Doing your best

Amy got 29% in her maths test… I’m ok with that as I know she did her best..in fact when I looked over it I saw some some questions marked right that were wrong (?!). Amy laughed at the idea that her teacher had messed up but it didn’t dawn on her that that meant she’d got less than 29% (She’s not great at maths). She laughed as I drew huge circles round the answers that were incorrectly marked right and put exclamation marks beside them, then she was horrified about what her teacher might say when he saw what I’d done. ‘He wont like you mum!’, she said.’I have enough friends’ I said.. ‘I don’t need him to like me, I need him to teach you maths’.

But actually, knowing Amy has genuinely tried her best to navigate her way through a test which might as well as been Latin verbs, I’d rather see what the teacher’s plan is after handing her paper back to her as surely he has caught on that she just not grasping it? The clue is the question on the back of the paper which goes something like this… you have to put 120 chairs out in rows for a concert. How many ways could you arrange them?

Amy drew chairs.

I can laugh now.. but this is an example of how no amount of explaining maths will help her with questions that have words in them, cause maths is numbers, right?

Tomorrow Amy is playing in a rugby tournament. I don’t mind how many games she plays in or how she performs as I’m already proud before she gets on the bus.

When Amy was born they told us to pick a name and call our minister. She weighed the same as about 10 mushrooms. She’s never scored well on tests – she had an apgar score of 1. In normal words that means that she had very little going for her, was not breathing, was blue and lifeless and had a very faint pulse.

Her success with tests continued in that she failed to meet any developmental milestones and in terms of the growth norms chart- she didn’t meet a single centile line until she was 6 when she finally met the 0.2 centile, meaning that 99.8% of children her age were taller and heavier than her. That was a real success though as she’d trucked along on her own wee growth line at the bottom of the page for the previous 6 years.

She has defied all odds (the ins and outs of which are a story of their own- you wouldn’t believe the half of what you see as your child grows, not inside you, but inside a glass box).

So I’m not interested in making her feel like she’s failed in anything. By goodness she’s worked harder than most; having to be taught to swallow, breathe, move her legs, sit etc..things most take for granted. I am quite sure that maths is less important than breathing.

Sports mums are generally divided in 2 camps..without going in to us and them, I’ll just describe my camp.

I don’t need Amy to be the best player on the pitch.

I’m happy that she is doing her best (her best might be different from other girls’ best..).

There is as much if not more to be learnt about life on that pitch for my child as she’ll get in school..

I know that sports are usually viewed as competitive. Yes it’s a tournament we are going to. But within teams there are individuals and each person’s best is their best. That’s it. I’ve seen so many parents (perhaps reliving their youth, or defeating old dragons) who berate children who don’t win.. this is equally true for the blinking AQE test and for those children who don’t score what parents had hoped for.

The impact on a child’s self esteem of feeling as though they have disappointed their parents is huge. The template is created too which denotes the child’s role in the world-to please others. We need to be fostering a healthier viewpoint for them- their lives are their lives and they live them for themselves. They have an internal locus of control which it is vital to nurture as it is this which will make them responsible for their own actions.

I think sport is important to teach children rules, interaction with others, co-ordination etc. Then there’s the biological benefits of endorphins.. and then the boost to self esteem which comes, not from winning but from knowing you’ve tried your best. In fact I think the life lessons from a game transfer well – it’s important to learn that not everything in life will come easily, that not all games can be won (think of the implications for interactions with others if you expected to get your own way all the time), and that if you are fair and try hard  (at whatever it is) thats where the enjoyment is to be had.

I have some cheek to write about sport – my view of the rugby pitch as a teenager was from the bar..

Ive decided that the WAG equivalent of rugby mum is ‘Rummy’.. I could be a gin Rummy perhaps?! Who’s with me?!

Left field.

 

I hope I’m a good friend. I listen.. remember their worries and try to remember pertinent dates so I can check how they are (after a dentist appt, on an anniversary.. ).. I contact friends when I think about them. I love to meet for coffee and a chat. I’m usually the one to suggest it. I hope my friends know how much I need them as much as they need me. Very rarely do I ever talk about how I’m feeling, what’s worrying me or the things that occupy my mind. I’m usually the smiling one..

But I’m not always feeling that way. Few people would actually expect the answer they’d get if they asked the question. And I suppose that’s why I say.. ‘Yes I’m grand thanks’. And that’s where it ends.

But it’s OK to say it’s tough. This being a mum yoke is hard work. I’m constantly torn between wishing them older and worrying I’ve not remembered all the good bits. It takes an especially strong person not to see the hard bits as a reflection on you. The more I know about the importance of early years, of those early relationships, bonds, trust.. the more I worry that I’m seriously messing up people’s lives here.. maybe Amy is not autistic. Maybe she’s got an attachment disorder… when you spend 118 days inside a glass box and your heart stops every time someone touches you, how could this not impact on how you form relationships? Indeed how could the wee scrap work out who to bond with as there were so many people far more instrumental than me in keeping her alive.

I’m straying into showing my emotional hand here.. but I’ve a big lump where that sits so I’m being cautious. Those who know me will know cautious is not me.. seat of the pants, last minute.. I work best under pressure.. cautious I am not.

Tonight has been hard. I’ll not go into that..but suffice to say my heart hurts. I keep trying to remember it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love me. It doesn’t mean that. It doesn’t.

The most difficult part for me is not knowing what’s next. Just when I think I can watch eastenders in peace..bam.. there’s a meltdown and it came from left field. I was off guard and didn’t see it coming, I’m unprepared. im feeling selfish.. this is my time.. I deserve this peace and now this is going to take an hour to sort out*

*by sort out, I mean for things to get quieter. It’s never sorted out.

Parents of pre teens, please tell me how long does this last?

I need to rise above it, remember I’m an adult and that I’ve a big job to do. I’m raising adults. It takes a big person (ok..!)to see past what’s in front of them and play the long game and parenting is no different. I remember reading something so powerful about raising a strong willed child but when times are tough I forget it- it’s more important that we raise children to make informed decisions than to be obedient. (Doing as they are told sometimes would be good?). The point is that doing something because they’re told to do it creates a personality type that may indeed mean they could be easily overpowered, led astray, taken advantage of.  Its so hard to remember that I’m to empower them, not overpower them when I’m trying to get them to do sthg they won’t do!

I have 2 very different children. Both strong willed. I have no idea where that came from. At all. 😉

I’d like to add my daughters to my friends list. I’d like to be the friend to them that I hope I am to others. I hope they can see through how I interact with others how they should be with their friends. I hope that being the best person, friend, colleague, daughter that I can, they will learn by my example. Parenting 101.. I learn so much from them and literally every day they make me question something, which I believe is how you learn, through wonder.

I wonder..

Do they know how loved they are?

Do they know how proud I am of the simple things, not just the test marks, but the little selfless things they do, the maturity I see growing in them both, the people I see them becoming?

Do they know that I’d go without to give them experiences I want them to have?(i’m not going without pretty shoes.. that’s just taking it too far)

Do they know that they have the best dad?

Do they know how much I wish my dad knew them?

OK.. I’ve talked myself full circle. I’m doing OK.. im proud of them. They both have invisible gifts. Amy’s is a clinker actually..she can feel energy. Thats some gift.

Tonight was just a bump in the road; the road that will take them far. What am I talking about?.. it was only an hour.. it’s nothing really. I’m grand thanks. X

** thank you for listening.xx **

Mum.. did you tell him about…?

Apparently April is autism awareness month. I’ve seen some activities described as autism acceptance. I’ve seen ‘don’t support x.. they marginalise autistic persons’.. I’ve seen it all.

What I’ve not seen is anyone who shares my view.

I’m actually starting to sound like this is my soapbox, but it’s just because it’s so topical at the moment. They even lit up the town hall blue for autism this week.. (Oh and ive also seen an online row about what colour should be the ‘light up’ colour for autism- it seems people will row about anything).

I’ve bulldozed Amy into playing rugby. Yes I know she doesn’t even weigh 5 stone, has a waist smaller than her 6yr old sister and doesn’t like dirt.. but sure. Despite both grannies (Is it not quite violent?), her dad (im not sure about that) and her aunt (Amy will get broken), I took her anyway.

 

Once she got past seeing someone she knew in the car park and therefore refusing to leave the car.. it was grand! As she was ready to get out of the car she said.. mum did you tell him (the coach) about my…. you know… ass…?

If you mean aspergers Amy (if it’d been Lucy I’d be pretty sure she meant bum), then no I did not. I don’t really think it’s relevant.. what I did say as she stepped round the side of a muddy puddle to get on to the pitch (sigh) was, ‘Amy’s quite shy’. Now if you ask me, that describes her rather than puts her in a box. It also didn’t make me sound like the sideline mother from hell, nor send him into a tailspin wondering what he needed to do or not do with her. If autism awareness had come as far as all the jigsaw car stickers I’ve seen hope it has, we’d not need to mention it at all. i reckon. But I’m aware this is not a popular view.

If autism awareness really made people aware that I’d say on average a third of children in every class would have a personality trait, a sensitivity, sensory issue, anxiety or worry which may (if we were to assess..which we won’t) suggest that they might (if we dehumanised it all) be on the autistic spectrum.. then I think what we’d be looking at is individual difference and how we actually relate to each person on an individual basis, taking their particular traits into account.

 

I’m lucky to have several good friends. Ive used them all in explaining to Amy how friendships work. I’ve discussed their personality traits with her and pointed out several things about my friends to her which make her feel less different. She can see commonalities with adults that she knows I love and that’s how she is learning that everyone is different. Friendships are different with each person that you are friends with. Conversations are different depending on how you know a person, how well you know them, how much fun you have together or how much you have in common with them. She’s also learning that you can have conversations without any of those variables as I seem to have the kind of face that people tell their life story to, even in a queue in marks and Spencer for example. In fact I have a good friend that I met in a toilet once many years ago…!

Having read more about autism these last few days than ever before, I’m hearing parent voices, not those of autistic people. Do they want to stand out as different? I’d say if you were to ask a mainstream class if anyone had autism would they please stand up, that might actually be cruel. So why are we hearing so much about marginalising so many children who want to be understood. Understanding autism is a biggie.. but we don’t need to understand it all, only that which relates to those children and adults we come across, live with, work with, play with. But that’s not about understanding autism. It’s about knowing a person.. what they like, what makes them comfortable and what makes them tick. Each person is different. Autistic or not.

I’m sure teachers would find that many of the soft skill interventions that benefit autistic pupils would also benefit the whole class. So let’s focus on just being generally more sensitive to people. Please.

(She’s loving rugby by the way.. she’s so proud of herself which is just wonderful 🏉❤)