Month: August 2017

Challenges and changes

And just like that the summer school holidays are over … the bags are packed, lunches made, hair-cuts done (and they look great) and uniforms washed, ironed and hanging ready to be worn. This has been, without a doubt, the hardest summer we have had here at GGHQ. It was to be anticipated. The next Junior GG is moving from the security of primary school into the great unknown of secondary school. Although he’s been prepared with an enhanced transition, the apprehension of changing school has manifested itself in levels of anxiety never seen in him before… and, as a parent, it’s incredibly difficult not to be able to help nor know what to do for the best.

Our family holiday was in Campbeltown this year. Or rather, a couple of miles outside, in a wee cottage just 10 yards from the sea. The area where we stayed was stunning beautiful. Idyllic was a word both Mr GG and I used often while there. Seals basked on the rocks right outside the cottage we were staying in. Oyster catchers and cormorants were in abundance. And, I’m told that dophins are often seen in the sea but, if they were there, they certainly managed to leap and frolic well out of our visual range!!

IMG_2496

BUT, it wasn’t home.

On the morning after we arrived, as we gloried in the magnificence of all around us, the boys wandered about exploring rock pools, counting seals and paddling around in the sea. Our ‘water boy’ was in his element … he was happy … truly at peace … something we so rarely see. A few minutes later he wandered back to the cottage and, as he passed me said, ‘My leg is stinging a wee bit. I’m going to have a shower.’ He wasn’t distressed, even when he appeared beside me a few minutes later with a leg like this …

IMG_2506

Yes, he’d picked up a jellyfish and, fascinated with the texture of it, had set it on his leg. We scurried back inside, doled out some antihistamine and set off to find a pharmacy to see what else we could do. In true autism style, the sting (which looked agony) didn’t appear to be causing much discomfort whereas a tiny wee piece of skin sticking out from the side of his nail was enough to cause a full blown meltdown. I will never get used to autism, never fail to be surprised by the extreme reaction to a minor complaint as opposed to relative nonchalance when faced with much more painful (but less obvious) ones.

The combination of anxiety about leaving primary school and trauma of being away from all things familiar were, I believe, too much and, after a few days that I’m still struggling to speak about or recall, it was eventually agreed that we would return home a few days early.

The rest of the summer holidays continued pretty much in the same way. My boy was anxious going beyond our garden and I truly believe that if we’d left him to his own devices he would have spent the entire summer going between his bedroom, the kitchen and the garden … oh and the bathroom … he does like to be clean!

Anxiety is horrible. For years my boy has lists of words that upset him but is too frightened of them to tell us what they are other than they’re not swear-words. Now and again he’ll come to me and, making sure no one else can hear, will whisper ‘That word [you, Dad, etc] said. That was one of the words that frightens me’. Songs from TV programmes haunt him. He is utterly terrified of being in crowds of people (I’m with him on that one). The thought of someone dressed up paralyses him (again, I’m with him there!). Going somewhere new frightens him. Going somewhere we’ve been before traumatises him in case he meets someone he knows. Meeting anyone out of context is enough to bring a fun day out to a screeching halt. The cinema is an absolutely no-go, not because it’s noisy but because once he saw a school friend. And no amount of reassuring or therapy has made progress in reducing his anxiety.

Mr GG and I feel like we are constantly walking on egg-shells because we don’t want to frighten him more than he is already. Yes, definitely, the last months have been utterly mentally exhausting for our family.

Today’s Love Dare is about listening to our children. I honestly hadn’t read this dare before I wrote my last piece where I mentioned wanting the Junior GGs to grow up knowing they would be listened to by Mr GG and I.

Listening and hearing is such a vital skill to possess. How easy it is to just let our children rattle on while we shove ‘Uh-huh’ and ‘OK’ in now and again. Children aren’t daft, they know fine when we’re not really listening or interested in what they want to tell us and, in time, will just stop. I don’t want that for the Junior GGs. I’m not perfect, I fall into the trap of not really listening far more often than I should but I’m ever hopeful that practise will stop me from doing that.

The oldest GG is now into his teenage years and wholeheartedly embracing the teenage attitudes. I’ve often said, to him, to Mr GG and in prayer that I want to maintain the communication throughout these years so that when he eventually comes through the other side we’ll still have a relationship where he wants to and will confide in me.

I love this quote … it says so much more succinctly than I ever could, just what I’m striving for at home. ‘Too often young children, especially teenagers, keep the deepest matters of their lives buried and hidden from their parents. They don’t feel invited to share. Or perhaps they’re just afraid of being ignored or rejected if they pour out their true feelings, needs and concerns. But you, as their parent are the very one God has commissioned to love them at this level.’ (The Love Dare for Parents, Kendrick Brothers, Day 29)

The dare for today is to take each of my children out for a special meal alone over the next week. That’s not going to happen! For one thing, we just couldn’t afford to do that … rather, I’m planning to spend time alone with each of the boys doing something together with them. Maybe we’ll go out for a drink and a cake somewhere (but, one boy wouldn’t like that!) … maybe we’ll got out for a muddy walk somewhere (one boy DEFINITELY would like that) … or maybe we’ll send everyone else out and spend some time baking cakes (and everyone would like that!). I can’t always follow the dares to the letter … but I’ll most definitely be spending time over the next week finding opportunities to have one to one time with my lovely Junior GGs.

So, off to bed for the GG family … an early start beckons and the start of a new academic year with all that it holds. Despite the anxiety from one, excited anticipation from another and resignation that the ‘perpetual torture zone’ awaits from yet another none of us quite know what the next year holds … new teachers, new experiences, new lessons. It’s a time of change.

Oops, it’s not still March …

[I’m feeling slightly ashamed of myself but, I’m going to post anyway … this blog post was originally written in March so although I’m talking about frogs and frogspawn, it was entirely relevant at the time. I’m not going to completely write something new just to save face … I have to accept the reality that I will probably never be a reliably consistent blogger … but those of you who know me probably know that already! So … here goes …]

Mum, Mum, Mum we found frogs in Grandad’s garden … Mum, Mum, Mum I accidentally stood on one, but it was OK and hopped away … Mum, Mum, Mum we’re going to get some frogspawn and have our own pet frogs … Mum, Mum, Mum isn’t it great we’re going to get frogs … Mum, Mum, Mum I’m so happy to tell you about the frogs cos I just know you’re going to be so excited … Mum, Mum, Mum when is Grandad bringing us the frogspawn, is it today? … Mum, Mum, Mum I’m so excited, aren’t you?

This was my welcome home the other day, everyone talking, getting louder striving to be heard! However, it appears that the boys have not grasped that frogs, toads, slugs, snails, anything like that, absolutely give me the heebies. Not all that long ago I picked up the lid of one of the (many) recycling bins in our garden and inadvertently touched a slug … I screamed, danced about in horror, screamed some more, cried a little, washed my hands several times trying to wash off the feeling. And, anyone who knows me may want to ask my Mum about the time she asked me to wash leeks picked from her garden that came with added protein!

Truth is though, I was really pleased for the boys, they were so completely delighted to have discovered the frogs … it was lovely to see them so excited and chattering away about the anticipation of watching frogspawn hatch eventually and later that evening, frogs and frogspawn featured significantly when we prayed together.

My last post was quite raw and open for me and I was truly humbled by the number of people who sent me messages or stopped and spoke to me about it. Maybe the post was more honest and vulnerable than others have been, I don’t know, but I want to thank everyone who got in touch, it meant so much to me and, even now, months later I still often think about it and feel touched by the encouragement I was given.

For some reason I often find it hard to sit down and write … I tend to read the Love Dare challenge and think about it for a few days before I start a post … OK, maybe even five months. There are only twelve days left after today’s and I’ve started thinking about what to write about next. At the moment I’m thinking about blogging my way through ‘Desperate’ by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson but I may change my mind before then … after all, who knows how long it will take me to get through the next twelve dares!

So, Day 28 in The Love Dare for Parents is entitled ‘Love is God’s Word’. This Dare is to think about family devotions, spending time reading God’s word and talking about it as a family. Over the years we’ve done different things with the boys. When they were tiny we used to read a story Bible with the boys … I have lovely memories of sitting on a rocking chair in Son No1’s bedroom when he was only months old, looking at pictures and reading to him. I know I did the same with the following Junior GGs but the pictures aren’t so vivid in my mind.

Mr GG and I have adapted our devotional times as the boys have grown older. Currently we are working our way through a wee book on Proverbs called Wise Up (Marty Machowski, New Growth Press, 2016) and have some interesting chats with the boys about what we read. They’re enjoying working their way through Proverbs and from time to time mention what we’ve talked about during the day.

These days we find that morning is the best time to read the Biblimg_30761.jpge and pray together and it’s one of my favourite times of the day. We have a ‘big breakfast’ (the menu often depends on whether it’s a day Mr GG works at home or not), sitting around our lovely big kitchen table chatting about our plans for the day ahead and, for those of us who find sleep harder to leave behind, slowly coming to with a lovely big mug of tea. Often I set the table the night before and fuss about making sure the plates etc are all colour co-ordinated … Mr GG fears that our boys pick up some of the quirks and traits from me … I’ve no idea why!

We also spend time individually with the Junior GGs praying together, reading and chatting at different times of the day … for me, one of my favourite places to talk with the boys is on my bed … it’s the place where we have the most honest discussions, where fears are admitted, where confidences are shared and where we just enjoy talking together. One Junior GG in particular often wants to talk to me about things that worry him so we go up to my bedroom and he makes sure the door is firmly closed so no one else can hear. I can tell the level of his anxiety by how carefully he shuts the door and makes sure it’s secure … once he’s satisfied the door is closed, and only then, his fears and worries will come tumbling out and he’ll ask me to pray. It’s a most precious time for me but, quite honestly, it breaks my heart to know just how much my lad worries and frets over things.

The boys all enjoy too going out to Mr GG’s mancave and talking with him there. The mancave is a ‘mum-free zone’ … it’s cold and a bit too outdoorsy for me … and I’m never fully convinced I’ll not encounter a slug on my way there so it’s a place where they can safely have man-to-man chats.

One of the most important things is that the boys will always feel they can talk to us … I’m sure there will be things they don’t want to share but we have tried, over the years, to listen to the boys, to encourage them to talk with us, and to make them feel that what they have to say is important. [I don’t always find that easy, especially when one or other of the Junior GGs is talking about gaming … I just don’t understand it … there I’ve admitted it!]

I’ve quite enjoyed this dare … I found it challenging at first but it’s been encouraging to look back over the years and reminisce about the times we’ve talked with and taught the boys. We fondly remembered the summer we studied The Christian Armour, in Ephesians 6 and had an outline of one of the boys (I think maybe Son No2) on the wall complete with armour and memory verses. He was affectionately known as Ryan for some reason and was definitely a topic of conversation for visitors who came over the months he resided in our kitchen.

So, I would like to have the Love Dare for Parents completed by the end of this year … it’s certainly possible but who knows … I like to keep you all guessing!

Update

Mr GG thinks it might be helpful for me to point out that it’s not all roses, glitter and unicorns in our home … not everything goes to plan … this morning, for example, as we had our family devotional time ‘someone’ sat clutching her cup of tea with barely open eyes, one son sat staring off into the distance and couldn’t have told his dad anything that was mentioned, another son sat picking a scab on his leg and yet another sat making faces as he fought imaginary enemies.  Yes, we have some lovely conversations and discussions and talk about things happening around the world and Christians we know and love in other countries but there are days like today when no one seems particularly focussed or cooperative (and yes, that’s me with the tea … I don’t like mornings!!) …