Have you seen the path

The path was going well.

The path then went. Not sure where. Maybe this way.

No. Maybe this way.

“Dad have you got any idea where we are supposed to go”

Does it look like it. And with that I tripped over a branch went face first into the undergrowth.

I thought you were a climber. Someone at one with the wild” – much giggling.

I am at one with the wild that’s why I’m currently kissing the ground.

Bear Grylls would now shimmy up a tree to the top and look out over the forest to see the direction we should be heading.”

Not sure the trees will take my weight. Probably end up bending one over and launching myself like a catapult into the North Sea.

Is it a Plane, is it a Bird or is it a flying muppet”

Finally we found a path and made our way home. As we walked up the towards the house.

Dad can I have a cake when I’ve washed my hands”

Bugger. I knew I forgot something. Looking at my watch the cakes had probably been at medium heat for 3 hours.

Some days you just feel lost. Things go wrong. Life is hard. You feel so vulnerable. So fallible. Beyond tired. I’m not alone on that one. It’s human nature. It’s the parenting condition. We all have days/weeks/months like this. What’s the expression

You get good days and bad weeks….

Questions Questions

In life you get so many questions. Good ones, bad ones, taxing, insightful, bizarre, left field, rude and downright stupid. I often find one response covers most of them

A big boy did it and ran away….

Then you get the questions you field which relate to your kid(s). The questions involving Autism , Aspergers, Dyslexia , Dyspraxia, ADHD, Bereavement, behaviour…..The questions from family, friends, parents at the school gate, teachers, health professionals and other children. So many questions and so often not particularly helpful ones. As helpful as losing your car keys in a crop field.

So let’s look at some of the questions we have encountered. I suspect this could end up rivalling War and Peace so I’m going to spilt this up into more easily digestible parts. So part one is the Autism and Aspergers questions. Here goes for some bizarre questioning….

“Do you want us to have him eat his food by himself now he is Autistic?” – A Teacher

As he is on the spectrum would you agree to the council being approached so they could assess the risk of self harm” – A Teacher

I realise that his performance and behaviour is really good but have you considered a Special School as he had Aspergers” – A Teacher

Are you sure he has Autism as he seems very normal and is not violent in anyway” – A Teaching Assistant

We have another child who is autistic would it be ok if we sit them together as it will be good for them. They can become friends then.” – A Teaching Assistant

“I recognise that he is very shy and doesn’t like speaking in front of others. But would it be ok if he gives a chat to to the class about being autistic. He can tell them what it’s like to be different. It will be great for his self esteem” – A Supply Teacher

He seems very talkative for someone with Aspergers” – A Doctor

He seems like he cares and shows emotions. That is so unusual for someone with Autism” – A Doctor

He’s very likely to have self harm and suicidal tendencies as he grows up” – A Doctor

Why are you bothering fighting for a diagnosis when we can’t do much for him. The diagnosis will just be a piece of paper.” A Doctor

Shall I get a nurse to take him outside so we can talk about him without hurting his feelings” – A Doctor

Is he gifted in music as many people with Aspergers are.” – A Nurse

Have you seen the film Rainman. That’s all about autism.” – A Nurse

Unfortunately you come across Professionals who are clearly living in a different age or are just so underprepared to deal with kids on the spectrum. Not acceptable but it happens.

“My Son is having a party and I want to be inclusive so is it ok if I invite your son.” – A Parent

Did he get it from the Vaccinations” – sadly more than one Parent

Does this mean that he’s not allowed to fly” – A Parent

It’s not so bad, they can be very happy and harmless really” – A Parent

Are you going to ask School to not move him up this summer and keep him with the younger kids. Won’t he be happier with them” – A Parent

Are you sure he is Autistic he is nothing like The Rainman” – A Parent

At what age will he start to grow out of it” – A Parent

Have you tried those drugs which cure it” – A Parent

Will he ever be able to look after himself” – A Parent

Because he’s autistic he won’t ever want friends will he” – A Parent

Is that why he’s rubbish at sport” – A classmate

Can I catch it off him” – A classmate

I will finish off with one that made us laugh.

Do you have to use an inhaler, my brother does and he’s like him because he has asthma” – A classmate

Parallel Universe

I set my decrepit laptop off on a relatively simple task. But again it went on a go slow. So I foolishly turned on the tv while I waited. A quick bit of channel hopping ended up with me in a parallel small screen universe.

The programme I stumbled on appeared to be about parents talking about modern day life. It’s certainly a different life to mine:

  • One Dad complained that he had been forced to cut back on his golf due to his kids. He now only played golf Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Really. I haven’t played golf in 7 years.
    A couple talked about having to make economies as the second child was just starting private school. They had been forced to cut the number of overseas holidays down to 4 per year. How many holidays did they have before they cut back.
    Another couple talked about parenting being a lot easier than they expected. They did then mention a small fact. They paid for a full time, live-in nanny.
    Another couple admitted that they had accidentally left their new born baby alone three times in various pubs and restaurants – only realising when they got home. They said it was just like accidentally leaving a bag on a bus. Unbelievably our last Prime Minister did this once – and we trusted him with the nuclear codes….
    One mum argued that parents should stop moaning about lifestyle choices. Apparently parents should just pay for babysitting. She would often have 3 or 4 nights out a week as babysitters were so cheap. That’s good to know.
    Another couple complained that they had been forced to buy a new family car – the families third car on the drive. Apparently baby seats or a pushchair would not fit into either of their two sports cars. Not sure 3 cars would fit on my drive….
    Then a Dad talked about how he had stopped his son from playing football and rugby because it was getting his new car muddy. Thank god that Dad has never been in our house. We don’t have much money but my goodness we got inside mud a plenty to show him.

Thankfully for my sanity my laptop found a couple more horse power and completed its task. So I quickly turned the TV off. I must admit that I did not particularly enjoy that brief visit to the parallel parenting universe. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway I’m off to buy a massive Hummer vehicle as I can’t fit all our son’s old Peppa Pig videos in our one car.

When I dreamed

It seems a very long time ago. Days when I dreamed of being a parent. I really had not the first idea of what parenting was. No thoughts of tiredness, frustrations, sacrifices, battles, diagnosis, isolation, heartbreaks, bemusement and an empty wallet. Just visions of

  • The moment of excitement when you find out that you are to be a parent
  • The first gentle embrace with your little one
  • Happy family holidays
  • Fun packed Christmas mornings
  • Those first steps
  • A child doing so well and happy at school
  • Frequent kiddies parties, playing with loads of friends and sleepovers
  • Trips to the cinema with the kids sandwiched between two loving parents
  • Your life continuing unabated as you perfectly share the small workload with your beloved partner.

This morning sat in my battered clothes fuelled on black coffee. Feeling knackered. Looking like crap. Battle worn. Thinking ‘what a prize naive numpty I was’. I might not be the finest example of a parent but at least I look like one now.

I really didn’t have the first idea about life and parenting. Would I have been so keen if I had been more switched on to reality….

“Dad can we have a movie marathon today”

Thoughts of Marvel, Tolkien, DC, Indiana, Bond, Mission Impossible. Losing myself in another world for a while.

Great I’ve got the 4 DVDs ready”

Deep Joy. Alvin and the Chipmunks.

In all the wonderful parenting dreams that super annoying out of tune rodent never made an appearance. The little bushy tailed sod kept quiet until it was too late.

But although I resemble a badly worn zombie this morning. Even after all the bad things that have happened. All the sleepless nights. The worries. Regardless of the lost dreams.

Without a doubt – Parenting is the single best thing that will ever happen to me. That makes me smile.

Now it’s time drag my body out of this chair and take the dog for a walk. Talk about Alvin (sounding like he’s one of my favourite characters ever) while bracing myself against the wind and rain. Imagining the view over the Vale of York as it won’t be making an appearance anytime soon. AND Dream of tomorrow – preferably without Alvin.

Storm Bunker

We had a large thunder storm pass over this afternoon. The cat was taking no chances. After the first bang he made his way to his storm bunker.

Unbelievably the early morning cinema screening was very full. The cinema was mobbed. Not seen crowds like that since the ‘Everything for a Pound’ Store had a sale. It’s not a statistical significant sample population but from the early morning hordes I guess that The Avengers movie is going to pull in some astronomical numbers.

And yes it is an astonishing movie.

Yes the crowds unsettled our son but we took our customary place on the front row so no one could be in front of him or to the left of him. It’s so close to the big screen that I come away feeling like I’ve been chewing on magic mushrooms but it works for him.

For 3 hours we both lost ourselves in the Marvel Universe. All our problems and anxieties forgotten. Heroic deeds fill your heart. With even a bit of free grief counselling thrown in by Captain America. But sadly it doesn’t last. You eventually find yourself back in the same place with the same issues.

In fact it feels like we have regressed. Fifteen months ago we eventually secured some anxiety counselling for our son. I say ‘we’ as the fight to get some help started while my partner was still very much with us. It seemed to really benefit him. Progress was starting to be made. But now due to cutbacks that support has dried up. The anxieties are building and it feels like the system has cast him adrift again. We have been lucky really – far too many families get zero help – all they get is patronising comments from politicians who have no interest beyond their off shore bank accounts and rich friends.

So as the thunder rumbles on we try to fight demons. Health anxieties, fear of death, school anxieties, friend anxieties, social anxieties, reading anxieties, fear of being left alone anxieties…..

I’m no psychologist. I’m no health professional. I’m no education specialist. I’m not a grief counsellor. I’m just a parent trying to figure out this increasingly bizarre world with no one to help guide me. Doing the best I can. Deep down this scares me as what chance do I have when I can’t even come close to fixing myself. Queue worried face. 😱

Pleased to report the immediate threat to life and property must have passed as the cat has made his way back to his favourite chair again. That’s one less worry to deal with.

Mothers Day

Three wonderful mums have set off towards the light over the last 3 years.

My Partners Mum. A wonderful Quaker who always looked for the potential good in everybody.

My Mum. Gave her whole life for her family. The most resilient person I will ever meet. All she wanted in return was to watch a good movie with a cup of tea and a cream bun.

My Partner. The perfect parent to our son. She was just the most beautiful person.

While trying to sort out our son’s school iPad I came across this few words which made me cry. Not sure what the school lesson was about but the message he conveyed was abundantly clear.

I miss you so much you are the best mum you can have. You gave me life and I owe you everything because you gave everything to me and all your love. You are the best. I miss you so much but I would do it all again. I miss you so much Mum but I know that you will be with me forever.

Thank you to all the mums out there. Thank you for being brilliant everyday of the year. Sending you hugs.

Feel the pain

I often hear fitness experts say that you know when exercise is really working because it starts to hurt. No pain no gain. Well I think I successfully disproved that theory this morning. Pain means PAIN.

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Somedays it’s good to be brought back down to earth. An Aspergers child with beautiful honesty is a perfectly designed tool for this job.

At school the kids had to tell the class one thing their parent(s) were brilliant at. Apparently talents such as football, rugby, accountancy, building, driving, cooking, singing, languages, science, nursing, making money, horse riding, swimming, judo, gardening, running, pottery and writing we’re all mentioned. But not in one case…

A certain boy said “well it depends on your exact definition of brilliant, in my Dads case I may need to think about this for a while….”

The boy knows me too well.

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Maybe his hesitation on awarding brilliance was influenced by a little accident this morning. I have a little bit of a sore eye. During my early morning workout I somehow managed to hit myself in the face with a 14lb Kettlebell… So going back to the pain theory – experts would say that my pain was a sign of a most rewarding workout. Really!!!!

Safety Net

Photo taken from the top of The Niesen.

I never really thought about my own mortality. Before I met my partner my attitude to risk was “it will be alright and if something happens to me I’m not too great a loss to society”. After we became a family I started to become more responsible but I still had a reasonable risk threshold. If something happened to me our son would still have his mum and his granny.

This all changed when I lost my mum and then partner within 6 weeks of each other.

The first few days after my partner left us are still a blur. But I remember one incident like it was yesterday. It was my son’s first day back at school and I was driving to register the death. Suddenly a sports car pulled out in front of me. A suicidal overtaking manoeuvre. Luckily I saw him and managed to swerve onto the grass verge and miss him – just. At that speed it would probably have been game over. All I could think about was our Son. One second slower reaction time and he would have been parentless. The whole incident shocked me. Suddenly there was no backstop for our son. No cover if I couldn’t be there for him.

A couple of years later and it’s a new life. With new dreams, new hopes and new feelings. All the climbing and contact sports have been permanently ditched. No more drinking. No more stupid risks to my body. I just can’t take those chances anymore. I’m even more boring than I once was but much more importantly I feel that I am a much better parent now. Yes the world has changed. But hopefully I have adapted to it. The reality of parenting without a safety net…..

Bird of Prey

Thankfully we made it to the end of the week. Some random animal photos helped. But it’s the weekend and at least for a few hours our son is in a happy place. While he is happy then I am happy.

A few weeks ago we talked about his second favourite animal in the world. Let’s meet his favourite now.

The Peregrine Falcon.

Since an early age he has just loved the Peregrine. Luckily he has had the opportunity on a couple of occasions to handle this just stunning bird of prey. In the U.K. one of our main nature presenters is Chris Packham. He has Aspergers and is brilliant. A tireless campaigner for good. Chris has openly talked about his life with Aspergers. As a child he developed a special bond with a Kestrel. His fascination and bond with the Kestrel mirrors that of our son with the Peregrine.

I now hand over to our son for fact time (his words now)

  • The Peregrine is the fastest animal on the planet. Likely to be the fastest creature ever to live on earth. Potentially the fastest creature in the Universe. In its dive (the stoop) it can reach over 215mph
  • They have special baffles in the nose to stop them blacking out during dives
  • Sometimes called Duck Hawks
  • Favourite diet is pigeons, starlings, doves,
  • It’s nest site is called an eyrie
  • Wingspan is 3ft
  • It flies high, uses its super eyesight to see prey below. folds its wings like a jet fighter and nose dives towards its prey. It will then strike its prey with great force.
  • They can be kleptoparasites. Steal pray off other birds.
  • Lifespan up to 15 years
  • They have larger eyes than humans and can see prey over 300m away

Testing times

Our son’s school tests kids every couple of months (most schools do the same). Speaking with some of the other parents – most of the kids are getting stressed out over them. Maybe I’m old fashioned but these kids aren’t even teenagers yet.

My frustration is not only with the amount of testing, it’s with what is being tested. We currently focus on such a limited range of skills and are so inflexible on how the tests are operated. Not all kids are suited to the current testing environment.

I was talking to one parent whose child has really struggled to reach the set expected performance levels. However this child is brilliant. I’ve seen her paintings and cartoon sketches. Unfortunately we don’t have a test environment which allows her to demonstrate this brilliance. No government targets for painting.

Our son astounds me with his knowledge and understanding of history. He is scheduled to do a school test which is about the Battle of Hastings. He has a forensic knowledge in the area. Last night he spent two minutes explaining details of Bishop Odo who took part in the battle. The night before he explained in detail what William did after victory including how he persecuted the north. So if we could design a test environment so he could just talk for 30 minutes about the battle and then verbally answer detailed questions – then he could demonstrate his brilliance.

Problem is the test is to write a one page essay on the battle. Without help then he has no chance. Even with help he won’t be able to shine. This can’t be right. No government targets for developing autistic kids with dyslexia.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CAN WE GIVE ALL KIDS THE CHANCE TO SHINE

I always thought I was pretty good on history. I tried to show this off to our son.

“William the Conqueror brought his army to the field in October 1066”

My so called knowledge was shot down in one line…

“Dad it was the 14th and he was not at that stage William the Conqueror. He was called William Duke of Normanby or sometimes William the Bastard because his mum was unmarried. The Conqueror was first referred to in around 1120, sorry I can’t be more precise”.