|My 7 oldest babies|
May 1998, I endured a 16.5 hour labour. I had the 'flu, which came with a raging fever, thumping head and pouring nose but, my little bundle decided (at 38weeks), it was time to make his entrance into the world. After 5 easy labours, this one dragged on forever. I was so exhausted after not sleeping for several days, and my body didn't want to play the game. But, eventually, baby number 6 made his way into the world with the loudest cry I think I've ever heard ! He was stunning. An absolutely beautiful looking newborn. I had done it again...or had I?
As the months progressed, I began to realise that this baby was quite different from the others. When he cried, it was loud and prolonged. He didn't settle easily to sleep and would often cry for hours until he finally gave in. By about 18 months, the tantrums began. He would bang his head on the side of the cot, or a door, until his head was bright red and sometimes bruised. He made his mouth bleed by slamming it repeatedly on the side of the cot. He didn't do what he was asked, and certainly didn't stop when I counted to 3. He would look me straight in the eye, almost challenging me to see how I would react. Shopping became something I dreaded. I was now the parent who shoved a lollipop into my child's mouth to make him shut up. I was the one who was stared at because my child was laying on the floor of the store, screaming and kicking his legs, refusing to move. The looks of admiration became condescending stares as people shook their heads at that young girl with ALL THOSE CHILDREN who obviously couldn't cope. I was exhausted and felt completely hopeless.
|Working hard at physio|
I truly believe I was sent a challenging child to humble me. To show me that sometimes, it doesn't matter how hard you try to do the right thing, things still don't go smoothly. There is no ideal recipe for raising children. Any judgement I previously had, went flying out of the window. I became a person who offered help when I saw another mother struggling with her defiant toddler. I was able to genuinely say, "I know how you feel!" I was able to comfort someone when they burst into tears at the checkout because their child didn't want the pink lolly, they wanted the orange one, and they were letting anyone within a kilometre radius know about it. I felt empathy for other parents, and I am so thankful that my own struggles, and sense of failure, helped me to feel that. It helped to strengthen me and give me a resilience I hadn't had before. It made me a better listener, seeking advice from others, and it developed a deep compassion in me for others who were doing it tough. Preparation for having a child with a disability maybe?
It has been observed that Felix will grab another student if he is overly excited or stimulated. He might begin to play wrestle with some of his friends but then doesn't know when to stop, and can't read social cues. He has also done it when he feels he is being ignored or left out. If he is having issues with his bowel (sometimes he still only manages a #2 once a week), he will get more and more agitated with each passing day, and his behaviour goes down hill. He is not able to tell anyone if he is feeling upset, alone, excited or in pain, but he can express himself by grabbing someone else. Definitely not the ideal as it results in upset kids, angry parents and stressed out staff members, and leaves us feeling helpless and at a complete and utter loss. Thankfully, the school is willing to ride it out with us, and are doing everything they can to stay one step ahead of him.
This brings me to last weekend. We were visiting family, including three of our Grandchildren (ages 5, 5 and 1.) Felix had been happily playing on the McDonalds playground with them, and a few other children, and they were all having a great time. I had been in the playground with them, enjoying watching them have fun. After a bit of time, I went back into the dining room (I could still see them), to finish my cup of tea. In the next couple of minutes, the playground filled up with a lot more children and I briefly lost sight of Felix. What followed was a blur.
A woman approached our table asking if the little boy (described what he was wearing) belonged to one of us. I immediately jumped up to go back into the playground. As I walked in, the woman started screaming at me that Felix had grabbed her daughter (he had let go by this stage.) I apologised, and started to climb the playground to bring him back to the table with me. She continued to scream at me.... yelling abuse towards Felix, and causing a huge scene. I apologised again and calmly explained that he had a disability and he had probably felt a bit overwhelmed by the sudden influx of children. That escalated her even more as she berated me for leaving him unsupervised, and told me he needed to know his behaviour was unacceptable. I explained that, once I got to him, he would be told off and asked to apologise. She didn't stop and, unfortunately, Felix slid down the slide just as I got to the top of the playground, and landed right at the feet of the lady. She leaned over and screamed in his face. He looked absolutely terrified. I finally managed to step in between them, told Felix he had done the wrong thing, and took him over to the little girl to say sorry. I'd like to say the woman calmed down, but she didn't. She continued screaming and shouting. Even as we left the playground, she was still shouting over my head to her husband, explaining to him what had happened. Her husband smiled at me and told me it was OK when I apologised. I guessed by his reaction that it wasn't the first time he had witnessed her behave like that.
I returned to the dining room, sat for a second, and burst into tears. I scooped up Felix and took him to the car where I sat and sobbed, ugly gut wrenching tears, for about twenty minutes. The next day, Felix's behaviour was worse than it's ever been. He was unsettled, teary, and testing the boundaries at every opportunity. It was easy to see that what had happened had completely unnerved him and he didn't know how to express it. I have finally stopped shaking but the whole situation has completely shattered my confidence. I feel anxious and know that I'm really going to have to dig deep before I feel that I can take Felix out again.
|Loves his chooks|
I guess my reason for writing this blog post is partly cathartic. It helps me work through things by writing them down in words. More so than that, I just want to challenge people to think about the way they react to things. Do you, like me in the early days, look at people struggling with children with challenging behaviours and think, "Thank goodness that's not me." Do you respond in anger, or disgust, and assume that the child is just "feral" or the parents are obviously useless? My plea to you is that the next time you see a child acting out, or a parent fighting back tears, that you put yourself in that person's shoes; that you offer a smile or ask if you can help in any way. Look beyond what you can see with your eyes, and show compassion. I know how something as simple as a smile from a stranger has helped me through some really difficult days of parenting.
|The light of my life|