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Raising little Westies, and life as parent of a special needs son
Last night, we actually attended the dinner I wrote about.
It was a roaring success, with all our guests attending, the younger ones having a blast, and the parents of those guests of honour getting along fabulously. One great thing is that one of those guests we hadn’t seen for a littel while, because she has moved house recently.
A couple of great photos from the night: My daughter, caught by accident appearing to have American Indian headdress, and my son with me.
The end of another week in Canberra.
It was a pretty good week, though, seeing an aunty I hadn’t seen since before I’d become a father and having a great night out on the eating tools with her.
And tonight, I’m back in my own home, with my kids chortling away at one screen or another – tv, tablet, or PC monitor.
Tomorrow will be a full day, starting with kids football, with some room for some domesticity, before heading out for an evening with friends to celebrate the birthday of both my daughter Princess P and my youngest son, BTB Fan. This will include some of the first friends that we were introduced to by our son, through his pre-school, when he came home one day with an invitation to a birthday party. For a girl we didn’t know, who our son had never mentioned – because at that stage he wasn’t saying any names at all.
And as well as the twin girls, there will be a friend from football, who BTB Fan is now happy to greet by name.
Food, children, and autism – out in public.
At this stage, our fingers are crossed.
Today was a big day.
It was a big day for me, it was a big day for my wife, it was a big day for our dog Lizzie, and it was a big day for my daughter, Princess P.
Today, my little girl became “officially” a tween – a teenager in waiting.
To mark the day I took her shopping for one thing she had asked for – a really great pair of boots. Anyone who has ever gone shoe shopping with a girl “of any age” knows that is a job that takes quite a while…
We followed up a great day of shopping with a great family celebration.
Congrats on turning 10 Princess P. Please continue to be kind to your father…
There are moments in life that seem to have been designed to make people stop, and think.
To me, birthdays with a 0 in them seem to have been purposely invented just to make people stop, and think. Tomorrow, my Princess P turns 10.
Things have changed. Almost all of them are “qualitative” changes. Clearly, as she is my eldest child, so we have gone from “childless” to “parents” – parents times three, including one diagnosed with Autism.
We have gone from renters, to homeowners.
We have said goodbye to our longtime pet dog, Mollie, who has gone “to the farm” where all good dogs end up.
Ten years ago, I had a mobile phone – my wife, who worked in the same place every day, did not because “why would she need one?”
I was leaving to work from home every day. Right now, I leave on Monday and come home on Friday.
We had dial-up internet, and connected to sites like MySpace, and used download services like Napster.
All my photos from then, were taken on film.
I had to think about what I could do on the weekend. Now I have to think about what I can not do on any given weekend.
I had been in the Army Reserve for about 11 years, but between children and their changes in training requirements that is no more.
To my Princess P, I say thank you for changing my life, along with your brothers, you have bought boundless happiness. I hope your birthday tomorrow is great and we have as much fun getting you from 10 to 20 as we had getting you from 0 to 10.
There’s just something about a fire. Fire brings people together, and gets to the core of being a bloke.
Over the weekend we had a pretty full day lined up – footy, too far away to get to, then another game of footy, lunch and a post-lunch get-together with some kids footy friends. The kind of day any autistic kid could be excused for not handling at all.In all, a massive first weekend for the school holidays (which have arrived just in the snotty nick of time).
That’s right, we were taking our little autsie off to a whole new place. A private house. Where there are… let’s just say more than a comfortable number of people sharing what us Westies would say was a house on the smaller side of the scale. Incredibly, the multi-generational thing just works for J & her family. I don’t know how they manage it, and truth be told I’m not too keen on experimenting to see if it would work for us! Something tells me that the house would become dramatically smaller if we were to throw an autistic 5 year old into the mix.
As luck would have it, the youngest boy there just adores Bob the Builder’s biggest ever fan. He hasn’t stopped to notice the whole autism thing, or to have to meet the gap between ignorance & intolerance – he still accepts that “people are different“. The Magpie, and Princess P, are likeable enough to fit into any gathering and showed that to be the case again.
But all parties need a theme. And this barbeque kept coming back to “the fire”.
They had, for whatever reason, done the kind of household cleanup normally reserved for an episode of Hoarders. But there was a fair bit of stuff left behind. Apparently this was reason enough for a bonfire in the back yard… no, it wasn’t that big, let’s stop at a “fire” (we did a reasonable job of restraining it to fit inside a wheelbarrow they no longer wanted).
If you think the kids were fascinated, you’re right, but UG! it was nothing on the blokes (myself included of course!). What could we chuck on there? How much better is a marshmallow once it’s been toasted – and why? Why is that wood burning so much better than this, and who on earth put those pieces on there in such a thoughtless way… they should go like THIS!
Still, something at that party must have clicked. Because our few extra kids managed to stay under the radar all night, even when they were shooting arrows at the host, or zooming around on ride-on cars which – lets face it – were never intended for a five year old. Autistic or otherwise!
Here’s hoping, there are more fireside moments in the offing.
Yesterday, again, we ventured out to the “Land of the Giants” otherwise known as “Rooty Hill” or “(the) BOP”.
We had a great day with Princess P playing in her Junior AFL game, then joining Magpie and a bunch of Auskickers for a skill training session with some help from the GWS Giants. Almost every parent there looked around at least once during the morning and said something like “it’s a waste if they leave this place unused any weekend of the year“, in no small part because it was so darn well run compared to events at random local council playing fields.
The day even started at a moderately civilised 10:00 am.
Which left plenty of room for the evil mischief genies to run riot between getting out of bed, having breakfast, and getting into the car. In fact by the time we were in the car I was starting to wonder what the devil we were leaving the house for. But the option is staying home.
It turned a bit chaotic when the kids weren’t both at the same place, back-to-back, but this meant I got to really watch how much better Princess P is now than she was last year – or even, at the start of this year. Apparently the coach noticed too, because she got a coaches award (again)! It’s great because, although her skills might not be the same as some of the boys she’s playing with, her attention to what the coach wants each player to do is fantastic, and she thinks more about her game than a lot of the boys do (who’d rather just kick the bladder right out of ball , no matter where it goes).
So there I was, with Bec having headed some other direction with Magpie (to the other field for Auskick), with BTB Fan on the side of a footy field. With no convenient play area, he did what boys do and turned some random thing into a toy.
He happened to choose “the fence” – which I’m guessing was at least 2m high. His game consisted of climbing to the top, then letting go.
So I spent the morning alternating between watching footy, and assisting someone who didn’t want assistance to not fall down a fence. Then when the Junior game finished we wandered over to the skill session, which was not so spectacular for Princess P’s age group but really good for Magpie & his team-mates. This gave BTB Fan the perfect opportunity to do something that he hardly gets any decent opportunity to do: roll down the hill.
Clearly there’s some sensory seeking going on there, and I know it was the type of thing I loved doing at that age too. So why is it so unusual and why did so many people give us strange looks that he is allowed to “play“?
For anyone not already knowing: The GWS Giants are the newest team in the AFL due to join the main competition in 2012.
Most my regulars already know about the fantastic web group that Nicole English kicked off over at the Autism United Ning community. Over the long weekend we celebrated not just Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, but also a certain Bogan Princess (complete with sash presentation). Happy Big For OH!
For the second time, a whole bunch of people who usually only meet each other on-line met at Club B, bringing along a whole bunch of citizens of the spectrum. This time, the weather kept everyone indoors… which did bring about a few concerns but they were pretty minor really! Far fewer trains than last time, but they still made an appearance. It was also nice to see another bloke, not just Westie & Brian. Maybe next time at Club B there’ll be another one… or two… no pressure!
It was a fantastic evening, and a fantastic opportunity to catch up with everyone shortly after the first confirmed “in the wild” sighting of Valerie Foley’s “The Autism Experience“ in an actual book-shop. Budding author that she is, quite a few signed copies were presented, and there was a lot of discussion of how well travelled, dog-eared, and tabbed for future continuing reference each persons copy had already become.
Oh and to the management of Club B, it seems you’re definitely in the sweet spot for the Sydney chapter of Autism United (we need t-shirts, or bag patches or something). On behalf of all the Westies, I hope you open the club to us again and again…
In case you missed it, the Westies live in the Land of the Giants. No I don’t mean Brobdingnag, I mean we live near Blacktown Olympic Park, or Rooty Hill. Which has now taken on a new life as the home territory of a national sports team so new, it hasn’t actually had it’s maiden match yet.
We are also fully into our junior Australian Rules Football.
This week we have been told that as our club is wonderful, we will get to play at the Giant’s home training ground – both the under 8’s which Magpie plays in, and the under 10’s which Princess P plays in. This will be followed by a bit of a fan-session with the players. Hopefully this will include Israel Folau but only time will tell.
I say that because he has probably had a fair bit to do with quite a few of our teams players having any interest at all in Aussie Rules instead of Rugby League or Rugby Union.
As luck would have it, the same day we also have a birthday party to attend. It’s at exactly the kind of place spectrummy parents love to loathe… an indoor cafe play-centre. At least everything is padded, but it’s also contained noise. Contained excitement. All one room.
But, the birthday boy loves Magpie, and Princess P, and his brother loves BTB Fan to bits. So it should be a good day.
It’s been amazingly quiet around Westie Central: we’re down to only one child, and it’s the one who wouldn’t say anything if the house was on fire. We know this to be true because he’s set the toaster on fire without saying a word.
Amazingly it’s given his mother and I something we don’t really understand how little we normally have available: time. Time to breathe. Time to just be. Time to do more than the bare minimum essential to get through today, and hopefully get ready for tomorrow – usually we cannot even think about next week, until next week becomes tomorrow.
Amazingly, we’ve actually used that time!
Time to be with our son, uninterrupted.
Time to be with each other, uninterrupted (hey, there are benefits to non verbal, inward focussed children… just kidding. Maybe?)
Time to think, to plan… and then to prepare.
We have one day of it left, spent tonight being very social with one unplanned family visitor (well: one mum, and her three kids!) and one planned dinner visitor (again, really “1 mum plus two kids”) – about the first dinner-only visit I can recall. Two hours past normal bedtime for both our son and his two visitors (twin girls he knows from pre-school), amazingly, there were still three quite relatively calm children providing plenty of time for parents to be people not just parents.
One day. We have to get the most from it!
We all get so wrapped up in our own challenges. For those who aren’t aware, both Rebecca’s family and mine both live over five hour drive away from our own home here in Western Sydney.
This includes her brother, as well as my own three brothers, her parents and mine. Her family is in northen NSW, my own is in the Riverina. Which makes taking a break from things a bit difficult, and it also means that any travelling involves making the choice of which family we get to see for that trip.
This year we decided that with BTB Fan starting school in only five more weeks (sorry to scare any of you with that idea) we would stay in our own home for Christmas and avoid travelling altogether.
Today I rang, or had a phone call, from many of my family members. My eldest niece has for the first time made the choice to spend Christmas with her boyfriends family while my brother has gone to see his in-laws, with his wife and younger daughter.
My second eldest brother has had a shakey year: now that his youngest is looking toward university his wife has “very strongly” questioned their marriage, and right now it’s unclear if this was their last Christmas together.
And the third of my brothers has this year struggled with both financial fallout from a previous marriage, while dealing with the same journey we are all making here – identifying exactly what label is going to describe his youngest son, and how to give that son the best start in life. It is something that is still very up in the air.
Then I rang an aunty that I haven’t seen since before Princess P was born. The mother to a cousin whose name Rebecca and I chose for our first son.
Her husband is in palliative care with multi-systemic cancer.
We all face our own challenges, and they often leave us blind to the challenges of others. People who themselves, are dealing with challenges, and are blind to the challenges of everyone around them – including us.
Reproduced from the now-closed autism united ning website
appologies in advance for broken links