Life has been tough this past week … nothing in particular but just one of those weeks when I rail against life being difficult for my boys, when it breaks me seeing my two oldest sons unable to cope with “everyday” things, when I struggle watching my youngest son finding it tough having two older brothers with autism, when I get crabbit, grumpy and ridiculously stroppy about life and when I feel weighed down with worrying about things that probably don’t need worrying about.
This past week is one in which I’ve had, more than once, to seek out my sons (and Mr GG) to apologise for snapping or getting angry. It’s been one of those weeks that I’ve ended up doubting my parenting, worrying that my sharp words will have a long-term negative impact on my children and, not least, yet again questioning why I think I’m capable of blogging my way through the Love Dare for Parents or even opening up to let people have an insight into me and my life.
I don’t, for a minute, think I’m a perfect mum. I think I’m usually a good mum but perfect? Absolutely not. I’m harsh and feisty, I’m unrealistic and crabby, I’m tired and overwhelmed but most of all I’m a work in progress, incapable (in this life) of perfection.
Becoming a parent was one of the most traumatic, life-changing experiences I’ve ever had … I remember being handed this squawking little bundle and looking at him wondering who he was … I was, admittedly, suffering the effects of morphine and not quite at my most alert but I felt completely unprepared for the journey I was starting. Twelve years on I’m not really sure how much more prepared I actually am!
As the Junior GGs get older our conversations change. Son No1 is at an age now where we can talk about much more in-depth things, once we manage to move him away from Dr Who (his current obsession) that is. Recently we were talking and I apologised that he seems, so often, to be my guinea pig … every stage he reaches is a first for me (and him) and he’s the brunt of all my mistakes. In reality I make mistakes with him then go on to repeat them to varying degrees with his two younger brothers. He smiled, hugged me and said “You’re the best. Even when you’re making mistakes, I think you’re the best. I love you.” He made me cry! I’ll never be the best but I’m winging it and trying to be the best I can … just like pretty much every other mum I know.
This week the Love Dare has also been encouraging me to be careful not to show favouritism and to be fair. I know that I love my boys with every fibre of my being, that one to one time with each of them is important to me and that I don’t have favourites but it’s encouraged me to consider how I’m treating my sons and how they see things …and it’s tough!
A few weeks ago Son No3 told Mr GG and I that he thinks it’s not fair that his brothers have autism, he feels that he’s missing out. I understand him … he watches his brothers going off to the social work run activity scheme on five days during the summer holidays, hears all the stories of the fun they have and can’t understand why he’s not included. After Son No3 told us how he felt we had a chat with Sons No1&2 and they agreed that this year they’d take a break from the activity scheme … whilst the scheme is a brilliant help to us all we have to do what’s right for everyone.
It’s not easy to be the only sibling without a diagnosis of autism. Son No3 sees his brothers getting stressed and anxious about things that don’t seem a big deal to him. He sees them getting “treats” like the activity scheme. He sees them seeming to get away with behaviour he doesn’t get away with. He sees them getting days off school (not often) or going to school late because things are difficult for them (for one of the boys Christmas parties at school are a trauma too much for him to bear). It all seems totally unfair to him … his brothers are just that, his brothers … they love each other, they squabble, they torment each other and they complain about each other, just like any other family.
I don’t have any answers, I wish I did! Mr GG and I just continue trying to make sure that Son No3 gets to do fun things both with and without his brothers. The reality is that the days he feels he’s missing out on the fun are the days he gets to choose exactly what he wants to do without any of the usual restrictions we normally have … I guess life isn’t always as we see it!
And, just in closing, the Dare for today was to make a box for each of the boys filled with memories, photos and achievements with the encouragement to look through it together from time to time. I’ve kept lots of things for the boys over the years but I like the idea of a small box we can look through together filled with key moments and memories.