Trying to co-exist as a productive adult with my kids because long gone are the days I could put them to bed early and get my own shit done in peace lol #thestruggleisreal
Trying to co-exist as a productive adult with my kids because long gone are the days I could put them to bed early and get my own shit done in peace lol #thestruggleisreal
No parent ever wants to admit that their child has development issues, is slower than the norm or ‘special’. We want our kids to be healthy, happy, and able. But sometimes it turns out that they need that extra bit of support and TLC to achieve their milestones.
Autism, however mild or severe, is one of the scariest words for a parent to hear.
When Etienne (2.5yrs) was younger, he did not like affection or people very much. If you got in his face you were met with an open palm slap. And if a stranger acknowledged him and said ‘Hi’, he would scream at them as if to say ‘get away from me’. We took it as normal for that time as our other son, Chance (4) also went through a ‘stranger danger’ stage previous “Stranger Danger” blog here . It seemed to drag on however, so David and I decided that we would make extra effort to teach our child to be more affectionate and be ok with eye contact. We purposely got in his face, we cuddled him regularly (even when he was blowing up about it), we put him to sleep making eye contact and used his hand to touch our faces embracingly. It took a little while but our efforts paid off and now our little man is great with eye contact, affection and social situations with new people. We also put him into the best school (pre-primary) that we could find that catered to smaller classes and the individual attention and found that he was slowly adapting and interacting with other children.
While making great progress, he’s also missed a fair few developmental milestones. 2.5 years and not pointing, only a few inconsistent words and only just started chewing his food properly, are probably the ones I worry about the most. David and I sought out help from a paediatrician who sent us to an ENT. At first they thought it was a hearing issue. 2 weeks of tests later, they told us his hearing was perfect. Etienne was just really good at ignoring people and sounds.
No hearing issue meant they had to look at the other side….the spectrum side of things. The speech therapist suggested we started to do some therapy to help him with the communication side of things, hoping that once he could speak, some of his other odd behaviour would fall away. By odd behaviour, I mean hand flapping and funny blinking and hand gestures which we have identified as ‘self-stimulating behaviour’ or ‘stimming’.
See sometimes kids ‘stim’ to entertain themselves and when they are bored they make up games for themselves. This becomes habit and their ‘go to’ reaction to some things and feelings. Sometimes kids (and adults) stim because of anxiety, excitement or for comfort. (nail-biting, doodling, pen clicking are common forms of stimming0. And sometimes it’s a sensory issue. The latter is the more serious. Anyway our kid was stimming and we needed to know why, because it felt like he was so distracted by these actions that he failed to notice us or situations that he should have been learning from and mimicking.
Speech therapy was progressing really slowly. I felt that I was driving him to the other side of town for a short controlled play session with a speech therapist and that until we could tackle the stimming problem he would not have the attention to learn to speak anyway. So after doing some more research I sought out an Occupational therapist to assess our little man.
The OT came over to our house to observe Etienne in his own comfortable environment. After spending a couple of hours watching, (Etienne pretended the OT wasn’t there the whole time), He told us we might be dealing with some mild sensory issues do with the vestibular and oral systems. The vestibular system relates to the child’s sense of under or over stimulation to movement (can explain hyperactivity). And the oral refers to mouth sensory processing (which may explain sensitivity to food textures and delay in chewing, speaking).
The OT gave us a questionnaire to fill out. The questionnaire that assesses your child’s development against the normal milestones of other children his age, and based on the results would determine how behind he was or how far on the spectrum (mild, moderate, high, severe) he would be classed as. An intervention plan is then derived from this information. “The good old questionnaire”: like many, I’m a big fan of ‘Dr Google’ and had taken many questionnaires similar to this one, so I already knew they would tell me that he would be mild to moderate… David and I have filled the questionnaire and have handed it back for scoring and are waiting for the OT to come back to us with results and action plan so I will keep you posted in the next blog.
The thing is, if we had taken this questionnaire 3 months back, there would be a whole lot of milestones that we would have ticked ‘not achieved’ and if we retook the test in 3 months time I’m 100% sure some of those answers would be different. I see the progress that my son is making, but it’s just a lot slower than other kids his age. David and I decided that the label that we put on him based on those results would be reserved for this current stage that he is in right now and not carried out forever. We will be reviewing those questionnaires often to keep the diagnosis accurate and current.
I find myself wishing that it is a behavioural issue or ADHD or just a social delay for which he can play catch up on, because as far as I have read and understood, Autism and ASD and sensory issues don’t go away or get cured, we can only learn how to manage them so it doesn’t affect everyday life and development. I find myself asking what I could have done better as a parent and sometimes the guilt is overwhelming…
So there it is, my last 6 months of anxiety summarised into a few paragraphs, in hopes that other parents, professionals, friends and therapists dealing with these kinda issues may offer their stories, advice and reassurance.
The biggest thing is: I’m here on an island (Mauritius) that has minimal support for these kind of issues, (parents here almost are in denial of children’s behavioural and sensory issues, because they are embarrassed and scared of being judged), and I know that if we want the best chance to turn it around, we need to intervene early. It makes me want to pack up and run back to Australia as fast as I can, but then, with the cost of living comparison, I might have to work so much that I may not have the time to dedicate to develop my child the way he needs there, like I have the time here. And what about how all this will affect my older child? Will all this time dedicated to Etienne mean we might overlook Chance’s progress or unintentionally make him feel neglected? And what if we can’t afford treatment?… So what do I do? Take things one step at a time and educate myself as much as possible… Fuck parenting is challenging sometimes…
Thanks for taking the time to reading my story so far… Please share and comment as you wish Xx
At some stage, as parents we wonder whether our kids get enough of, or too much of sleep. Sleeping is so important for growing, development and keeps kids moods regulated. And for us parents gives us a chance to recover, rest or get other bits and pieces done.
There is no standard or normal when it comes to babies and children. They are all unique and some more energetic than others, so its best that you play it by ear and work with them to create a natural routine.
Etienne (2) is a morning person, he’s up at 7am, naps approx 1.5 hours during the day and is usually down by 930pm. Chance (3), however, is a bit of a night owl. We are in school holidays at the moment so he is up at 1030ish, sometimes doesn’t nap and goes down at 11pm on average — when we are unlucky he stays up till 2am… On school term though, this all changes.
Anyway, for those of you who are wondering how much their kids should be sleeping, check out this guide I found below. And remember that they will usually sleep more during growth spurts, after new experiences and when they are unwell.
Wow school holidays hit us like a slap in the face this time round. Where did the time go? As busy parents, Dave and I only caught on that holidays were coming up on the Wednesday before.
3 whole weeks of both kids at home – at a time where we actually don’t have a car available to us! What a nightmare! We are one week in and…I haven’t had a moment for blogs or recording or work till now.
And boys are like puppy dogs, they have so much energy you have to take them out for runs, plays and activities. If I keep my boys in the house too long, they literally start to destroy it.
Anyways having surrendered to the fact that I’m not going to be as productive these next few weeks, I’ve been trying to come up with activities to do with them in the house and locally. Here’s a few things I have on the program.
Walks to the park
If the sun is out and it’s not raining, it’s a goer! I thought I would have a problem getting them to leave but after a good play they are more than happy for a drink of water and home time.
Chance adores cooking. This week we made banana and choc oat muffiny cookie things (I was improvising). We also make pizza using wraps and tortillas with tomato and cheese. They are so quick and easy. Next week we’ll do cup cakes and pancakes.
Everybody loves Lego, till they step on one! Building things with Lego is so good for their development and creativity. We always opt to buy the genuine Lego brand though as they are built to last and wont crack into sharp bits.
We have lots of Wiggles and ABC kids DVDs in reserve and the kids absolutely love dancing. Plus it burns lots of their seemingly unlimited energy (ours too). All in fun and exercise.
My kids are big fans of Mister Maker so they love drawing and making things with cardboard, paper, clay, straws – just about anything. Try to collect bits and pieces they can use for crafts: jars, boxes, toilet rolls, tins, lids buttond etc it is also a nice way to recycle.
So there is a good start. I’d love to hear what other parents are doing on school holidays to keep their kids entertained. Please comment below. Remember that days of them dying for your love and attention are numbered so make use of the time while you can. One day you might be the one chasing after their attention 😉
Today my son Chance had his half year assembly and presentation day. It was his and my first.
His class of 3 year olds came out and sang and recited a poem for a big audience of parents and friends. My son being my son of course, came out and went straight for the microphone and hogged it for the whole performance! I had to go up on stage to hold him back from taking the mic over from the other kids. It was hilarious. But the best part of it was when he looked out to the audience and saw me there. His face lit up and he shouted “Mum!’ and my heart was full.
It was optional but I attended. And I attended because I remember what it was like to be a kid and not have anyone show up to watch. My family couldn’t always make it due to work, lack of transport and other commitments and sometimes they did, but they were late. Even though it wasn’t them being intentionally nasty, as a kid, sometimes it felt very disappointing and even embarrassing.
So today I showed up for my kid. On time. And I was proud and happy for him and for all the other parents that I saw there showing up for their kids. I think that it is so important for them to know that there is someone there rooting for them, always, no matter how young or old or popular they are. It’s such a great confidence booster and builds so much trust.
So if you can make it. Show up. It might be boring. You might hate it. It might be an effort. It may be out of your way. Show up. And be early. And clap and be proud and excited for them. They’ll remember it for a long time.
Today my son showed me all of his work that was displayed on the walls at school, including the below drawing of the kitchen? He’s a creative one 🙂
I have 2 of them. Active little monkeys. 3 year old Chance and 2 year old Etienne. I actually don’t know where all of their energy comes from. Always touching, climbing, jumping off or destroying something! Sometimes I think they are on a mission to kill themselves. As parents of small children we barely have any energy left for ourselves at the end of the day, when we take our boys out, David and I get asked how do we keep up with them? Truth is we are pretty relaxed with our boys, often we let them figure it out for themselves. I mean that in a non-neglectful way of course. We give our boys the freedom to run, jump, dance, throw, wrestle, climb as they please. The rule is if its not gonna hurt them or put them in direct danger or destroy someones property, let them do it.
Children are meant to be seen AND heard. Every action and sound that they make in these first few years helps them to develop and learn. They are supposed to know how to climb — if you don’t let them they won’t learn. They are supposed to touch and feel objects to learn about textures and for mobility. The more they use their hands the better they get at it. They need to jump off things to practise landing on their feet. They need to fall to be able to learn to brace and pick themselves up. And sometimes they need to feel pain to learn how to cope with it. They are constantly creating new rules about what they can, can’t, should and shouldn’t do.
If you are constantly hushing your child every time he or she opens their mouth, your child may struggle with vocalising opinions and standing up for themselves in the future. If you don’t allow them to make mistakes they will assume that life is easy and naive. If you don’t let them take small risks now they will not learn to assess risk at a later stage. If you give them everything, they will expect it from everyone else. If you shelter them away from disappointment, rejection, loss and fear, they will struggle to create strong coping mechanisms.
So let them live. Let them play in the dirt, let them get dirty, let them hang from a tree, jump off the ledge. Just be there. Be there to make sure they are ok and safe, then be there to pick up the pieces.
Don’t worry too much about mess till the end of the day. Create a fun, safe and active environment for them at home. We like to cook, draw, play chasy, soccer, wrestle and dance with our kids. The whole family gets involved, even grandma! We take them to the mall, the park and the beach often because they need to get out. And when they are well exercised, they sleep better at night. And so do you 🙂
I’d love to hear about how other parents deal with active kids, so please feel free to leave a comment below.
It has taken me more than 2 years to write this post. I guess it’s because it was such a crazy time of my life, but before I write anything about what I experience with him on this blog, I’d like to introduce my youngest son Etienne.
After a traumatic experience giving birth to my son Chance (you can read about it here: https://creativemamaau.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/my-birth-story/ ) I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through the whole process again. Especially not any time soon. But fate had decided that Chance would have a little brother. Just under a year after Chance was born I fell pregnant.
I have to say being pregnant the second time was easier, just because you knew what to expect and you aren’t freaking out at every body change, movement, cramp etc.. I was much more lax about it. Being pregnant and having a 1 year old proved to be a challenge however. My first child is and has always been active. He also is very affectionate and likes to climb all over me. Once I started to get bigger, I struggled to keep up with him and hold him in my arms. I continued to work normal hours (I’m a singer and vocal coach) and had this amazing plan that I would take all the work I could get till the end of March then I would take time off in April – when bubba was due. It was a great self organised maternity leave plan I had for myself.
Etienne came on the 22 February 2015. A whole 8 weeks premature. Right in the middle of my busiest work month. The night before, I had contractions, which I brushed off as the ‘fake’ ones cause it was way too early. But they intensified and at 5am I asked David to take me to the hospital. Yep my baby was coming. He was ready to be out it one easy go. It would have been a real short labour, had we not had to prolong it. You see, when a baby is born 8 weeks early, the lungs have not yet fully developed and so there was a massive risk that he would not be able to breathe on his own. To help move his development along, I was given steroids and told I would need to wait 12 hours for them to enter bubba’s blood stream. This would give him a boost and give the lungs a chance to further develop. I also was given something to try to stop my labour. 12 fucking hours of him wanting to come out and and me and the doctors holding him in. No pain relief drugs. My uterus hurts just thinking about it.
My mum flew to from Melbourne to Sydney to join me at the hospital. By now we were about 9 hours in and David’s eyes were falling out of his head from fatigue. I sent him home and called my best friend Veena. She was the angel that dropped whatever she was doing to help me through the last few hours and hardest contractions. Each time they came I buried my head on her shoulder and squeezed her hands – I was sure I would break them. At the 13th hour, I finally got my epidural. Gosh, as soon as the pain was gone, I told the doctor — all good, no rush now, we can just chill.
Because I had had a c-section with Chance, under 2 years before, I was originally recommended to have another c-section with baby number 2. The pressure of giving birth naturally after a c-section, having not fully repaired, could lead to the scar tearing open again. But things were progressing quite fast (bar the doctors slowing things down) and Etienne was going to be tiny, so the doctor didn’t think it would be too much of a risk to have him naturally. I took the natural birth route. I gave birth to Etienne just after 11pm that evening with mum, David and Veena present. My Epidural had worn off just in time to feel the push and Etienne was so small he popped out of me relatively easily.
But as soon as he did he was taken away. The prodded and poked him and stuck wires into him and put him on machines and into a box. He was born 1.6 kg. My palm was the size of his whole torso. My heart sunk when they told me he would have to stay in the hospital for 6 weeks.
I stayed in the hospital for 10 days and then every 4 hours I needed to return to the hospital nursery to breast feed my baby. He always fought to stay off the machines. My boy was a fighter. He wanted to breathe on his own and on the 3rd day, they took him off the oxygen machine. He still had to have a tube into his mouth and nose, which went down to his tummy because he had not yet learnt to suck, so he was fed milk through this tube with a syringe. There was a nurse with him 24 hours a day. Thank god for those nurses. It was hard. I had a one year old who was needy and not allowed to see his brother yet, I had a full schedule of work and my partner and I were exhausted. To top it off, we were also moving house. FML!
Choosing the natural birth option was the best thing I could have done for myself. I was literally able to dance the next day. I did however wait a week before my first gig (straight out of hospital and on stage as diana ross and the supremes lol). By the 3rd week the intensive care nurses thought I was superwoman (or had lost my mind). Every 4-6 hours into the hospital, breast feeding or express pumping in between gigs and teaching. I remember feeding, then of to the hair dresser for a massive 60s do and eyelashes, then coming back for 2nd feeding, then off to a “Starlettes gig” and then back to the hospital at midnight for a feed still in my gold sequins maxi dress. Then the next day I was Tina Turner. ‘What a glamorous life I had’ they said, But I was delirious 🙂
Pumping milk out of my breasts in between sets wasn’t fun either but I didn’t want to explode whilst on stage (it happens), so it had to be done. Anyway, my little man was doing well in hospital. We had a lot of skin to skin time and he slowly learned how to breathe and suck. I will never forget holding him in the baby ICU and watching the red light flash on the machine that monitored him with his heart rate counter falling rapidly because he was tired and just momentarily forgot to breathe. It happened twice in my arms. His heart may have not stopped fully, but mine surely did.
It was a hazy 6 weeks and when it was time to leave we moved into our new place. Bringing Etienne home from the hospital felt so awesome, even though he wouldn’t have professional monitoring by nurses 24/7. I was excited to have him home with the rest of the family. My heart was full when in the car on the way home from hospital, Chance held Etienne’s hand. It was the perfect start to our new journey with our 2 boys. Having 2 children under 2 is hard work but I’m glad I had them when I did, because they are close in age and they interact really well with each other now. Also for us parents, we are still familiar with the development stages when the second one goes through them.
Oh and they are not the same, they are like chalk and cheese with regards to personality. Etienne is no where near as social as Chance is much more sensitive (he is his father’s child for sure), he is fairer (like he actually might burn in the sun rather than tan) and he has straight hair. He sure did catch up on his weight too. The little tank is almost the size of his brother now and has been wearing the same size as him for a year.
I wasn’t sure I had enough love in my heart to share between 2 children but the moment I lay my eyes on him, I had found another very special place to hold Etienne forever in my heart. He is 2 now, fussy as hell, loud, sometimes grumpy, but my is he beautiful. I still can’t believe he’s mine. He will forever be my little miracle.
I’m still grateful for the nurses at RPA in Sydney, I’ve never seen a team so caring and hardworking. They literally saved my child’s life and continue to save lives everyday. My best friend Veena, I mean, you watched me pop a baby out of my vagina, we homies for life! I’m so blessed to have you as Etienne’s godmother. To David, I never told you how fucking awesome you handled both births and pregnancies. I love watching you parent and become a better dad each day. To mum, who taught me to be a mum and who left her life to choose us and be a part of our little family. Thank you for always showing up for me. And to uncle Scott, whom we could not have coped without through the early months of both our sons. We can’t wait to have you here with us again soon.
Lastly, thank you for taking the time to read my story. It has been quite therapeutic to write and remember. Till the next one (blog post, not baby). :p
I’ll leave you with some recent photos of my Etienne.
Ok so I’ve spent the last 10 months on this tiny island of Mauritius with my family, after spending the last 30 years in Australia. I think that Sydney is massively over-regulated and do like that there are far more freedoms offered to us here on the island, but one thing I think is a massive issue is that people do not seem to risk assess very well. It particularly annoys me when it affects the safety and well being of children.
The ridiculous risk taking that I have seen here in the last few months is beyond me. Especially on the road: Carrying full gas bottles or a plastic tub of kerosene on a motorbike, massive rice sacs flopped over a pushbike – riding in traffic, people who choose not to use a blinker, or a seat belt or shoes and a bunch of workers riding unsecured (standing) in the back of an open truck.
I drive Chance to school every morning and pick him up every afternoon. The amount of parents that let their kids ride in the car without a seat belt or an appropriate car seat is crazy. It is not law to have to wear a seat belt in the back seat here. But why the Fuck wouldn’t you? Why the fuck would you let your child stand on the passenger or back seat of your car whilst driving. I’ve seen this twice this month. Where are your fucking parenting skills? How do you not see the risk in this and why don’t you know better? As parents we have the responsibility to appropriately assess any situation and make sure our kids are safe before anything. But its like some people have the “It won’t happen to me” attitude and that is how they are navigating through life. Until that unfortunate day that your child flies through the window-screen. No one wants to see a child injured or worse. So parents, For Fucks Sake, take extra precautions to ensure their safety, even if the cost is a litte higher. You can always make more money, but you will never be able to replace a child you’ve lost.
I’m going to list a few points based on the things I’ve seen here in hopes to enlighten some people (maybe education is what is lacking):
On the road
Out and About
In the Kitchen
Around the house
This is just a start of a list. There is so much more I could add. Above all, Parents, teach your children how to be safe, play safe, and look after themselves and others. Teach them how to identify risk. And when you ask them not to do something, explain why. They are sponges to information and will learn quickly how to keep safe if we put in the effort into teaching them.