what i learnt today…!



Today I had reflexology. well, I say I had reflexology, but actually what happened was more like  – ‘oh my word your feet tell me you are stressed.. in fact.. I think I’ll start with your head, never mind your feet.. ‘and so the lovely ‘K’ did some reiki on me which relaxed me so much that I don’t really need to know what she was doing -whatever she was doing, was just great.

It’s true I’ve carried some stress for a while. In fact I tend to carry the world on my shoulders. Its my own fault – I call it an overdone strength. I used to attribute it to my mum, but the apple didn’t fall far from the tree and now I too ‘cant help helping’.  If I’m with you and you have a problem, invariably I will offer to fix it before I leave. Or better still, I’ll come home, stress about your problem and then that’s both of us carrying the worry. Even if its not a problem I can fix, I somehow feel I should (I have not yet attempted to fix a car.. but there’s a first time for everything I suppose ). But what I learnt today is (leaving out the bit where its not my responsibility to be a fixer), that I have tremendously large shoulders. Do you ever just sit back and think, boy I’ve dealt with some shit?!  this brings me to learning no 2 of today – although I am laughing whilst delivering the above phrase, not everyone does this. just have a think about the number of ways that line could be delivered…

This morning I was at a meeting where there were several other parents of a child(ren) with autism. This was a big day out for me in that I do not put myself or my family in that particular box, but today I needed to, for the purpose of the seminar. Anyhow, I had to sit on my hands for most of the morning as I have difficulty keeping my opinions to myself. (that’s a shock, right?!). Suffice it to say that I learnt a lot at the seminar (on the topic), but I also learnt a lot at the seminar about myself in that I mentally patted myself on the back for the positive attitude I have, most days. Don’t get me wrong – if you ring me at 8.30 in the morning I might be a banshee, and indeed if you  spy on me 2 hours after bedtime as I hear feet on the floor upstairs, I’m likely to spring off the sofa like a bat out of hell to capture the child that cannot stay in bed. But in general, I think we’re doing ok.

I don’t like to go on about Amy (its a bit derogatory), but I hope you can hear my voice bursting with pride. We are parenting a developing adult. Amy will be an adult and it is our responsibility to prepare her for this and for the world of work, or home life. We are doing this in the best way for us, which is to address each thing that arises in a positive and constructive manner.. and every day I am amazed by a little thing that she has picked up and added to her drop down menus in her brain.

I’m also amazed by Lucy – todays gem was her explanation of the lifecycle of a bird.

  • a bird lays an egg
  • the egg hatches
  • the chick grows some feathers
  • the bird ‘finds love’
  • the bird lays an egg
  • and so on…

now isn’t that lovely?! ‘the bird finds love’! I’m stupidly proud of this simple logic from a 6 year old. Now when Amy who’s studying reproduction in science (!) overheard this, we had a wee smile at each other across the kitchen and she had a wee snigger at Lucy’s interpretation. I loved that she then told Lucy how great her explanation was.. if you’ve seen my two in action, its like a war zone here when they have to talk to each other, so this was a major achievement in terms of sibling co-existence!

I firmly believe that I ruined Amy’s life when I had Lucy (to be fair I almost ruined my own, as my body has never been the same since!). Not only had Amy been an only child for almost 6 years before Lucy came (as we lost 2 children before Amy and 3 after – Lucy was lucky no 7!), but Amy’s limited understanding of her emotions meant that she is wired to panic and ‘react’ to everything. If you know Lucy, who is little miss dramatic, this is not a great combination.. but what great life experience for Amy. Some parents this morning (well, one in particular) focussed on what was not possible. at all. and how resentful this made her feel. Well I choose not to feel that way about autism at all. I choose (and that’s the important bit I think) to see it as a gift. Rather than march through life, we think about each situation in terms of how might we make that easier for Amy. Not with a ‘we cant do that because..’ attitude, but because its just generally easier if we think.. I’m thinking here about going on the school residential (we visited the place first so she could feel the pillows and see the bathrooms), playing rugby in front of 20,000 people at the RDS (visited empty Kingspan on the way, talk about the noise being happy noise, don’t sit beside her as she uses me as a crutch but is learning to use her own coping strategies, so is best left to do that, with frequent reassurance), but also less huge events such as visiting a cousin – no one sees the thought that is now second nature, but which helps to avoid a crisis, by thinking ahead. We might anticipate there being someone else there (Amy finds conversation hard.. so we might talk about things you could say in the car on the way), we might talk about what there might be to eat (Amy is not a picky eater, but she might have an assumption that we need to break down so there is no disappointment – not that round garlic bread is ever a disappointment, but you know what I mean).

I just think its a wonder when you can literally see right in front of you how the cogs fit together in that wee blond head (that’s not so much lower than mine these days). I learn about my own head through hers.

I’m reminded of the glass half full or half empty conundrum…and my response is that the glass if refillable. and what’s in the glass?!

I would love to share this mindset with more parents, but I fear that the entitlement mentality has put paid to most peoples positivity. Not mine. I choose to be positive. This brings me back to the shoulders though – I have tremendously large ones (shoulders) and although ‘K’ was a bit concerned at the state of them (physically and metaphorically) I cant change who I am. I know that I should just be concerned about my family.. but I truly believe that there is a whole generation of people who are being disempowered by parents, albeit unwittingly in many cases. I understand that all children are different, but there is a place for everyone in this world and there is something that everyone can feel good about. our role as parents is to guide them towards experiences which develop their inner voice, their sense of self.

The whole time I’ve been typing, I have a theme tune playing in my head so I’m going to post the link. Amy loves the words of this song and I’m delighted with her taste. And she’ll never be alone. x


come dancing…!

I took Lucy with me to vote yesterday. After having had the conversation about why your vote was secret, why I wasn’t voting for the man whose face is plastered on everything that stands still near our house (he just criticises other people and doesn’t have his own opinions on anything …how perceptive Lucy), and why if they are wanting to make a difference in their community they should keep it tidy by taking the posters down.. I thought we had ‘voting’ covered. It seems not.

When we came out, Lucy said ‘is that it? I thought you’d all sit round a big brown table with curly brown legs and talk about it then hold up cards with numbers..’ It’s not strictly come dancing Lucy, but wouldn’t it be more interesting if it was?!

I’m loving that the elections might mean change within the children’s sector here as there will be some new faces and hopefully a new path on some agendas. I’m also loving that I don’t have to concern myself with all of the possibilities here, rather, now that I am self employed I can watch with interest and position myself to support delivery of high quality service for children if at all possible.

I’ve had a good day today – to be fair any day that starts with minstrels for breakfast will be good, right?! In my defence they were left over from last night’s trip to the Opera House and were in an open bag and they’d have gone off if left in my handbag, so I was just minimising waste. Today has been full of plans. big plans. and coffee.

I’m on the verge of a very exciting project which will tick all my boxes and tie together all of the strands of my work. more to follow, hopefully next week!

Anyhow, over the last couple of days I’ve had a long hard look at the things I’m working on and I’m delighted that its all coming together. To be honest it has been a slow journey thus far, not least as I refined my list to something workable. Although, if I’m really honest, I’m pretty sure I’ve still got too much on my plate. But this new way of working suits me. There has not been a single day that I’ve been on my way to meet a client, a friend, or a colleague and have not appreciated the view. What a beautiful part of the world we live in. Having the time to soak in the beauty on the drive was something I didn’t even know I was missing as I was always ‘in the wrong town’ (ie already late for where I was meant to be). My family is benefitting from more of me, not the dregs at the end of the day, or in fact in an interval before I had to start work again once they were in bed (hubby included sometimes). I’ve learnt a lot on this journey – not just to appreciate the view, but that you can decide what the view will be.

I’ve also learnt that other people are happy enough for you to run yourself into the ground. why not? saves them a lot of work it seems.. and I need to take some responsibility for some of this as I didn’t ever wave a distress signal a mile from shore (not waving, but drowning). That says more about me than I’d like it to, but I’m learning. Always learning.

In this country people have an awful habit of focussing on the negative.. ‘how are you?’ ‘not too bad’… what about ‘I’m well thanks’?  (as long as you are of course). An alternative is honesty. This little known trait means that it would be ok to say ‘actually I think I’ve got too much on my plate at the moment. can I ask you for some help?’ weird.. no?

For this approach to work though, we’d need to be comfortable enough in our own skin to not worry about how this reflected on us. I aspire to this. And I’m really trying.

Anyway – have you heard about my ‘Personable‘ approach? I’m aspiring to create an environment where this would all be possible.. where we would live in environments where everyone could have the confidence to go out into the community and to engage as equal citizens

The Personable approach aims to ensure that the sensitivities of all persons are taken into account within the environments that we learn, shop, play and work

People who have difficulties processing information received from their senses can have difficulty in understanding the world around them. Unfamiliar environments can make them feel anxious, and they may choose to stay at home rather than going out. This can make them strangers in their own communities.

Difficulties with the processing of sensory information underpins many labels such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism and other communication, learning, behavioural, motor, genetic and chromosomal disorders, and you know that many people live without a label, but with many insecurities.

The Personable charter is a commitment by businesses to consider the needs of their customers; respecting their individual differences. Awareness seminars are available on a range of topics and for varied audiences to ensure that businesses can best meet the individual needs of their customer population. The key to the success of this approach is having front line staff who are trained to respect difference and to show sensitivity. A comprehensive self evaluation framework has been devised to enable businesses to regularly assess how well they are ensuring that individual needs are being met by their service.

Businesses who subscribe to the approach, signing the charter to demonstrate their commitment to the needs of their customer population are licenced to use the Personable logo and display the charter, giving confidence to their clientele that the business is people friendly.

I’m hoping that through implementation of this approach in a range of settings where we learn, shop, play and work, we can make our localities much more accommodating.

I’m working to create environments where more people can go out dressed head to toe in red with fabulous eyelashes intact if they so wish (you know what I mean) like in Lucy’s picture. I’m not sure who the character is. I’m not sure I need to know. I do know I am proud that she is happy and that she lives with me.