My Half Term Artist

Half term has been and gone, and much as I kind of dread school holidays and how we’re all going to cope, this half term was super. I think a week, with enough distraction, is just enough for him. And it’s just enough that I don’t resort to the iPad all day every day!

Dont get me wrong he was on the iPad a fair amount. Especially in the mornings when he’d been up since five and mama seriously couldn’t be doing with “building a bigger track” right now. Am I the only one whose child seems to wake up fully ‘on’? It’s like he’s got some internal flip switch, that I just don’t have!

Anywho once I had come around sufficiently, we had some really great days this half term. Lots of joint interactions, some of which lasted ages. I did my heart good to see him really collaborating with me and really showed me how far he’s come since starting school.

We did all sorts last week, from trips to the park, to train rides, to hair cuts to meeting up with friends. All of which was wonderful. But really the things I enjoyed the best were the days when we turned to the art cupboard.

When Oscar left Nursery back in July, he still wasn’t drawing anything, despite his well developed fine motor skills, and the artwork that came home was only ever daubs of colour. As the Educational Psychlogist noted, he still wasn’t engaging in any “meaningful mark making”.

That all started to change almost as soon as he started school and over the last term the paintings and drawings have been becoming more and more recognisable. And not only is he now drawing things both he and others can identify, he loves it. And I mean LOVES it. So last Tuesday we spent a couple of hours with pads of paper and markers and he went for it. Each image he drew, I cut it out and he’d blu-tac it to the wall.

And before long the walls were covered.

The aquatic wall, including fish, sharks, “shark whales” and even a squid! All named by Oscar

Sodor. Can you see the steam and the tenders? So detailed!

Alllll of the rockets. Blast Off!

I worked out that over the course of the week (as he added a few more here and there over the week) he drew 44 fish, 31 engines and 24 rockets. And 4 ambulances, randomly. He’s nothing if not prolific!

Yes he has his favourite subjects, but these marks ARE meaningful. I kind of wish the EP could see them. I think they’re ruddy glorious!

Obviously when he went back to school I needed a bit of my own space back and yes I did take them all down. But never fear, I painstakingly transferred them to his room. The fish are swimming up the stairs and the engines hiding in an alcove. And he loves them.

The aquarium is now swimming up the stairs to his room!

And for that I’d have all the blu-tac marks on my walls in the world 🙂

 

Why I’m helping the PTA

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People chuckle and tell me I am good for getting involved. They may surreptitiously raise an eyebrow at my keenness to join the PTA and help with this event or that event. I mean my son’s only been at the school five minutes and here I am helping with the raffle, helping with the bonfire, helping with the committee, attending every PTA meeting so far this term.

But honestly, and though I tell people it is, none of this is for me. All of this raises money for the school. And the truth is I, we, owe the school so much. Oscar’s Autism meant deciding where to send him to school, was one of the most stressful decisions I’ve ever had to make. But so far, I’ve yet to be proved that the mainstream school we chose was the wrong decision.

The school are due so much more than I can ever give them. In just this term alone, Oscar’s speech and behaviour and understanding and capacity has out and out exploded. And that’s not something I’ve done. Not something I could have ever done on my own. It’s a mixture of everything they’ve done for him and with him. Their patience, their insistence that he be included.

Yes I get involved. Yes I do my bit. Yes I raise funds. Yes I give back.

But no matter how much I do, or raise, or give to the school, it could never be as much. Not nearly as much…

As they have done for us.

 

I have learnt

A week. I’ve been a school boy’s mum for a week. Or in fact over a week. And I can’t quite believe it.

Maybe I should write a ’10 things I have learnt about school age children/having an SEN child in a mainstream school/the school gate’ post. They seem to be popular. But to be honest I’m not sure I’ve learnt very much about any of those things.

I know I’ve learnt that sending my child off to school in tears breaks my heart in ways I was absolutely not expecting.

I’ve learnt I can hold my tears back when he really needs me to. And that they will engulf me when I let them go.

I’ve learnt that having a child beg to stay home while hiding under the duvet, a thing he has NEVER done before, and yet staying calm and collected and kind but firm is ridiculously hard.

I’ve learnt I don’t care about what he’s actually doing in the day, as long as I hear he’s OK.

I’ve learnt how proud a silly little sticker can make me.

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I’ve learnt my capacity to stay on message is immense and, for Oscar, the very kindest thing I could possibly do.

I’ve learnt that when he’s ready to ‘tell’ me things he will.

I’ve learnt how amazing my son’s capacity for communication actually is, even if that includes play acting with his very favourite soft toys.

I’ve learnt that when Oscar asks to take a bear to school with him, I will secretly squeeze and whisper to that bear to please look after him.

I’ve learnt about my son’s capacity to find coping mechanisms quickly and appropriately.

I’ve learnt how quickly I can turn around a load of dirty uniform.

I’ve learnt that I was ready to let him go. And to have him come back.

I’ve learnt the joys of time.

I’ve learnt that my mind will still automatically jump to how to manage a situation for Oscar, even if he’s not there.

I’ve learnt how much people are rooting for Oscar.

I’ve learnt how supportive my community is. And how much I truly appreciate that.

OK, so maybe I have learnt a few things. Unexpected things, learnt through painful lessons. But learnt none the less.  I cried every day last week. But only one day so far this week. I didn’t cry yesterday. I didn’t cry today.

I’ve learnt that he will cope.

I’ve learnt that I will cope.

boy on path

On his way

Tomorrow

I never had that rush of love in the hospital when Oscar was born. The feeling everyone tells you about. That sudden lightening bolt of realisation that this is what life is all about and has been all along. No, I never got that.

Although it’s not something I’ve discussed before, the truth is, I spent so much of my pregnancy convinced the embryo, then the foetus, then the baby wouldn’t make it into this world, that when he did, all I felt was relief. I spent so long preparing for him not to arrive that when he did it was hard to reconcile that fact.

His earliest days in the hospital were harder than I ever imagined and being immobilised and traumatised by an emergency c-section, meant every ounce of energy I had was spent on just getting through the next minute. I don’t remember ever feeling love in those early days.

The first time I remember feeling anything close to the ‘rush of love’ people talk about was about three weeks later. It was the middle of the night. I guess he’d just been fed. Ben was asleep and I had just laid Oscar down in my crossed legs where he promptly fell fast asleep, something he wasn’t overly keen to do in the Moses Basket that night. It made me chuckle and I looked down to take a photo of the cheeky sleep thief lying there in my legs and boom! I realised I loved him.

baby asleep on a bed

The moment I realised I actually loved my son.

Fast forward (because it really has been fast) to today, four and a half years later. Today I am preparing for tomorrow; his first day at primary school. I have his uniform all ready. Everything is labelled, I just need to wash his coat and pack his bag. Ben has a couple of trouser hems to take up and then we’re ready. Only of course we’re not.

I thought I was. Summer has been hard and to be honest I’ve been ready to let someone else help with the effort of raising an autistic child for a while now. But turns out today I can’t stop crying. Big gulping sobs. All I can think about is my baby. The difficult, confusing, terrifying, baffling baby and wondering where did he go? The pain is visceral and I have wondered today whether this is why people have more than one child? To delay having to feeling this sadness? To know that’s it for them? That parenting a baby, a toddler is over? Maybe not. But right now it seems like as good a reason as any.

I’m writing this on his bed. Looking round his room that still has vestiges of the nursery it once was.  The pirate decal, the baby swimming certificates, the shelf where we kept nappies and wipes and nappy sacks. This room could do with a refresh I know that. Some things have already gone. The cotbed, the rocking chair, the changing mat. But I just can’t bring myself to change everything just yet.

Anyway, tomorrow. Despite being registered for transport, we’ll be taking him ourselves on his first day. I want to be there, to be able to reassure him. Hell, I want to stand by his side all day and make sure everyone understands who he is and what he wants. But I can’t. They will have to learn. Just as I did.

This is not a letter to my son on the eve of his education journey. It’s not an essay to discuss the benefits or downfalls of children starting school at this age. Its not about how I’m not ready to let him start moving away from me, or how frightened I am for him, an autistic child, making his way in a world that wont always understand him. I mean it’s a bit of all of things, but really it’s just a mummy,whose relationship with her son has never been easy, confessing how much she loves him.

And from three weeks old, always has.

On the School Bus

Oscar starts school in three short weeks. But whether or not I’m ready for it is not what I want to talk about today (by the way, I’m not).

I knew the school we’d chosen was the right one from the first visit. I just knew. But there was a problem. The school is three miles away and I don’t drive. This wouldn’t have been an issue had there been a decent public transport link, but there just isn’t. However, I knew this school was perfect for Oscar, so I put all thoughts of actually getting him there to the back of my mind. After all where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?

And I’m thrilled to say we found that way. Because we live more than two miles away from the school (3.1 to be exact) and because I don’t drive due to my epilepsy and because of Oscar’s Autism, the council have agreed to provide him with transport to and from school. I’m so happy about this. The logistics otherwise just don’t bare thinking about. It means the mini bus will pick him up from our house and drop him at school (and vice versa) every day. It’s such a relief.

I love that it means I can concentrate on just getting one of us ready in the morning. I mean I probably wont hand him over in my pyjamas, but if I really had to I could! I can make sure he’s as prepped for the day and as calm as possible without having to worry about getting myself ready to leave the house and struggling to getting him there. No more mile long walks along busy roads to preschool every day for me!

And I think he’s going to enjoy getting the bus with other children from his school. He’s a surprisingly sociable little guy, so I think he’s going to get a lot out of riding in the ‘Frog Bus’ (the bus has a frog on the side) with the kids. He will of course have an adult escort on the bus, but I’m hoping he’ll enjoy the social interaction that it brings and who knows, he may even make some friends!

And that got me thinking. One of the main things I felt we missed out on when Oscar was starting late and finishing early at preschool (apart from actual time at preschool) was the social interaction with the children and their parents. It was really hard for me to develop any kind of friendships through the preschool because I just didn’t see, and therefore get to know, any of the other mums. And the fact that I’m not going to be dropping off or picking up Oscar from school, kind of leaves me in the same situation. When children are older and start making their own friends I don’t suppose it matters so much. But at this young age, I remember from my own childhood, that much of the socialising they do outside of school comes as a result of the friendships their parents make at the gates. Not to mention the friendships that I could be missing out on. It’s something of a conundrum.

But hang on just a minute. Schools in the States use buses to transport their pupils as standard don’t they? Unless TV and films have lied to me, even from the earliest age our Stateside friends put their kids on a bus to school and have them dropped off in the same fashion and have been doing so for years. So what do American parents do? How do they connect with their child’s school? How do they meet each other? How do they form friendships? Do they have another way or is it something that wouldn’t occur to them to do at all? I obviously need to chat to some American moms and find out what I need to be doing. Any advice gratefully accepted!

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Of course the school gates aren’t the only way to meet other parents at your child’s school. Its the easiest way sure, but what about things like PTA meetings and committees? School fetes and fundraising dos? I can do those. I can help out and make friends at the same time. And I hear Oscar’s school’s version of PTA meetings have wine!

See. I knew it was the right school for us 😉