Month: October 2017

Who’s a bad influence?

Twice in one week … don’t get used to it!  However, I’m supposed to be doing coursework and, as any student will know, procrastination is a finely honed skill directly correlated to the amount of studying needing to be done!  Friends … now is the time to visit GGHQ … the housework will be up to date, there will be freshly made brownies available and, who knows, I may even have painted the ceiling that desperately needs some attention.

 

It’s been a lovely Saturday here with Mr GG and the Junior GGs … we spent time with grandparents, we spent time together as a family and we got on with some chores that needed doing around the house.  I even managed to get my act together and do some candle-making … the results are setting at the moment.  I think Mr GG is hopeful that I’ll be bitten by a candle-making bug … I love candles and nearly always have some burning in the kitchen while I work or at the table as we eat our evening meal together … it can be an expensive business! 

The clocks change here tonight … it heralds cosy dark nights, Christmas and winter … coats, hats, scarves and gloves have been brought out of the attic in preparation and the winter coats have been set out ready for the cold mornings.  The first frost has already taken me by surprise and, as every year, resulted in the school drop-off running late!  I love this time of year … I love the colours of the trees and walking through piles of leaves that rustle underfoot.  I love the promise that winter is coming and days when the cold stings our cheeks as soon as we go outside.  I love living in a country where we have seasons (admittedly sometimes all four in one day) and I love the anticipation of something new every few months … I’ll be as excited when the clocks change in spring heralding longer days and lighter evenings.

A huge thank you to everyone who got in touch with me after my last blog post.  Thank you for the notes and cards that were sent to me, for the private messages that I received and for the words of encouragement.  It means so much to me.  I try to be as honest and open as I can be … I find it cathartic, and good practice as all too often I put on the “all is fine” face when I see people.

So, today is Day 31 of the Love Dare for Parents and the subject is ‘Love Influences’.  As parents or grandparents or carers or teachers or, well, anyone who spends time with children we all have an influence on the little ones we come across.  It’s up to us whether that influence is a good one or a bad one. 

I have a lovely memory of a dear uncle teaching me to jump in puddles when I was a wee tot … whether the memory is real or has been cobbled together from stories that I’ve heard I’m not sure but it’s there … and I remember later in my childhood talking about it with him and he laughed saying he was a bad influence on me.  Not at all!  Jumping in puddles was fun … he was, probably unwittingly, teaching me to embrace times when life wasn’t exactly as I would have liked it … he was helping me make memories that I treasure … and while nowadays a number of factors mean that I don’t get to see him as often as I would like I still have those memories that I hold dear.

Everything I do has an influence on my sons … and, as I’m sure most parents will agree, that’s not always a good thing.  When I’m tired or crabbit or stressed I show my children the side of my character that I’m not proud of … and those are the times when I have to go back and apologise to the boys, admitting that I’ve done wrong.  Those times, whilst not easy, can open the door to some of the most exciting conversations … times when I can talk to the boys about how I have so much to say sorry to God for as well as to them … times when I can tell them, again, that although the consequence of sin is death that Jesus has paid the debt once for all. 

The Dare for today is to make a list of Christian books, music and movies that will inspire and encourage my sons over the next years.  To be honest, I find that hard … when it comes to books I have lots … I’ve always loved reading and since becoming a wife and then a mother I’ve read many books about becoming better at the roles I’ve been given.  I originally was going to say that I’ve been really restrained lately and have managed not to buy any books for the past couple of months in order to catch up with reading pile … but, *hanging my head* I have to admit that I’d forgotten a book I’d bought this week and am really excited to read … ‘Fingers in the Sparkle Jar’ by Chris Packham.

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So, as a reader myself, I’ve naturally tried to cultivate that love in my sons and, yes, they all do enjoy reading … but I’m at a loss at how to encourage them to read more Christian books … I wonder if I’ve truly looked enough and searched for Christian books that will grab their attention and encourage them as they grow older.  A couple of years ago the Topz Books were a big favourite with the Juniors and one of the first choices when it came to curl up reading together times.  But, time passes and, certainly the older two, have moved past that stage … I need to find something that they can relate to at the stage they are at now in their lives.  Any readers who have recommendations I’d love to hear them!!

 The music side will be left to Mr GG … whilst we both love music Mr GG listens to more Christian music than I do … he writes and sings his own songs too … I’m sure there’s an album hidden somewhere ready to be recorded at some point!  However, I digress … I think, as part of our teamwork, I’ll delegate that part of the dare!

Movies?  Well, I think that’s something we can look into together … we love a movie night with the boys … a big bowl of popcorn, duvets downstairs and curled up together on the big settee … recipe for a lovely evening!

So, another day is ending … one horribly tired boy is nearly in bed, another is playing in his room and another is out with Mr GG.  Can’t forget that the clocks change tonight which used to mean an extra hour in bed but these days, and for most parents, means an extra hour of children!!  Sleep well folks …

 

 

Facing life’s challenges

Ach, here I am again … too much dithering about and not enough writing … this Love Dare is taking me a lifetime to complete … or, at least, around the lifetime of an octopus (trying to be educational, hahaha!).

The past days, weeks, months have been, as I’ve said before, the most challenging Mr GG and I have faced.  There have been more times than I can remember when I have fallen down exhausted, crying out before God to give me the patience I need to become the mother my sons need.  I’ve been exhausted by the relentless obstacles that seem to be thrown in our direction, by the continual demands on our emotional and physical strength, by meetings which we prepare for in one way and then they go off in a completely different direction, from conversations with professionals who don’t actually “know” my Junior GGs the way that Mr GG and I do, from finding myself in situations where I’m trying to explain to the un-understanding why my sons sometimes behave in particular ways.  I’ve had periods of time where I have chosen to distance myself from the world, to step back and focus on my relationship with God, on me, Mr GG and our Juniors … time that I have desperately needed to take before falling to pieces completely.

Autism is not a straight forward path and as the boys get older they are more and more aware of differences between them and their peers.  Sometimes they struggle and beg Mr GG and I to help them stop being autistic.  I hate that.  I hate that they can be so unhappy with who they are (but can totally relate to how they feel … I see so much of myself in them) … they are, each one, awesome, clever, funny, caring, loving, talented and, oh, so handsome. 

During a recent conversation with one of the boys we were talking about how life has changed from the ‘olden days’ (when I was a child – thanks boys!) and how I remember children from my class in primary school who, looking back, had definite autistic traits, but who were sent to be taught in a ‘remedial’ class.  How thankful I am that things have changed … my Junior GGs went to a fantastic primary school where they were nurtured and accepted as they are.  I’m thankful too that, at our lovely church, the boys are known and loved and their quirks are accepted.

I truly believe that God doesn’t make mistakes.  As a parent struggling with going through the diagnosis process (and even since) people used to say to me things like ‘God only gives children with extra needs to people he knows will cope’ or (even worse) ‘Only special people have children with special needs’.  Comments like that never, ever helped me, they only gave me a desire to bop the speaker on the nose (which I never did!) BUT I am convinced that the family God gave me is the family I was always meant to have and that my boys are exactly the way God wants them to be.

As a child (maybe 11-13, certainly no older) I was given a book by a lovely family friend.  At the time of giving me the book she said that it wasn’t the book she’d planned to give me but she hoped I’d like it.  It was a book called ‘Simple Simon‘ (thankfully eventually renamed as ‘In a Summer Garment’) telling the story of the author’s son who had autism.  The book fascinated me and I re-read it several times over the years.  Later on, in my 20s, I was attending a city church where there was a family who had a son with autism … he couldn’t cope with sitting in church so a group of us would take it in turns looking after him during the service … he was a delight and I learned so very much from him.  It’s only in recent days that it has really struck home to me that God was preparing me for being a mother, right back in my pre-teen days and in the years inbetween.  Mr GG and I maybe had to wait for the right time for us to marry and then face heartbreak before becoming parents but God has prepared and equipped us for the role that he has given us. 

This is Day 30 of the Love Dare for Parents (more like Day 700 in reality) and today’s reading starts with one of the verses that I have clung to as a mother, and especially, in those pre-school days.  Isaiah 40:11 says ‘He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.’  That verse gave me so much hope and still does now … yes, my young aren’t quite so young now but I’m so aware that God is leading me and carrying my children close to his heart.

The subject for today is shepherding the hearts of our children, how we help them face disappointment, heartbreak, bereavement and, well, the difficulties of life. 

On first reading my initial thought was ‘it doesn’t apply to us’ as, other than the very real pain of facing the death of pets, the boys have not really experienced bereavement in their lifetimes.  However, they have faced disappointments and hurts and rejection by peers.  And it is never easy!

I’ve written before about a time when one of my Junior GGs was being bullied and what a challenge it was for me to forgive the bully long after my son had forgiven and forgotten.  That incident was not the only occasion when we have had to deal with bullying so, yes, my children have, like most others, certainly faced hard times.

At home, around our table and around the house we regularly talk about different issues that the boys are facing … sometimes they struggle to articulate what they want to say and retreat into themselves but Mr GG and I have learned to recognise the signs (mostly) and try to encourage them to talk as best they can.  Children don’t always communicate with words and sometimes we have to be quite creative to get a story from the boys.

Every child faces struggles, every child will have to face bereavement, cope with being rejected, have a broken heart, be mis-represented or betrayed at some stage in their lives.  It’s a sad fact that life is so incredibly difficult at times and we, as parents, have a responsibility to lovingly teach them how to cope with the obstacles they face. 

The Dare for today is to talk about John 16:32-33 and Romans 8:28-39 with our children and help to encourage them to hold on to those words when they face hard times.  They are verses I have turned to so often myself, maybe especially the ones in Romans and my prayer is that, as my boys grow up, they learn to love and cherish and learn from the Word of God just like their parents and grandparents.

So, yes, I’ve struggled over the past months, but I’ve learned too and been reassured in so many ways that God is with me, giving me the strength and patience that I need.  I’ve so much more to learn as a parent, my role changes from day to day as the boys grow up, mature and face new challenges.  I’m a blessed mother, I’m thankful for all that I have been given, even on the days when I feel like I’m clinging to my sanity purely by my pinkie!