, I’m not sure.  The dare is to search my heart and write down my childrens’ names and, basically, a list of things they’ve done wrong before praying through it and asking for the grace to forgive.  I can’t see what’s helpful in doing that.  When one of the boys does something wrong it’s dealt with and forgotten, forgiven at the time. 

Maybe this is a challenge that, for me, would work better outwith my family … I actively try not to hold on to grudges but I have to admit, it’s not always easy to forgive … especially when someone hurts Mr GG or one of the Juniors!  So, for the rest of today that’ll be my focus, I’ll let you know how it goes …

Holiday fun …

The Christmas holidays are over today for Mr GG … back to work with a thump for him!  Thankfully, his day was short and he was home mid-afternoon which was lovely.  The Junior GGs and I wrapped up and braced the cold (it seemed to be bitterly cold today) and went for a walk at one of their favourite places … it’s usually quiet and generally there are only a few dog-walkers around so even my most anxious Junior GG feels content in the knowledge that there will be no surprises.

We had a fruitless hunt in the shed for wellingtons before we left but they couldn’t be found so the boys were instructed to stay on the path and not walk on the sandy, muddy, rocky wetness!  After much pleading my resolve weakened … after all, shoes can be dried, clothes can be washed and muddy boys can be showered … I’d much rather see them clambering about and chatting about their finds.  Mind you, Son No2, as always, took it a little too far and was spied walking ankle deep in water … he never changes!  There’s no point getting annoyed about it, as I said just a minute ago, everything washes and I know that he loves water and mud … the beach is his most perfect place.  Give him his due, he didn’t complain about being uncomfortable until we got nearly home when he just said “Mum, you know, my feet are feeling quite cold” … an understatement I’d imagine!

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Son No1 took the opportunity to do some Pokemon hunting so there was lots of good-natured teasing about how great company he was.  There was much excitement however at the discovery of a Dratini, a Clefairy, an Abra and a Mankey – no idea what that means but he was a happy boy!

So, today’s subject for the Love Dare is one very close to my heart.  Prayer.  Specifically, praying for our children.  I pray often for the boys throughout each day.  Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a chatter anyway but I find it quite natural to talk to God throughout the day about the boys and tell him when I’m worrying about things.  I’ve often told the boys that I thank God for them every day and it’s true, even the days that leave me wanting to run off to the hills, I give thanks for my wee family.

There’s no room for me to be complacent though, I’m well aware that I fail so often in how I pray my boys, yes I give thanks for them and yes, I talk to God about them but I’ve so much to learn in how I pray for them and what I pray for them.  Today’s dare is about teaching me as Mum how to pray more effectively for my children … I can’t say it’s one that I’ve completed, I’ve so much more to learn, but it’s one I’m happy to be working on in the days ahead and one I’m excited about.

Just before I head off and give you all peace … I made a New Year Resolution this year … and I’m wanting to record it here so I’m not allowed to forget.  I’ve resolved that we’ll aim to go out for a walk as a family every day … Day 2 and we’re still on track 🙂

 

Back again!

Phew!  A few weeks ago I made a promise to myself that I’d make it back to my blog before the start of 2017 … there are still a few hours left in the year so I’ve just made it.  I’m sorry for my absence, I let life overtake for a while and neglected the opportunities to write, the intention was there but the reality is I never quite made the time.  I have also neglected the Love Dare for Parents … but I’ve not neglected trying to improve as a parent … it may be that the Junior GGs say I need to keep working on that ;-)!  I can never allow myself to stop growing as a parent for as the boys grow the needs and challenges of parenting change, seemingly daily.

All is well in GGHQ, the boys are thriving and Mr GG is working hard as always.  Lots has been going on and 2016 has pretty much disappeared in a blur as we whizzed through it.  GGHQ is undergoing a facelift to help us all fit in to our home better … the building work is pretty much complete and now the decorating is a work in progress.  Mr GG has worked his wee socks off getting rooms finished for Son No2 and Son No3 … Son No1 is happy that his room is next on the list and hasn’t complained once that he is sleeping in a decorator’s paradise.  We bought a wee piece of land at the side of our house so have made a garden extension … I’m hoping that Mr GG will be agreeable to a few chickens joining the family … maybe the lure of fresh eggs will be the key!

So, back to the Love Dare.  It felt like picking up with an old friend today when I sat down to read.  I enjoyed blogging about my journey through the book and deliberately set it aside when I stopped blogging so that I could continue from the same place. 

Today’s subject is respect for authority and teaching our children to respect not only the authority we have as parents but also the authority of others – teachers, leaders etc.  Just recently the pastor of our church has undertaken a series on The Ten Commandments.  I’ve really enjoyed the series but missed a couple of weeks due to ill or stressed sons.  So, I missed the Sunday when he preached on the fifth commandment where we are commanded to honour our parents.  To my shame, I’ve had plenty of time to listen to the sermon online (http://gracechurchlarbert.org/resources/ten-commandments) but, as yet, I’ve not … maybe that can be a goal for 2017!

I admit I think a lot about my role as a mother.  I often feel overwhelmed by the responsibility that I’ve been given (along with Mr GG) to parent these amazing and unique children.  I make mistakes often in my parenting but I try to be a good mum and, I think, overall, I make a good effort.  BUT, I honestly don’t know that I give much thought to my attitude towards those in authority over me.  I’ve been reminded that showing respect to those in authority is honouring to God.  Maybe another goal for 2017 can be considering my attitude to those in authority … and trying to improve where it maybe falls down.  After all, the Junior GGs are still watching my every move and learning from it … as they grow they are looking to others as examples as well but I have a duty to make sure the example I set is a good one.

Well, it’s time to go and finish de-Christmassing GGHQ for another year … and time to start a new year.    This past year has been full of highs and lows, of encouragements and disappointments, of friends going and new friends being made, of cake (and lots of it) and of continuing to grow as a child of God.  I’m excited to see what God has in store for us in 2017.

Happy New Year one and all – from all at GGHQ (cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, boys, parents).

 

 

Did you know?

Autism AApril is Autism Awareness month (hence our happy A for Autism picture) … everywhere I look there are articles about autism or programmes about autism. I guess I find it hard to believe that anyone isn’t autism aware already … maybe that’s because I live with it, it’s part of everyday life for me and my family. However, something I yearn to see even more than autism awareness is autism acceptance and understanding, more importantly, an appreciation that autism is individual to each person, even siblings.

The picture painted in the media doesn’t … and can’t … reflect the true face of autism. It’s impossible.

Sometimes folks ask me how I cope or tell me I’ve got my hands full. I don’t know any different … this is always how motherhood has been for me. The adaption to life as a mum was as much a shock for me as it is for pretty much any other mum (or dad for that matter). I cope (most of the time) because I don’t have a choice. Mr GG and I didn’t choose to be autism parents but we are … we sometimes rail against it, we sometimes wish that we weren’t having to walk this path but we are … we sometimes don’t want to be going to endless appointments but we are. I cope because I love my children and I want the best for them … I cope because this is the path that was chosen for me … I cope because of the three amazing boys who love me despite everything (and the amazing Mr GG who reassures me, supports me, leads me and props me up when I’m struggling!).

Over the past few days life in the GG HQ has been stretched to almost unbearable. The cause? A mouth ulcer. Anyone who has had an ulcer knows the horrible stinging pain that one causes … the sting of eating something salty can cause you to wince and even bring tears to the eyes. But, for someone with sensory processing disorder a mouth ulcer can be almost too much to bear. One of the Junior GGs has been afflicted … he has cried, wailed, grimaced, lashed out, had meltdowns and has, quite honestly, acted as though his world was ending. Mr GG and I have done our best … we made a call to our wonderful, patient dentist who fitted in a quick appointment between patients to confirm that it was, indeed, a mouth ulcer and nothing more serious … we have taken the risky step of applying soothing gel on the area (and emerged with all fingers intact) … we have cuddled the distraught boy … we’ve used soothing words in calm voices … we’ve cajoled a reluctant boy into eating … we’ve been firm when necessary … we’ve reassured that the ulcer will be gone in a few days.

In our journey with autism the GG family have been blessed in so many ways by working with professionals who truly went the extra mile for my boys … and I’m grateful.

Many years ago when the Junior GGs were going through pre-school there was a teacher who often spent time at the weekends researching and reading articles which would help … she listened and learned by spending time with the Junior GGs …. she took advantage of learning opportunities by tapping into their obsessions and she embraced their individuality … even now that our journey through pre-school is far behind us (for all of the Junior GGs!) Mr GG and I are grateful for all the ways this amazing lady helped both us and our boys. She may well be reading this, I don’t know, but she knows who she is … and I want to say THANK YOU MRS W … we’ll never forget and are grateful beyond expression.

Another example that stands out is the work of the staff who work within the Enhanced Provision unit in our school. Several years ago I was given the opportunity to accompany my sons on a school outing which was solely for children who accessed enhanced provision within school. I knew before I went that the EP teachers and staff were dedicated to their work but I was given a fresh insight into their work. The compassion and respect that the children were treated with has remained with me and is something I’ll never, ever forget. When the oldest of the Junior GGs was starting school Mr GG & I had to visit several schools which could provide the support he needed. Ultimately we opted to stay in the school where our son had been in pre-school … it was a frightening time but looking back, there’s no doubt we made the right decision.

However, this isn’t always the case and I’ve learned to be wary when someone greets me with enthusiasm telling me they understand “all about autism” … how can they? How can anyone? I know my children, I often don’t understand what makes them tick but I know them and have their complete trust that I will do my best for them. Sometimes Mr GG & I struggle when trying to deflect the well-meaning but ill-advised steps suggested to make the boys “fit in”. Just recently I was discussing an issue facing one of the Junior GGs and was advised it could be tackled by punishing him … the end result being that said boy would have become even more increasingly anxious and distressed … he would have been totally confused at being punished for worrying and all the work done in reassuring him would be undone.

April will soon be over but our journey with autism continues. Mr GG & I continue learning and experimenting with strategies in helping the boys … some work, some crash and burn … but we can only try … we will continue to have calm times and times when we feel drained and inadequate. We don’t have all the answers, not even a fraction of them … but we’re striving to do the best we can for the most amazing gifts that God has ever given us … and that applies equally to all of our children … ASD, aspie and NT. It’s a long road but we keep on walking (sometimes limping), learning and giving thanks.

[Anyone wondering what’s happened to the Love Dare … it’ll be back soon 🙂 … promise]

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.