#PDA Diary day 8

A mummabears plea to the ‘team around my child’

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I wait at the window, waiting just to see, a glimpse of the boy I so wish to be happy. Have they kept you safe today? Have you held it altogether? Did you need your mummgrizzlybear to make anything better?

I’m desperate for the the day to come, where you skip out of the cab, excited to tell me about the day you’ve had. If I can get the team around you to understand your needs perhaps this is an outcome in the future we will achieve.

Preparing for the meetings I’ll exhaust myself with research, writing down my mumma-thoughts that might save you and I from new hurts. I know my son can do ‘well’, its not a myth, we see him do it, all I have to do, is ensure you get the conditions that let you thrive and show it.

Keeping my anxiety at bay, is far easier said than done with the history that we’ve so far made. I hold myself accountable for squeezing for too long, our square shaped peg into the systems round holes but for you I will be strong.

They will hear me for your sake. I will be much more than just ‘mum’. I will be assertive and demand what’s important for my son. The taxi will arrive and we will start a new, discovering what things, I need to help make right for you.

I’ll remain calm and positive and try not to overwhelm, despite being hungry for the details to reassure my curious frown. We can take each difficulty as a learning curve today, and tomorrow I will educate them on your experiences and not dismay.

I do not accept poor behavior from either of my children, I do however seek to understand their challenges and support them to overcome them. Today the report might be about language or lashing out, tomorrow I’ll request the ‘antecedents’ driving you to scream and shout.

Heres hoping that tomorrow, we will agree the support that’s needed to make school life positive and for all involved to feel we’ve succeeded. The environment must be modified and natural consequences may be key, but until the system bends, this mother will fight relentlessly.

I’ve played with you attentively, we’ve kept cool and burnt off steam, a heavy muscle work out in the garden really works a treat. I’ll try and transfer my knowledge to team that cares in school and believe me when I say this, they’d better not take me for a fool.

I’ll power dress for confidence, arrive prepared and well slept, I’ll wipe the floor with airy fairy responses to my quest. I need the team around you to do more than understand, they have to get on top of things to let me release you from my hand.

I’ve kept you close and supported you at home for a long and tiring summer, we’ve mastered new skills, grown and come to understand each other. From here on in, my new goal for you just has to be, to find a way to allow you to feel safe; safe when without me.

Dear team around my child, please hear my plea. An education is important but there’s other things we need. Make it a priority to become a friend to my son, he’ll cooperate and ask for help if he trusts you like he does his mum!

#PDA Diary day 3

sometimes, one day rolls into the next….notice how ‘unschool’ days seem to produce easier outcomes for the grizzlybear family!

I was wide awake til 1am researching approved ways to get the school and sen team to correctly analyze and understand the function of behavior. A task I realize now was probably pointless as why would they take advice from me?! 

I’d emailed numerous professionals who had been or are involved in his case… Not at all expecting a response in the small hours!

Between 1 and 6 I apparently did some version of sleep but if your soul is tired sleep is futile.

Unschool-day 1

Babybear joined me in bed apparently perplexed about what to wear on a ‘I-should-be-at-school-day’. Trouble averted, we agreed that joggers and flip flops could be entirely suitable for a fun filled learning with mum day at home. With my timetable prepared and a fall back plan in my pocket (should the shit hit the fan), we delivered biggerbruv to his school and promptly began our home-ed day. 

Huge success with a full hour on angles. Remarkable retention of newly imparted mum-wisdom and happy faces all round as the 8 year old maths whizz conquered mathematical challenges one after the other. We took our agreed break, played a quick game and then I set him down to his ‘allowed’ TV selection of David Attenborough’s Planet Earth series as mummagrizzlybear had some assertive calls to make.

By lunchtime I’d spoken to the senco, the autism support team and the Ed Psych amidst enduring a horrendous meltdown over the literacy task whilst simultaneously using my newly found paperwork to analyze the ‘functions’ of his behavior and still be a source of comfort to him so as not to put him through the same torture as he gets at school.

We ALWAYS follow through one way or the other post meltdown. My best guess is that the majority of the destructive unwanted behaviours are a means of ‘escape’. I’m also 90% certain that there is a specific handwriting literacy barrier contributing to the issues faced at school. However, despite the meltdown and after the ‘right’ support was given to help him come down from the severe overreaction to the writing task, he did return to the table and complete the ‘poster’ all about him! 

Day 3 ended in quite an unexpected way, whereby through the power of social media and the share of a picture on mummagrizzlybear’s Facebook page, a fellow mumma and dear friend knew I needed a break and swept in to offer me an outing and some much needed giggles and wine time. Tired and sporting fabulously greasy hair, I forced myself through the shower and felt refreshed as soon as I got in her car! Daddybear took the boys to their swim lesson and it went so well, the swim instructor text me whilst I was sat in a bar above the sea front, just to tell me how fab the boys were. 

Red wine down the hatch, I’d giggled my way past the idea that I had no clue what I’d deliver to my support group the following morning at work, but in true mummagrizzlybear style I’d wing it and still be awesome! The benefit of some time out to chew the fat meant that despite the red wine headache the following morning, day 4 started with a decidedly less ‘burdened’ feeling. 

Day 4. Unschool-day 2

Super ‘wine’ friend also doubles as amazing ‘childcare’ support friend and allowed me to get off to work without a seconds stress about how she would cope with PDA’er. As is common for a lot of children with PDA, if our babybear is comfortable with the caregiver and trusting of them and reassured by their attention to the details that matter most, he will do us proud and can be a delight to be with. Why can’t school provide such an environment for him?

The afternoon was a juggle of having CAMHS visit at home, grandparents unexpectedly swing by and trying to get out the door with biggest bruv to a secondary school open evening. 

CAMHS had received my concerned email sent at silly o clock a couple of nights previous and his case coordinator had reviewed the situation with his psychiatrist. The outcome being that they could offer him additional medication if we wished to try a small dose of SSRI to see if that would help with his school related anxiety/meltdown issues. Neither the medical professionals nor us as parents favour the medication route and all agree that until the environment has been confirmed as having been suitably modified, we would steer clear of additional meds at this time. 

Day 5 unschool-day 3

Camhs called to confirm they had called an emergency meeting with the APA School but as the earliest the senco could make it was Tuesday, they’d advise not sending him back to school on Monday. Tough one, as babybear likes his routine and verbally is telling us he wants to go back to school. Changing the ‘plans’ as far as he’s concerned could do more damage, so despite the knot in mummagrizzlybears stomach we have contacted the school to agree that he will return as expected but that if ANY incident occurs, they are to call me for support until we gave had the meeting to discuss the things they need to be doing differently!

I’m not even sure where the rest of day 5 disappeared to. Mummagrizzlybear was experiencing mega tiredness but still found herself for 2 hours on the side of a wet and windy rugby pitch that night before crashing out midway through a movie with daddybear (not unusual!)

Day 6 

Weekend plans as usual in the grizzly household were due to be frantic, with me needing to be in 3 places at once. However the pitiful weather made unexpected changes to our plans and instead the morning was smooth. Daddybear spent the morning fundraising with babybear in the local Morrison’s, despite the little PDA’ers original objections, he must have been superbly supported to conform and join in, so much so, that he even enjoyed helping to raise £1100 towards the rugby club. Good effort! Biggestbruv saw the mornings weather and tried to opt out of the secondary school taster session of surfing… However… We follow through with what we say we are going to do… And it sounded a more pleasant option to bag packing to mum a grizzly bear so we jumped out of bed, lined our tummy’s with a bacon bap and arrived at the stormy seafront equipped with my coffee, a good (forever unfinished) book and a folding chair!

The rest of the day has been entirely rained off. We’ve wimped out of plans we had made and we’ve had our first Saturday at home (albeit just the afternoon and evening) just being at home! I’ve ignored the ironing and instead snuggled with movies. Biggestvruv has had his fix of the Xbox and daddybear and I both resemble the somewhat distant memory of the relaxed version of ourselves! Babybear struggled here and there with the lack of structure and pre-planned activities but he got the hang of chillaxing once more.

Sunday plans start as every winter Sunday will, aside the rugby pitch so for now, its a glass of wine and cheesey x factor to complete our restoration before we start week 2!

#PDA Diary Day 2

Excluded

So if you popped by for Day 1 you may have picked up on a couple of hiccups and a near-miss on the exclusion front. Every child needs a settling in period yes? Well 2 days was enough for the current setting before they too have followed suit and resorted to an exclusion to reprimand the behaviors they have encountered today.

Mummagrizzlybear was once again astounded by the babybear stood before her in uniform, seemingly prepared for day 2 at school. We even negotiated eating breakfast much to my delight. Taking this as a signal that anxiety levels might be a bit reduced today, I followed through with the plan. We discussed expectations for the day ahead and we agreed the timetable of activities for when he’d be home in the afternoon. Off he went in the minibus, apparently in a good frame of mind after a good nights sleep. What more can a mumma bear ask for? Mumnagrizzlybear packed herself off to work, conscious that she MUST remember to get away early so as to get home on time to meet his cab.

Babybear arrived home avoiding my gaze once more. A prepared, upbeat mumma, asked no direct questions but just searched his face for guidance on how his day had been. In a short space of time he volunteered that it had been an ‘OK’ day and he motioned his hand in that wavering kind of way we do when something was so-so. Hungry for clarification I teased the topics of best bits / worst bits into the conversation and babybear revealed he’d excelled in a reading test but struggled a bit again with the noise of his class mates. He went on to share this snippet of detail “I launched at someone and got in trouble but they’re OK and I just couldn’t help it”…

With no call from school at that stage and seeing the sadness in his eyes I wimped out of confronting this admission head on. I uttered something along the lines of ‘you must not hurt people’ but quickly moved him on to his timetable to avoid the threat of another home-meltdown. The afternoon was calm. Even pleasant. 

Just before dinner time mumma took the call. The call that for years I have feared and yet eagerly awaited each school day that passes. I do not want to hear bad news but I do need the adult perspective on events. I’d written myself a note and kept it in my pocket all day just in case a call had come early and caught me at work. The notes were to remind me to handle the next situation assertively and to not  just say an embarrassed ‘thank you’ when delivered difficult news. I’d recently been reminded of a lesson taught on an autism/challenging behavior course I’d attended which explained that all behaviors have a ‘function’. The #Autism discussion page on Facebook shared a series of PowerPoint slides that are worthy of a read by any family encountering perplexing challenging outbursts. 

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1509926455753516&id=123708701041972
The call was from the teacher who was just as sorry to be the bearer of had news as he was yesterday. Our little PDA’er had today reportedly had another child in a headlock, attempted to strangle a child who was being restrained in crisis and hit a teacher. Thecresult was an unavoidable exclusion period. My prepared pocketed note allowed me to ask the following questions.

  • What did he believe my sons behavior was communicating?
  • What were the antecedents?
  • What would they prefer him to do in similar circumstances moving forward and how did they suggest we achieve this?

The more assertive, more prepared mummagrizzlybear fought back tears and remained composed. We discussed the fact that for an entire 8 weeks nobody has been harmed or attacked by our son nor has any property been damaged. All of this I attribute to us successfully managing his environment with him and being available to him instantly for the required level of support (a tiring task). As I write this I can see the flaw. Although we had a successful summer he has yet to learn the skills he needs to manage without us manufacturing his world and being on hand to help him regulate. The poor teacher agreed that exclusion would not teach him more desirable behavior and would potentially cause them more work on his return on Monday next week as he will undoubtedly be angry and defensive. The teacher proposed meeting to discuss alternative sanctions that might be more helpful in the future such as isolation. My face lit up. That would be our little mans dream learning environment. 1:1 in peace and quiet. Sharing this with him, I practically heard the lightbulb flick on! He explained that as the decision had been made in this instance we would need to see it through. He went on to talk about desired behaviours so that children can ultimately return to their base schools. Informing him that he has obviously not yet been brought up to speed about our sons circumstances and his base schools refusal to ‘take him back’ felt a bit harsh. He was clearly floored so I offered him a lifeline and suggested that any negative experience could at least help us inform the forthcoming EHC Plan. I therefore ended the conversation with one final question for him. “What support would have made today a better experience?” He hesitated. Yabbered something about it depending on funding and then gave in to my persistence as I rephrased the interrogation to “if we had a magic wand, what does my son need to be able to access an education?” We concluded that a full time 1:1 is essential as is a designated quiet safe space to retreat to and support to develop more suitable coping strategies.

In the cold light of day (or should I say night) and after a fairly catastrophic parenting fail of ‘arguing’ (and cursing for good measure) in front of the kids, daddybear and I attempted to redeem ourselves with a delicious home cooked family meal and by each offering our children 1:1 story time. Babybears tucked up and our talking done, I’m sad to say we are back to discussing the suitability of sending him to any kind of education setting whilst we await the appropriate ehcp. We’ve once again chewed over the financial concerns we have about me potentially needing even more time away from work if this pattern continues, let alone the cost to my wellbeing. But most importantly I’ve reflected over babybears teary words he uttered to me after having to discuss tomorrow’s educate at home plan. 

“You don’t like me much mummy do you”

Ouch

In just 2 days I’m seeing the effects on his mental health. I’m questioning what we are sending him to school for? We already know in the APA environment he is not accessing a mainstream curriculum. I tell myself I send him to ‘learn’ the social skills he needs and those that I cannot teach him if I keep him here with me but the truth is I think this is my cover story. Numerous other reasons spring to mind, including the embarrassingly selfish ones such as, I send him so I can have a break!

Check in with me for day 3 and find out how we get on tomorrow as I try to juggle being mumma and tutor and admin secretary making. contact with the senco, the autism support team and the disability social care team to name but a few!

#PDA diary

Day 1 … New (still temporary APA) school … Post-summer meltdown and progress with communication

Babybear blew me away this morning as he boarded his transport to his new school. In his quiet ‘I’ve got this’ manner that never ceases to shock me he ‘coped’ with the anxiety he had about what his day would bring. He ‘coped’ with not knowing the driver or his new p.a. and the fact that they arrived 20 minutes earlier than they’d arranged. He ‘coped’ on discovering that he was no longer traveling alone as he were familiar nor with just one other child as he’d been informed but instead on a minibus collecting 4 kids en route. He managed. And for those seconds I was so proud. I wanted to get on board with him and hug him and tell him how much easier it was for mummagrizzlybear to pack him off to uncertainty without first having had to restrain him. I couldn’t though. I had to just let him go. 

We’d had an extended summer holidays owing to a weeks exclusion at the end of term and the start of term being delayed whilst his new classrooms at the new site were finished being built. 8 weeks with barely a meltdown or a disturbed night and zero blips where he lost control so badly that someone was hurt or property trashed. We have ventured to new places, we’ve pushed limits, we’ve accomplished new things. We’ve shared in humour and used it to learn more about how Autism impacts on babybear, most notably he’s learnt a great deal this summer about idioms but also his coping strategies. With 48hrs left to starting the new school, babybear painfully started displaying all of the traditional signs of his extreme anxiety and features of his PDA that almost seemed to lie dormant over the summer re-emerged. 

Firstly I noticed more of his shrieks, growls and roars unfolding at any moment that caused him frustration. Next he returned to more ‘toddler-like’ behavior, like throwing a himself on the floor when distressed. Most irritatingly he upped the need to be ‘attached’ to me, morning, noon and night (waking in the night too) and then today like someone has flicked a switch he is back to avoiding the most trivial of ‘demands’ like brushing his teeth and refusing to eat. (Demands that on a whole he has coped well with all summer long).

I intentionally left today free. Planned in some self-care and got on top of some odds and ends at home taking it easy. He’s not at school a full day and I wasn’t entirely sure what time his taxi would get him home. The day flew by. I managed a short run, some food shopping, some housework and a quiet lunch to myself before he bounced back through the door. I’d worked all day in my head on what I would not do on his return. I would not ask him a billion questions. That always gets him stressed. I will not over stimulate him. I would not have anything string smelling cooking in the kitchen. I would not let him know how anxious I’d been. 

Babybear avoided my eye contact as he came through the door. I somehow needed to see his eyes to determine if he was OK, so I turned his chin up for a sneaky kiss as if only to catch a glimpse of his eyes. He allowed me the briefest moment before wanting to address his needs. He asked for a drink, stating he’d not drank all day. I showed him the drink I’d put in his bag but he responded “you didn’t tell me it was there”… He wanted a snack and the iPad and I wanted to ask questions about his day! He humoured me and volunteered a few details. His taxi buddies, the names of his 3 class mates and that he’d made a passport today all about him and he had to tick things that he has done. He didn’t like eating with plastic cutlery, had a little ‘trouble’ with the noise in his class and his brothers arch enemy was now in the same APA as him and sharing his taxi!

We’d collected biggerbruv from school and he’d gone off out with some friends to the park before things erupted. Babybear was struggling with frustration, gaming was causing horribly loud screams and he was obviously unsettled. I’d tried to set him up with a distracting game of solitaire, a non-competetive game of cards, at the table where I was sorting some paperwork. Quite unaware that he was about to blow, I insisted that he play alone instead of rising to his demand that I play with him. The cards went flying, my washing too, the recycling was kicked across the kitchen and he lunged for my paperwork attempting to rip it apart. Trying to remain calm, I directed the child monster to his room, spitting expletives he unravelled launching items around his room screaming about his window being locked but nevertheless he was contained and following at least one instruction!

During his meltdown, his new teacher called to feedback on day one. Trained in diplomacy, he started with “he’s had some good moments today, he really has” … Oh but you could sense the BUT… He had complained a lot about the noise and taken himself out of the class numerous times in frustration which is against the class rules. He’d verbally been rude to adults. He’d punched another child in the face. The shit sandwich was sealed nicely with the news that they would not exclude on this occassion as he needed a chance to settle in. Choking back tears, I thanked him, whilst doubting that sending him to school was a good idea at all.

Meanwhile babybear had simmered. He’d sussed I was on the phone to school. I went to his room trying to compose myself and think of ways to talk about things. Here, we had a breakthrough. On telling him that once we had finished having a chat he’d be clearing up the mess he had made, a tear trickled down his cheek and he said “I can’t make decisions after school, I don’t like choosing what to do and I can’t play on my own”…  Even when he has been a bugger he can emotionally floor me by showing me evidence of progress. He spoke so calmy and clearly that it was so easy to empathize. His communication was punchy and told this mummagrizzlybear just what she needed to hear. He told me what he needed help with…how amazing is that?! We collaboratively talked out a plan of how we could cope differently tomorrow. I reiterated my expectations for behavior at school. I broached the teachers review of the day and he denied any part in hurting anyone, having been restrained or having been rude to teachers. Does he actually black out?!

The plan…

Tomorrows after school agenda is mapped out in a timetable, some activities with mummagrizzlybear and some independent play, each with the timeframe I so hate to be bound by, that he finds so comforting. 

Tomorrow morning I’ll remind him to eat and drink when he’s not with me.

I’ll be specific about do’s and don’t’s (and keep my fingers crossed).

Starting tomorrow I’m going to become more assertive when receiving school calls. His history tells us he NEEDS a quiet space, they have placed him in a class without an intervention room nor space to work alone uninterrupted. He NEEDS heavy muscle workouts and sensory breaks before meltdowns ensue. When his environment is well managed the summer has proven that he can cope with the right support – school need to suss out what he requires to avoid him losing it. I have to hand over the reigns and I need them to pick them up!

Tomorrow, just like today, I will focus on what goes well, I will somehow switch my head to work mode from worry mode and I will keep building on the communication breakthrough .

PDA, ‘losing’ and learning to take a virtual ‘tackle’

Both our boys are due to return to their winter past time of good old Rugby. This year marks a big challenge for our PDA bruiser as he embarks on his first year of contact rugby

Tonight we accomplished something ‘new’. Which is huge in itself because as many of you know, ‘new’ is scary. Like an invitation to a new park…no matter how much my PDA’er wants to climb and swing the prospect of ‘new’ is just too scary so he will opt out and potentially miss out unless supported to try the ‘new’ park. Tonight had nothing to do with the park invite though.

Tonight came out of daddybear and was completely unplanned and a rare moment of genius. (He doesn’t read the blogs so I’m safe in the knowledge that he will never truly know how ruddy fab I thought he was tonight… And therefore will not feel entitled to put his feet up on the parenting duties anytime soon!)

Both our boys are due to return to their winter past time of good old Rugby. This year marks a big challenge for our PDA bruiser as he embarks on his first year of contact rugby. He’s a man mountain of a lad and packs a punch when he commits to contact both on and off the field but the one thing he just cannot tolerate is any form of ‘losing’. We’ve pandered to this. We’ve tried humour with this. We’ve been tough with this. We’ve introduced lots of different scenarios where we model ‘not winning’ and everything being just fine. But losing never gets easier for him. He actively avoids completing anything if it looks like he might not win. And if he does lose, my goodness me, we all know about it. 

You might be thinking a contact sport is possibly not the best sport of choice…give us a few months and I guess we will know more!! What we do know so far is that Rugby has been a god send in the past year helping him to practice skills that his education environment had failed to give him the chance to learn. Mummagrizzlybear has witnessed a development of self restraint, conforming, tolerance and passion. He’s learnt the rules and loves that a ref is there to keep everyone in line with these. There’s a real sense of respect instilled from an early stage in the sport, along with a shed load of fun and exercise of course. We are proud grizzlybear parents, both always there, week in week out, come rain or shine with hangovers and bleary eyes, winter sundays are for our rugby mad boys. 

PDA’er is generally ‘up’ for playing a game he knows he is likely to win so long as he is familiar with it. Rugby was no different. He attendee a whole season before signing up! 

Uno : he’s pretty flukey at. 

Guess who : bizarrely always one step ahead.

1 on 1 tag/touch rugby : he’s speedy enough (& intimidating enough) to stand a good chance of coming out on top.

Tonight it was ‘squares’. The game of drawing lines between the grid of dots until you form a square and claim it with your initial, until all squares are completed and a winner can be named based on how many squares you have acquired. Playing 1 on 1, he can ordinarily cope. He’s familiar with it and has a history of beating most opponents fairly. It’s also an easy enough game to accidentally lose as the adult needing to throw the game just for the sake of avoiding a meltdown… Guess who and Uno work the same way…he never notices when you throw the game so long as we are playing alone. Mix in biggerbruv and its a very different story!

Squares, tonight, however, morphed into a very unusual family of 4 game… Owing to biggerbruv trying to earn brownie points by turning off the Xbox earlier to spend time interacting with us!

Mid way through the game, our 4 coloured pens indicated a close call on who might ‘win’. Things became tetchy and it was hugely obvious that PDA’er might cope if mumma or daddybear were to win, but ‘losing’ to biggerbruv might just mean we’d be dealing with broken ruddy windows! Daddybear leant in and with humour and a tactile delivery he reassured our youngest that this was a great opportunity to learn how it feels to be ‘tackled’… He said “you got to learn to take the tackle”. Momentarily it fell on literal ears but as we all joined in gently encouraging him that taking this tackle would be a huge step towards his training on the pitch, he seemed to get it. He got it but it was visibly painful for him. He practiced his restraint that we witness him use on the field, his respectful manner that is demanded in a match by the ref, he conformed to our request for him to not give in and walk away and he showed us his passion and humour during competition.

Mummagrizzlybear won! 39 squares out of 90. Babybear took the virtual tackle. I saw the discomfort and the internal battle dance across his eyes. He struggled to hold back a small ‘roar’ and a ‘pretend’ launching of the pen out the window but daddybear hugged him in and congratulated him on taking that hit.  Ironically and completely without fix, both boys gained an identical 14 squares each which seemed to somewhat soften the blow.

I was anxious about the forthcoming rugby season. Desperate to see him thrive and concerned I’d end up disappointed. If he cannot learn to tolerate ‘not winning’ or learn to take a hit, his future with rugby may well be cut short… And if you could see him deliver a tackle, you’d agree that would be a crying shame!

We went on to talk about how we all take ‘tackles’ each day… All the things that go against the grain or hurt just a little. The bits we endure for the good of the team. Biggerbruv shared his tips on training to take a tackle, how to land and how to fall. We all shared in a giggle, all non verbally relieved that the game had ended without injury or breakages and despite the tension, this experience could be safely placed into the success memory bank!

Mummagrizzlybear is already thinking about all the new ways she plans to bring the new ‘tackling’ analogy into everyday life. We’ve a few ‘blows’ to get through in the coming weeks with a new school year to start, at a new APA, with a new teacher and a new taxi driver… God help us… But if we can tackle a family game of squares and make losing a success story…then I’m certain we can tackle just about anything right now!

Mummagrizzlybear braves #Legoland

Sandwhich of carhire blunders & frustrating journeys with kids with a filling of legoland and monkey world for good measure!

A meticulously planned mini break for the family to Legoland. I must be nuts. Mummagrizzlybear felt anxious about this from the moment the generous gift was opened at Xmas. No doubt purchased with great intentions, none of the family were lining up offering to accompany us on such an outing!

With no budget for a family summer hol since our recent upgrade in mortgage and house move this year, mummagrizzlybear thought it a terrific idea to plan in using our family voucher, but first she needed wine and another victim to drag along for moral support. Queue a great friend, single mum, to only child who’d love extra kiddo company for such an adventure and the additional lure of a free adult carers ticket for agreeing to help! So with copious amounts of unnecessary wine we decided we would hire a 7 seater (so daddybear could drive us all) and booked a budget hotel with breaky and selected the nonrefundable option, because what could possibly go wrong?!

D-day arrived, all 3 children suitably hyped and an hour before we are due to collect our 7 seater #Alamo ring to say, they are ever so sorry but they cannot honour our reservation as they do not have a car that size available?! What the actual fook?! Unleash the mummagrizzlybear! 5 hours later, frustrated kiddies, stressful phone calls and adults popping Kalms tablets like their skittles, and the car hire company finally deliver us a 7 seater, smaller than the model we ordered and an automatic instead of the requested manual. Nevertheless, we are now 5 hours behind schedule and risk losing a lot of money at the hotel and disappointing kiddies if we don’t just suck it up and accept that we at least have a vehicle with enough seats for us all… Ditch the luggage!

Considering the drama, a few extra meds are dished out to help our PDAer cope and daddybear gets us to our hotel in record time considering we stopped to fuel everyone with an unhealthy burger (instead of our planned civilized meal out). Arriving in super sonic speed did not however save us the pain of there now being no parking spaces! You couldn’t write this. Holding our shit together and only narrowly avoiding the draw of the bar, we bedded down, only needing mild threats to ensure the boys got the idea that we wanted them to go straight to sleep!!

Waking to the excitement of legoland, having barely slept for fear of oversleeping, we are fed and watered and ready to depart a good hour before we needed to be. With priority parking booked, we parked with ease and made our way with no queue to the entrance followed by a stop at guest services to acquire our pre arranged disability ride access pass. Despite it being mid august we were through the turnstiles with no queue and happily making our way to the star wars mini world to kill half hour before the rest of the park was opened at 10. Being novices, we had researched what we could and had a near enough military precise plan without really knowing what we were setting ourselves up for! We got the hang of the app for the access pass and despite hearing negative feedback, we felt the process worked well for us as a family and saved us a massive amount of queue time. Our PDAer reviewed it throughout the day, quite vocally at times, but I’d say his reflections were somewhat clouded by our Disney Paris trip the year previous, where we felt we were treated like ruddy royalty and fast tracked onto everything. Sure legoland have modified their access system but I’d put my neck on the line and suggest those making the most fuss about the changes were probably milking the previous system. 

We managed to do everything on the to-do list. There were moments I wondered if this had been a good idea coupled with those where I felt grateful, smug and excited all at once. The whole day was a roller coaster of emotions and I only actually rode on one all day! We did not have perfect children and a load of our photos have wonderfully timed sulky pouts captured. All 3 adults on numerous occasions could have been caught uttering threats about expected behaviors and taking far deeper breaths than ordinarily required! We survived 1 epic PDA meltdown early on in the day at the Lego City driving school (quite mortifying, trying to get through crowds of mums and dads to rescue the kid in panic vomiting expletives) and 1 much milder stand off on the bridge to Land of the Pharoahs where he just plonked his bum down and refused to walk any further. Biggerbruv also had a couple of ‘I’m embarrassed strops’ and all kids at one point or another complained that they weren’t getting their own way! That said; we all sat down in Frankie & Benny’s that night impressed by our victory. We felt it went well and most of that was achieved by us having realistic expectations of the theme park and us as a group. No family is perfect and I must say I delighted in listening to various other parents threaten their kids with classics like “if you don’t pack it in we will go home” (yeah right…after paying that much to get in…I doubt it!)

Top moments for us as a family included watching ecstatic faces on the SQUID Surfer, working up a sweat as a team on the 4D Ninjago ride and time and time again splashing our way around the Viking boat ride. Mummagrizzlybear had a couple of special one on one moments with biggerbruv brave enough to ride the coaster and the log flume and therefore seriously upping the thrillseeker stakes for us as a clan. Daddybear and PDAer took in a show for some light relief and downtime before the kids had a blast in Drench Towers, rounding off a rather epic day. 

Glutton for punishment at breakfast the next morning we decided driving straight home would be a waste of daddybear holiday time. Full of good ideas we put a shout out for recommendations of somewhere else to take the kids for a few fun filled hours en route home. Monkey World did the trick. A pleasant medium sized sanctuary, really well thought out and allowed us to release some kiddy energy partway home. To top it off, many a family were witnessed reigning their kids in (reminding me just how close to ‘normal’ we might actually be) and the best bit (aside from the baby orangutans) was listening to the poshest family bribing Jean Claude Junior with biscuits to behave, proving that even very well off families also completely balls up in the parenting stakes too!

Nearly back now. True to our luck, the sprogs have been little turds, arguing, antagonizing and generally driving us to drink! So much so that mummagrizzlybear has taken it upon herself to Google different options to holiday next summer and has provided daddybear with the choices before just going ahead and booking her selection anyway! Yep we will need to tighten the purse strings but my goodness me, next summer needs the promise of sunshine and sun loungers combined with pools and entertainment for the boys so that mumma and daddy grizzly get a ‘break’ too!

Collaboration – bringing your child into the team

Deep in a tear-filled emotional chat he asked me “are you going to leave? You said you can’t cope anymore”.

We are approaching week 5 of the UK summer hols… And for those of you like me, stranded in familiar territory and not venturing off to sunnier climates, you may too be close to the pit of despair. 

In the mummagrizzlybear household things have been quite structured and intentionally low in arousal for the benefit of our little PDA’er. As a result he has had a great few weeks with minimal meltdowns, a reduced need for medication and a healthy balance of activity, stimulation and rest. For the rest of us however we are feeling the effects. 

Believe it or not its tiring keeping life ‘low in arousal’ and monitoring environments 24/7 (but far less tiring than potentially dealing with the mother of all meltdowns). Its frustrating and messes with your head seeing and hearing what other families are cramming into their fun-packed summer hols and biggest of all for me it brings about resentment flitting between a work schedule and a challenging home-life, whilst stupidly measuring my day against a bench mark of anyone free enough to sit down alone or choose to go out at the drop of a hat. That said; its my job, my role and I’m well aware that my littlest is lucky to have me, capable and willing to do these things for his wellbeing.

For biggest bruv however, the lifestyle with PDA can get too over bearing, too restrictive, too embarrassing and just downright tough to be around. As a pre-teen his method of communicating this had been to act out. Remember. All behavior tells us something! All behaviour has a function. As parents we are just playing detective until we figure it out.

I’d been refreshing my brain with the works of Dr Greene and considering the ‘explosive child’ and the skills he may be lagging in. 

http://www.livesinthebalance.org/

During this time, I’d become very aware that I had also been feeling much lower than usual. My birthday being an eye opener when having a family member visit and witnessing my exhaustion (and that was on my week off!!) I reflected over the depression questionnaires I’d ask my clients to complete and concluded most irrationally that I was in fact depressed…. But only when I was home alone with the kids!! I laugh Now. I promise you. I am not depressed. I was tired. Yes. I was exasperated by my eldests behaviour but there was much more that could be done. I realize now that it was that moment that I considered phoning the DR. for medication that I made a choice instead to take action. If you want something to change, you have to do something differently. Get back in the drivers seat and take control.

But… Taking control over my eldest provokes resistance. He kicks back. So instead I thought about what I’d been reading about a collaborative approach. I already was unknowingly using it with my PDA’er. We always try to make him part of any solution we need to find and emphasize his responsibility which translates as control (something which he likes to have). So for biggest bruv I needed to find the right tact. Sadly, it did need me to ‘break’ before I came to this sense. I’d snapped very emotionally and locked myself away in a hot bath trying to calm myself out of planning to run away! My parenting had been rubbish over recent weeks and I was giving myself a daily virtual bashing by reflecting over how wrong id got it instead of focusing in on what I had power to change. 

Nevertheless the breaking point did bring about the resolution. I knew I needed to model the behaviors I wanted to see from my eldest and that took a bit of humility to practice. I’d been ‘snapping’ way too much and I needed to regain control of myself before I could hope to regain control in terms of respect and discipline. I’d become the kind of parent I didn’t wish to be. Opting for scary tactics like yelling, screaming and lashing out, only  communicated that I had lost control and said nothing about respect.

Deep in a tear-filled emotional chat he asked me “are you going to leave? You said you can’t cope anymore”. I explained just how desperate I was feeling and let him in on how hopeless I felt knowing that I was ‘getting it wrong’. I took responsibility without blaming for my failings and confessed that I wanted to make some changes and that I planned to make him a promise if he were open to the idea of working together.

Collaboration is a particular way of working with others in order to reach a common goal. It is often considered a process which lies on a continuum, including elements such as:

  • working together to accomplish a common mission /project/task
  • giving people an opportunity to equally contribute, problem-solve and cooperate
  • hearing a range of perspectives
  • shared responsibility, resources and decision making
  • searching for solutions that go beyond one person’s idea
  • developing trust and respect

Biggest bruv and I did just that. We both made each other a small but achievable promise. A commitment to one another that would improve our situation. We demonstrated that we cared about each other by making our promises something that we each knew the other would want to hear. We agreed how we could help each other achieve it and we planned in a nice treat for when we successfully both kept our promises for 7 days. 

I am so so pleased to share that today is day 7. Our family calendar has the ticks to prove it! We are an awesome team!

Biggest bruv has been calmer and more mature than I’ve ever known him to be. He’s had his moments when he so easily could have broken his promise but so impressively chose not to. You could actually see him reigning himself in. Its true too that I have not found it entirely easy to keep my promise either. I’ve really had to work hard on managing myself and reminding myself just how important it is that I role model the determination to make a change for the better. I feel less tired, more calm and more attuned to both of my boys as a consequence.

I’m looking forward to our little reward to ourselves and plan to offer a further 7 day agreement to him whilst we are out. Working as a team makes our home life so much nicer and communicates mutual respect. I’m so pleased the words ‘collaborative parenting’ had reached me at the moment I needed a fresh idea.

For those interested in our choice of promises this week….

Well that’s just between me and my babybear!