Late nights

Over the school break we were seeing what we could find with our very old telescope. With a bit of patience we got a photo of a distant power station. Took a steady hand and many out of focus disasters. I guess a lot of patience.

When I’m tired my brain has a habit of going into neutral. That’s fine if your sitting or lying down but try to do anything else and your asking for trouble. Last night at around 4am I was watching Black Panther. I decided my body needed a hot drink. So I make a fine cup of Yorkshire Tea. (That’s the tea which has got the new Chancellor of the Exchequer personal seal of approval).

The photo is from Chancellors own twitter feed.

Anyway my late night Yorkshire Tea was made. Unfortunately as I sat down to watch the movie again I realised that I hadn’t brought my cup with me. I was holding the kettle instead.

A couple of weeks back it was even more painful. I was watching a late night movie and I went for a midway toilet pit stop. On my way to the bathroom I completely missed the open door and walked into a wall.

It’s been even worse that that. About a month ago I was struggling with a leg muscle strain. During yet another late night movie the muscle started playing up. So I decided to apply some Ralgex (Heat Rub). A fine idea but in my zombie state I must have forgot to immediately wash my hands. Unfortunately I rubbed my eye and then with spectacular bad timing I decided to go for a wee. Within a few minutes my eye and my undercarriage were basically on fire. Now that woke me up.

But occasionally the late nights can yield moments of clarity. This happened last night towards the end of Black Panther. I had been spending so much time worrying about the future. All the pitfalls of homeschooling. Everything that could go wrong. How I was missing my partner and her advice. Then it struck me. The one thing I had missed was the opportunities. Homeschooling allows you freedom to design your own days. That puts US in charge. That is such an exciting and liberating prospect. And I missed it.

It’s so easy to focus on the negatives. There is an awful lot to be worried about in life. Yet it still can be a wonderful life. If you let it and have patience. So I need to find a balance. If I’m going to think about the negatives then I owe it to myself to think about the positives as well.

Sod’s law

Don’t you just hate Sods Law (Murphy’s Law). Son has been desperate for some snow to have a sledging session. This season has been a complete right off so far. He’s just had a week off from school where it has basically been storm force winds or torrential rain. Not a sniff of the white stuff. So guess what. On the first morning back at school we wake to this.

And by the time he got back from school the snow has been replaced with rain and high winds again. All the white stuff has gone. He is so so sad. It’s not as if school was in any way enriching. It started with any kids arriving late still receiving negatives – no allowance for the awful roads and paths. Welcome back kids to this happy establishment. First day back and homework is being handed out like confetti at a wedding. Long lunch queues and over running lessons meant no hot food for his class. AND THEN we come to Drama.

The school is clearly desperate to produce the next Laurence Olivier. It’s chosen route. Spelling Tests.

So here goes my friends, your first spelling test of the term. Enjoy.

Grendel

Marking the moment

Proxemics

Thought track

Status

Narration

Levels

Themes

And I’ve saved the best till last

Beowulf

Heorot

Uniferth

King Hrothgar

Dane folklore spellings – what a top idea. So school has started off again being exactly the same grim, oppressive institution. It’s never going to change under this Government and it’s Victorian approach to education. I’ve again given him the option to be homeschooled and again he has reluctantly declined. He still wants to see if he gets moved up in any of his classes. But I must admit another school snow day may just push him over the edge. And I really couldn’t blame him.

Hanging on

After all the bad weather. The floods. The driving rain. The damaging winds. After three storms. Conditions which have proved too much for the early daffodils. The snowdrops are still hanging on. They are truly wonderful little delicate flowers.

Hanging on applies to the humans as well.

Son’s anxiety levels are definitely spiking now. He is returning to the outside world after 10 days of safety within the confines of his house and garden. Days of not needing to build rickety bridges between his world and the world of others. It’s been wonderful to see a kid enjoying being a kid again. Seemingly without a care in the world. But soon school will open the gates to its hostile environment again. As hard as I try the smiles are harder won and often just a little too forced now. Today he is hanging on.

His Dad is just hanging on as well. Son’s anxieties are sending shock waves through my system. A system which is operating on too little sleep. A system which is facing its very own localised storm. A Grief Storm. These storms don’t last as long as they once did. But they still can have an intensity which still takes my breath away. Sucking the life force out of me. They often sweep in without warning. Turning seemingly light into dark. It takes me back to my climbing days. Happily climbing looking into a dry sunny cliff face, blissfully unaware of the raging blizzard which is screaming towards my back. Within seconds I am are grimly hanging onto the rocks trying not to be swept into the oblivion beneath me.

I strongly suspect this Grief Storm was germinated in my fears as a single parent and the growing prospect of homeschooling.

  • Is it the right decision?
  • Am I taking on too much?
  • What happens if my work levels and our income are adversely effected by factors outside my control. My role is heavily dependent on community and sporting based events. These are likely to be curtailed if a certain virus takes hold in the UK. That would make our financial position even more precarious.
  • Are we giving up on school too soon?
  • How will I find the time to do those things which currently help get me through the day. Homeschooling is likely to make activities like running a bit of a rarity.
  • And on and on

Wrestling with these factors on my own. Thoughts then increasingly turn to the gaping hole left by my partner. Suddenly it’s a full on a Grief Storm. So I end up just hanging on. But at least I am still hanging on and that’s a start.

How wrong I was

Not our garden, this is from a neighbours garden. Very jealous especially of the lawn which when cut always resembles a bowling green. So unlike our used rugby pitch.

Another stormy and very wet day. That’s the third weekend in a row for us. The weather is doing nothing for our souls. Nor is the imminent return to school. His anxieties levels are starting to peak now. Soon he’s back into that alien environment. The hope is that he will return and he’s been moved up in at least one subject. Just move him up in History and it would boost his confidence so much. I fear that’s a pipe dream. I would also be staggered if the support system has suddenly improved. How can it. It’s the same teaching team, with the same school education strategies and with schools struggling for resources. But on the bright side we have been told to celebrate as soon we will have a new blue UK passport. A passport made in France….

Maybe he will decide to abandon the failed school project. Can’t blame him and I would fully support that. It would be so worth it to lift this cloak of anxiety which often suffocates him. It’s not as if the school approach is delivering results. In most subjects he’s bored and starting to stagnate. I have asked school for the latest benchmark data on his reading, writing and performance. Again I’m not holding my breath. I’m still waiting for school to do any meaningful assessment work on his reading or writing. I suspect it will be spelling tests and nothing else. The Physiotherapist contacted school to say that he was clearly struggling with handwriting and asked what concerns the school had about his handwriting. The response back was that no teacher had raised any concerns. Really….

At his last school they worked with the heath service to monitor his reading age every quarter. He left that school with a reading age three years below the expected level for his age. His current school has so far refused to do another benchmarking assessment. The argument is that he’s doing so well and a benchmark would not change his teaching programme. Read that as they cost money and all kids get the same set teaching approach. Well if you don’t have benchmark information how can you say he’s doing so well. We don’t know if he’s catching up or if the age gap is widening.

It’s funny looking back at this parenting gig. I always realised it would be frustrating and tiring. But I always assumed the school system would largely take care of his education. How wrong I was.

Poets Society

The feeding zone has been active today with the usual characters. Yes the characters are making a mess of the lawn but it’s always so good to see them. We don’t get too many human visitors these days so who is going to notice the rugby pitch of a lawn and I don’t think non-human visitors are that fussed.

Another largely sleepless night. One short dream, a viewing of the stunning yet grim Everest movie and a bout of late night blog catchup. While reading a friends post a thought entered my zonked out brain. How many other souls are struggling with sleep currently. We really deserve our own secret club. Maybe the name should be The Dead Tired Poets Society. Dead Poets Society is a truly stunning movie. If we want to be selective we could be the Dead Tired Parents Society.

But why stop there. We could have so many subgroups.

For the financially challenged – The Dead Broke Poets Society,

For the puzzled amongst us – The Dead Confused Poets Society,

For the bad cooks – The Dead if you eat this cake Poets Society,

For those feeling happy – The Dead Chuffed Poets Society,

For those who can regenerate – The Deadpool Poets Society,

For the rubbish Fortnite players – The Dead in five seconds Poets Society,

For the rubbish negotiators – The Deadlock Poets Society,

For the strong amongst us – The Deadlift Poets Society,

For the gardeners amongst us – The Deadheading Poets Society,

For the Monty Python lovers – The Dead Parrot Poets Society,

And for the impassive people – The Deadpan Poets Society.

Today was another fun day. Fun but with son’s anxieties bubbling just beneath the surface. I have emailed school to tip them off but deep down I know they won’t do anything. The teachers won’t be informed and if they were – what would actually happen. Not much. I’m not sure how much training this group of teachers have had in dealing with anxiety. They certainly have had little specialised training in areas like dyslexia and autism. Maybe that’s why my first questions to the teachers tends to be

You do know he has Aspergers and you do know he has Dyslexia and you do know he has Dyspraxia.

The look I get back with the generally vague replies suggests either they don’t or they do but given the 1000 things they are dealing with this is never going to be a priority. So my parenting anxieties are mounting again. That’s why having fun is so important. It’s great for my son and it’s such a release for me. A release which is even more important when sleep fails you. Can you guess what tonight’s insomniac movie is. I’ve dropped enough clues.

Dead Poets Society.

Deadpool

Sleeping feels a bit like a Jenga tower these days. Takes a lot of effort to get it going then it’s so precarious that the slightest disturbance and it’s over. Most days the effort seems wasted given the time the tower actually stands. So last night the same pre sleep ritual then all too quickly a random dream wakes me. That’s it can’t sleep. So at 4am I’m watching Deadpool 2. Not sure if It was the sleep deprivation but I found the movie absolutely hysterical. So by the time son was up I was ready to rumble.

I certainly have to rumble. The first signs appearing of son becoming anxious for the upcoming week and the return to the big bad world. I’ve given him the option of immediately pulling him from school. But he thinks he should give it some more time, even if it’s just for a few more weeks. He wants to see what school does with the class settings. Does he finally move up sets or is he again consigned to the bottom set. I must admit I’ve given up hope in the mainstream school system. It’s not improving any time soon. Kids like our son are going to continue to be labelled an inconvenience and consigned to the educational bin. I will continue to try and work with the teachers but movement at this late stage is unlikely. Homeschooling looks like the only positive call. So yes things will be really tight. Yes I’m going to have to watch out that I don’t burn myself out. But for me the homeschooling time has arrived. But it’s son’s education so it’s his call. So on Monday school starts again. So already the anxiety levels are starting to build.

So we need to rumble harder. Need to work harder on the fun. The smiles and laughs will be just that little bit harder to produce. So Project Fun needs to go into overdrive. Today we try a new game. The Trampoline Water Challenge. Let’s try to bounce while holding various containers containing cold water. Bouncing with a full washing bowl will be the ultimate challenge. It’s a challenge which is designed to get you wet. Very wet. If unbelievably I don’t end up drenched then it may call for a headfirst dive into the farmers field rain lake. Whatever it takes today.

If Deadpool wasn’t so naughty then this would be a really funny movie to watch. If you took out the unsuitable bits then I guess the running time would be down to seconds. So it’s a time to either watch a series of Red Dwarf or Black Adder. Or maybe it’s time to revisit Monty Python and the Holy Grail. All guaranteed to make him laugh and LAUGHTER is the only currency we are dealing in today.

Is winning best

At last sun. Just a couple of hours but even that feels like a win. Certainly lifts the soul.

Dad are you trying. That’s 9 – nil to me”

Mini Air Hockey is a tricky sport. Requiring a unique combination of hand eye coordination, reflexes, ability to bend your back for more than 10 seconds and unchecked brutality.

“Just look at my fingers. That’s missing skin. Yep I’m trying. Your just too quick for me.”

Son worries that I let him win. That’s such a difficult area for parents. Do we play hard or do we let our children win. I remember reading a story about a former giant international rugby player. He was playing touch rugby in his garden with his kids. As a feel for how seriously he was taking this game ask his garden shed. Apparently in an attempt to win the ball off his young son he crashed into the wooden structure. The poor shed was basically demolished. The Dads take on that. They have to learn to compete. When I play I always play to win. Kids need to learn this.

But on the other side I was watching a video of the great Mohammed Ali. He was boxing with a small child. Ali was repeatedly knocked down and finally the kid scored a dramatic K.O. The kid walked away with the biggest smile and feeling like a champion.

For what it’s worth I was in the Ali camp. I wanted to see my kid smile and feel like a winner. Yes the occasional defeat was important to learn about life and that failure will happen. As you get older failure comes regularly so why not grant a few years of success to the young. Son has been through so much in his short life. Seen so much sadness. He’s earned the right to feel good sometimes. But what do I know – I’m still trying to learn this parenting gig.

But time moves on. With a cruel flick of life’s switch, happily letting your young ones win becomes increasingly hard. Suddenly you can’t buy a win. The cold reality sets in. Your kid is better at stuff now than you. Maybe he should go easy on his Dad. He is quicker, thinks faster, has better reactions and has higher skill levels. What happened to Dad being a computer game legend. Now Dad is a Noob. Oh the shame.

Yes there are complications. A kid with Aspergers and Dyspraxia will struggle in some areas. It’s so important I factor those things in. Confidence levels are so brittle. It sends daggers through a parents heart to hear you kid say things like ‘I’m just stupid’, I’m useless’, ‘I’m so rubbish‘, ‘ hate being different’. So yes allowances are still made. He loves Jenga but struggles with his fine motor skills. He hasn’t noticed yet that I play just using my left hand. Connect 4 is another favourite but he struggles to see diagonal patterns. Yes I will tend to ignore the obvious connections.

So what’s your take on winning or losing?

Am I getting this so wrong?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of my approach. Dads are strange sensitive souls. We still need to feel like kings sometimes. Yes to show off a bit. Those area are becoming increasingly difficult to find these days. That’s why bench pressing weights and the ability to stomach increasingly disgusting tasting jelly beans are so important. That’s all I’ve got left. Long may I rule over those two talents.

Baking

It’s weaponised baking time. In my defence this beast was created without dairy, eggs and gluten. It’s also created without the slightest modicum of baking talent.

If you quickly skip over the earthquake damage it actually looks like a carrot cake. Scarily it is almost edible.

Today was a bit of a struggle for me. Just an hours sleep last night. Woken by a vivid dream about being late to pick son up from school. Every route I tried was blocked. Nobody to phone someone for help but I had no one. Complete feeling of hopelessness. That was it unable to sleep again. So tired and still with that nagging cold. A day when you just want to slump. Still feeling uneasy after that dream. That realisation that I am now running without a safety net. No backup. It’s down to me to navigate the next few years. It’s such a sobering thought. Yet it’s not just me feeling this way. Too many are basically flying solo with no co-pilot to take over if things go wrong. Whether that’s parenting, or caring, or putting food on the table or just surviving.

So like everyone else in this position you just have to force yourself on. So wearily and reluctantly breakfast was made. While Son wakes up and eats I get some house jobs done. Then it’s exercise until he is ready to roll. At least by this stage I’ve got out of first gear. So it’s time to try and fill the house with happiness. Once Son kicks into gear then I have to synch with his world. A world which spins much quicker than mine. So off we go

Talks

Football

Board games

Talks

Lunch

Baking

Nerf Guns

Talks

Football

Trying not to fall asleep during Pokémon

Board games

Talks

Dinner

Talks

Movie

Bed

Blog

Collapse

Unable to sleep

Blog and here I am at 2.55am

Yes today was a struggle but the only thing that matters is that Son laughed and smiled a lot. He’s happy so I’m happy. Flying solo worked today. In fact even the baking worked today. So a good day. Yes a tired day but a good one. Job done…. So we dust ourselves down, hopefully sleep at some stage and we go again tomorrow.

Sliding

So far Storm Dennis has been ok with us. So many have had it far worse than ourselves. Last time I looked there was over 560 flood warnings. Many houses are already underwater. So so sad and it’s happening more frequently.

Sometimes having a messy, pet wrecked garden helps. It’s makes it less obvious when a storm strikes. So as I surveyed the increased mess zone something caught my eye. Unbelievably during yesterday’s weather hammering two daffodils had decided to flower.

The photo is slightly out of focus as they are being blown all over the place in the gales. But it’s such a lift to see them. Let’s hope they survive Dennis.

This week is a school break. Son is adamant that he does not want to leave the house and our garden all week. Can’t blame him at all. He is so uncertain in the big bad world at present. The bridges he builds between his and the other world are looking particularly rickety and creaky. They are so fragile that he doesn’t fancy crossing them that often this week. Actually feels a bit like a game of Fortnite. An ever approaching storm cloud encircling out little world. If you play Fortnite I’m the wally who always gets killed within the first five seconds. My job is to make you look good.

My job is also to make sure our little world is as safe and as fun filled as is humanly possible. As hard as it may seem to some people in the media – kids with autism still like to have fun, do things they like and be happy. One of the reasons why the world feels like a scary game of Fortnite to so many good souls is that too many narrow minded reptiles in the media create the storm that others have to survive in.

Anyway let’s move on to have fun.

Today the grass is an absolute squelch fest. Your shoes immediately sink into inches of mud and water. So maybe it’s the perfect conditions for mud sliding. Let’s see if it’s possible to slide from our back door to the farmers fence. That’s about 15 paces and just slightly downhill. It’s a battle between man and boy. Between my huge backside and Son’s snow sledge. The loser has to take their chances with 5 potentially bad tasting jelly beans. Surely this time I have found a use for my donut fuelled butt.

So we operate in a small world for the next 8 days. I may struggle for new photos for the blog but let’s see what we can find. May need to delve into my dusty photo albums. Don’t worry no muddy butt photos are planned.

Bird Of Prey

Today’s run was turning into a nightmare. Wasn’t planning to go but another power cut prematurely ended work for the day. Thirty minutes later I was trying to run uphill into strong headwind. Already my mojo was rapidly ebbing away. A glance to the heavens (maybe for inspiration) stopped me in my tracks. A stunning predator was circling almost immediately above me.

Given how badly my running was going I’m surprised it wasn’t a vulture.

For a wonderful few minutes it was man against beast. A perfectly designed flying acrobat versus a muppet with his mobile phone camera. Only ever going to be one winner. So the photos are a little lacking in sharpness.

My running struggles were long forgotten.

Five minutes later my new feathered friend was off.

Now on my own the quick realisation that standing still in this icy gale force wind was not great for exposed legs. What possessed me to wear shorts. I was absolutely frozen . The prospect of a warm shower contributed to a rapid return run. My mojo was definitely healed by the encounter. We are so fortunate to have birds of prey hunt in the farmers field behind the house. It’s such a thrill for our Son. To get glimpses of these spectacular birds and not have to leave the safety of his garden.

Our Son has always loved animals. Of all his toys the birds of prey were always amongst his favourites and centre stage in his games. He developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things to do with falconry. When he was a little older he got the chance to handle some of his most loved birds.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen kids with Aspergers bond with birds of prey.

From about the age of five Son started to struggle at school. Suddenly he was withdrawing from group activities, becoming more insular and ill at ease with society. He would avoid physical interaction and all eye contact. So utterly unsure of himself and lacking in confidence outside of the safety of his home. Yet here was the same kid who was at ease and completely relaxed in the presence of these mighty hunters. Happily handling them. Intense, unblinking eye contact with Peregrines and Hawks. Face to face no more than a few inches between them. Complete confidence. Utter love.

Birds of Prey are truly majestic creatures who have another wonderful trait. They don’t harbour any misguided notions of prejudice.