This post follows on quite nicely from my previous post Perception Vs Reality, that post was about our perceptions of the way that we parent versus the reality of how we parent. This post is of a similar vein, but it is about how we perceive others to parent. What are the perceptions we form and how often do we form them from limited information. I took my youngest two boys to the park by myself. I know, I know I deserve a round of applause 👏. I am not going to lie to you. It was a really hard trip. As you may know if you have read my previous posts, Zachary who is 3.5 years old has Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing disorder. In a very small nut shell this means he does not experience the world like his neurotypical ordinarily developing brothers. It also means a trip to the park often isn’t as simple as a trip to the park. The difficulty began the moment we left the house and I put the football in his bag. He wanted to carry the ball. He couldn’t as we were walking and the ball would ultimatly end up in the road and the last thing I needed was him trying to run into the road to rescue a runaway ball. He did the normal, shouting, stamping his feet (he is extremely good at this), pulling on my coat etc. I explained “Zachary ball at playground”. After a few more minutes of protesting he began to walk nicely. When we were about to walk past Iceland. I asked “Shop then Playground?” Or “Playground then Shop?” I waited the appropriate 6-8 seconds (which I have recently learnt most autistic children require to actually process a question or command) in between each question. Zachary is quite literal so Park is where we go to feed the ducks and Playground is where the slide is, so technically it’s the playground that is next to Iceland, so we wouldn’t have far to go. I had kept the language as basic as I could for other children I might have said. “<insert name> do you want to go to the shop first and then to the park? Or to the Park first and then to the shop after?” But for Zachary I kept it really simple. After what seemed like an age he shouted “Rayroun” and inside I had a rush of pride. I think he understood the question and he answered it appropriately. Yay! So I began to walk towards the park and that’s when he began to scream.
I got down to his level and tried to make eye contact, he refused, but that was OK. I asked “What’s the matter?” It’s instinctual in these situations, but I am almost positive he doesn’t understand what I am asking him. That is when he lay on the floor and started rocking on his back with his arms and legs stretched out in the air. I was trying to pick him up whilst asking “Is Zachary sad?” No response. After a few seconds I feel my cheeks start to heat up. The people in the shop are looking through the window at us. Darwin thankfully is restrained in the pushchair so I can focus on Zachary. My friends and family know just how loud this little chap can be when he wants to be. It’s part of his Sensory profile, that he can’t always regulate his volume and when he in the mist of a melt down, you don’t stand a hope in hell getting this chap to lower his volume, to be fair what child can, when they are so wrought with emotion they can barely control their bodies.
So, eventually after what seems an age he calms down. I hold him. I hold him really tight and say “Zachary’s OK, Zachary’s OK”. At this point I remember the ball, then I realise, when we left the house I never mentioned anything about a shop and he has been walking to the park to play with his ball. I say “Zachary want ball?” “Zachary go Playground?” He immediately perks up and begins walking towards the Park. I feel very frustrated at myself, thinking that would had been unavoidable had I just thought. Then I cut myself some slack (something I don’t do often enough) and remember this is all new to me. That sometimes when I look at my gorgeous boy, I forget to see the autism and sensory processing disorder and just see a beautiful 3.5 year old boy and I try to treat him like any other child that would fit into that category. We make it to the park in one piece. WOO HOO!! He had a great time at the park, it is fantastic for him to get lots of sensory input. Running, jumping, climbing, sliding, swinging, kicking his football etc. there is also a big bench shaped like a train. Zachary has a special place in his heart for this bench. He climbs on shouting “ALL-A BOR” I say back “All aboard” and it’s time to say “Tickets please”. During the time at the park Darwin had a few episodes where he lay on the ground and refused to move, pushing and smacking other children and then getting really upset apparently over nothing. After an hour and 15 mintues I decided it was time to go.
With Darwin safely in the pushchair, I began to let Zachary it was time to go.”three slides then shop”, he didn’t seem impressed, after the three slides, I said “go shop get drink”. He was in a grump but he followed. He was fine in the shop and chose a drink and gave the cashier the money and got his ‘ticket’ aka receipt, all was fine on the way home as he sipped his apple juice. Then a bus went by. Zachary instantly started pointing shouting “BUS.BUS.BUS” I try to distract him by engaging him, “yes, bus. Big blue bus”. Zachary doesn’t want to discuss the dimesions and design features he wants to get ON the bus. He begins trying to chase the bus, thank you, to whoever designed reins. It ended with Zachary on the floor screaming again as the bus pulled off and the passengers were staring at us. This is the point when my heart sinks we are at a Dual carriage way, which we must cross the get home. eventually he calms enough to attempt to cross. As I place my hand on top of his on the pushchair handle he begins to make this noise, over and over again, clearly he doesn’t like my hand on top of his, but we have to cross this dual carriage way. We get to the middle and another bus passes, my heart sinks, but this time he just makes this noise louder and louder and points! We cross to the other side of the road. We are on the home stretch now. We are so close and yet so far. We make it back to our street, but Zachary is sobbing, sobbing so hard it is heart breaking. His Dad can hear him in our house which is about five houses away. He comes out and scoops him up, takes him into the house and begins to comfort him. Within 5 mintues Zachary is fast asleep, he stays that way for four hours. It seems the trip to the park really took it out of him mentally, physically and emotionally. I will say, this was a particularly bad morning for Zachary, for every outing we have like this we have four or five that are almost meltdown free. We are still learning to read his cues at the moment, it’s all a learning curve. We will get there though.
The point of this post, wasn’t to moan or to focus on Zachary’s Autism and SPD, but it was to show you that not everything you see on social media reflects the truth, or at least not the whole truth. As you have been reading and looking at the photographs, can you believe these were all taken on the trip to the park. Not one sign of any of the things I have mentioned. They are lovely photographs that show what a wonderful time we had at the park. I could have posted these pictures and said, how proud I was that Zachary offered to share his football with another child or that he pushed me and Darwin on the roundabout. Now don’t get me wrong I am so proud of him, but it made me think. What would other people have thought if they saw that post. If it was some one like me. I would feel guilty that my trips to the park weren’t that fun, that my children didn’t seem to have as much fun as others. I may even feel that I am a bad Mum. If you are a comparator like me, these images could make you feel like a failure. Now it’s not the person who put the photos up fault, they were probably just trying to show some images of their children having fun.
Just remember the images we see on social media are just a tiny snippet of what goes on behind the screens. It’s like we get to see the final master piece and not the anguish, frustrations and 16 failed pieces before. But know those things exist. I wanted to show you mine. So don’t few bad when you see images that make you feel bad, you do not know what is going on behind closed doors. Every one has their own struggles. So take them for what they are, selected images to show you their life. The best piece of advice if can give you comes from a man named Robert Nesta Marley, although you may know him as Bob Marley “Don’t let them fool ya”. Happy Hump day guys. Relish in your happy moments, but don’t be afraid to show off the imperfect parts too.
Thanks for Reading