Tomorrow is my third Mother’s Day as a mother and I already know it will be my favourite.
In the past, Mother’s Day presents I’ve received have included Chanel sunglasses, Vivienne Westwood jewellery and expensive perfume. This year I will receive a £3.99 succulent plant bought by me, for me. Because I know my babies would if they could.
The expensive presents were purchased begrudgingly by my soon to be ex-husband. Bought out of guilt, or maybe just to throw in my face at some future point in time when he needed a way to prove to me that I was the terrible person and he was the good person. The joy of the lovely present would soon become tainted and I knew that the minute I opened it.
The past three Mother’s Days have been tense affairs. Any celebration or ‘event’ was always a tense affair. Each and every single time, without fail, my husband would start an argument with me to ruin the day. Mother’s Day was no exception.
I can’t remember how any of the arguments started but I remember how they all ended. With me in tears, feeling desperate, alone and like I had no way out. I would sit there as he bellowed at me for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, maybe an hour. As his voice was booming in my ears I would be fantasising about ways I could break out of the hell I was living. But at that time I wasn’t strong enough and it was just a fantasy to think I could get away. I was deep under his control.
There was no point trying to leave, he would follow me. If I tried to defend myself I was ‘making it worse’ and if I ignored his screamed questions I was ‘disrespecting’ him. I absolutely could not win.
The expensive presents meant nothing. Actually it was worse than that; they meant I was still under his control. They meant I would spend the day walking on eggshells waiting for his inevitable explosion into a fit of rage. They reminded me that he could control my day with his moods and arguments and I couldn’t do a thing about it.
Until I did. Until I threw him out. Until I found the strength for myself and my children and I threw him out.
So tomorrow there will be no expensive presents. There will be no fit of rage. Not in this house anyway. There will be no tension, no anxiety, no sense of foreboding, no crying.
There will just be me and my boys. Loving each other and spending the day feeling happy and lucky and grateful for our succulent plant.
I get it. Talking about learning difficulties is awkward and uncool. People don’t know what to say so they just skip past it, as if I haven’t even spoken. I do get it.
But I still get pissed off. It still pisses me off that my thoughts and feelings aren’t acknowledged. Not because I’m important and deserve to be heard, but because I’m seemingly being ignored while parents of typical children are eagerly chatting away to each other.
Remember that scene in ‘The Beach’ (the Leo movie with the All Saints song) where a man with a manky leg is taken to the opposite side of the island to fester and die alone because his presence is ruining the enjoyment of the idyllic beach for the other non-manky legged inhabitants? Well I’m the man with the manky leg. Me talking about the struggles I have with my child with learning disabilities pricks the parenting bubble of the ‘normal’ mums and they just want to enjoy that god damn beach without me ruining it for them.
I commented on a well know blogger/vlogger’s Instagram post the other day. It was World Book Day and she’d posted some corny shit about how children are made readers in their parents’ laps. Then some other earnest parent smugly commented ‘a child who reads is an adult who thinks’, as if she’d imparted some massive and important pearl of wisdom. [Insert eye roll emoji here.]
My comment wasn’t bitchy or self pitying, I just wrote that my child had no interest in books due to his learning difficulties and I wished he would sit on my lap to read. I guess I was trying to make the point that it isn’t always down to the parent if the child isn’t into books. And it doesn’t mean that my child will not think as an adult because he didn’t read ‘That’s Not My Train’ as a 2 year old.
Straight underneath my comment an online children’s store account wrote ‘reading on laps is the best!’ and then went on to try to flog the blogger a book that was conveniently stocked in their shop. They totally ignored my comment. Insensitive. But it’s okay, they had a book to flog.
What pissed me off though, was that this blogger then replied to the childrens store account but ignored my comment completely. Just totally ignored it. Like it wasn’t even there. And she’d seen it because it was directly above the one she was gushing over.
Okay, she doesn’t have a duty to reply; okay she might have been busy; okay she might have overlooked my comment and not seen it. But I doubt it. I think it was too awkward and she didn’t know what to say. So she ignored it. It happens a lot.
Some of my own friends ignore the issue. Just never mention it, like it isn’t happening. And if I start to talk about it they close down; don’t reply; change the subject. One even told me she wasn’t being rude, she just didn’t know what she was supposed to say and it made her feel uncomfortable. Jeez. Sorr-y.
Other friends try to help. Send me links to articles about how one boy ‘beat his autism’ when his mum cut out gluten from his diet. Or tell me how a friend of a friend had a son who didn’t start to talk until he was 5 and now he wouldn’t shut up. Or tag me in posts on Facebook about how great dogs are for children on the spectrum.
Some friends tell me what they think I want to hear. Try to convince me that there isn’t actually a problem, he’s ‘just a typical boy’, he will ‘grow out of it and be fine’. I actually feel for these friends because I too can be guilty of telling people what I think they want to hear. People pleasing. It’s an affliction.
A few friends just listen. Even fewer actually ask me how my boy’s doing. How I’m doing. Ask me how I’m feeling, if I’m getting enough sleep, if I’m getting enough help. They tell me they admire my strength but if I’m not feeling strong it’s okay to lean on them. They’re there for me. They don’t have the answers but they’re there for me. These friends are few but they’re invaluable.
If you have a friend like me I implore you to be amongst the latter group of people. Don’t profess to know how they feel, just ask them and listen. Just be there and let them know you care about them and care about what they’re going through. I never expect anyone to give me a solution but sometimes I just need to be able to talk and put my worries out there. Without fear of upsetting someone with my sadness or making them feel uncomfortable.
And if you don’t have a friend like me but if someone happens to mention their child’s disabilities to you, for the love of God don’t ignore it. Respond to whatever they’ve said in some way. Being a special needs parent is hard enough as it is without feeling we’re being ignored.
We’re not looking for solutions and answers, we just need to talk things through and let out our worries/fears/emotions sometimes. Or in my case with the blogger, give another perspective; speak out on behalf of those who are different. Remind people that not everyone is going down the same path with their children and we matter too.
Late at night, when I’m trying to drift off to sleep, long after you and your little brother have gone to sleep, I have questions whirring around in my head. And they’re mostly about you.
Will you understand your birthday this year? Will you tell me what you’d like for a gift? Will you say thank you when people give you presents? Will you understand how old you are? Will you learn to count to ten? Will you know the alphabet?
Will you go to the local school? Will you enjoy it? Will you make friends? Be good at sports? Will you join a football team? Have a best friend and go to his house for tea? Invite your friends over for sleepovers and eat pizza and make too much noise and stay up all night?
Will you write your name? Will you read a book? Tell a joke? Will you like music? Be a good dancer? Join a band? Go to gigs? Learn to drive? Get a car?
Will you have a job? Move out? Live alone or maybe with a housemate?
Will you have friends? Will you meet someone special? Will you get married? Will you know what it is to be in love? Will you share your life with someone you are in love with? Will you have children?
Will you be happy? Will you be content? Will you enjoy your life?
Will you be happy?
Above all else.
Will you be happy?
The only question that really matters is this one and I hope and I pray that the answer is yes.
I keep telling myself, none of the rest really matters. You just need to be happy.
And I promise you I will do everything I can to make sure you’re happy. I will always do everything I can.
Yep. My boy said mummy. Today he just decided was the day and he said ‘hello mummy’ and then he kept saying mummy alllllll day. And it was beautiful.
He’s 3 years 1 month and 24 days old. I’ve waited a loooong time to hear the word ‘mummy’ come out of his gorgeous chubby little mouth. It was worth the wait.
When I first found out for sure that Omar had a speech delay I blogged about how worried I was that he wasn’t talking and how desperate I was to have little chats with him. It’s hard to convey to people how much a ‘speech delay’ affects almost everything. It doesn’t sound serious but in reality it is. It’s not just that Omar is a late talker, his understanding is delayed too. There have been times that I’ve despaired that he would never talk, never understand, never say mummy. And while he’s still very delayed I can see that he has made progress and he’s trying and that’s all I ask of him.
I will confess something I’m not proud of – I’ve been scared that Zaki would say mummy before Omar. I’ve been hoping it wouldn’t happen. I can’t lie, it would hurt to see his younger brother by 2 years ‘overtake’ him. But now Omar has said it I can happily work on Zaki saying it too.
There have been some really dark days over the past 12 months as I’ve come to terms with Omar’s problems but today has been a great day. Whatever happens, however much he talks or doesn’t talk, he’s my gorgeous, beautiful, happy boy and I wouldn’t change him for all the world.
To any other parents going through the struggle of having a speech delayed child I promise you this – it does get better.
The hardest days often start out normal. Even good. I was up early today, way before the kids. I had a coffee in peace, I vacuumed the living room. I got dressed and slapped on my make up ready to face the day. I felt good.
The boys woke up and had breakfast, played for a bit and then I washed and dressed them and we left the house. We walked in the warm, comforting sunshine with our holiday tans looking lovely against our summer clothes.
As we approached Omar’s pre school he started to quietly say ‘no no no’. As it dawned on him that he was definitely going inside the no’s became louder until they were full on screams. Then he threw himself on the floor and wouldn’t move as tears streamed down his face. The other mums who had already dropped their little darlings off were having to step over him as he blocked the gate with his tantrum. They gave me the look. You know the one. Half pity, half she-can’t-cope-with-her-brat-of-a-child.
Omar doesn’t usually do this when I drop him off at pre school and he’s never tantrummed this badly before. He loves pre school, he usually skips straight in. Maybe it’s because we’d just spent an entire week together in the sunshine doing fun things, or maybe he just didn’t fancy pre school today, who knows. I don’t know because he can’t tell me. Because he can’t talk.
Anyway, with the help of his key worker I got him through the door. He was clinging onto me. I’d been carrying him on my hip and I totally let go but he clung on for dear life. His key worker prized him off me and assured me I could go and he would be ok. That she would call me in half an hour to let me know he was ok. I didn’t really want to go but I had to. I had his portage worker coming to the house at 9.30 to hand over a report on him following a 3 week assessment she had done.
So the day had turned a bit shitty but it was salvageable. Omar would settle down and he’d have a good day. He loved pre school and he’d be ok after a few minutes. It was ok.
The portage worker arrived and handed me the assessment folder and her report. 18-24 months. That’s the only bit I saw. My boy, my 3 year old boy has the language skills of a child half his age. My heart broke. Again. It wasn’t a total surprise to me, his speech therapist had told us he is operating around a year behind his actual age. But it’s never any easier to be told again. My heart doesn’t ache any less each time.
As I was trying to read through the report, holding back tears, my phone rang. The pre school. Omar hadn’t settled, he was still screaming. I could hear him in the background. He’d bitten his lip during his tantrum and it was bleeding. I told them I’d be there as soon as I could and rushed through the questionnaire the portage worker needed me to fill in. I was about to leave to collect distraught Omar when I got another call. He was ok now, he’d calmed down. Leave him there.
Well that was something at least.
I sat down again with the portage assessment to read it properly. All I could see were the things he couldn’t do. Things that most 2 year olds can do. Things like ask for a drink, tell me what he’d like to eat, ask to use the potty, make the sounds for different animals. Things that would make his life (and mine) so much easier.
Some days I focus on the positives. I try to do that most days. He is happy, he is physically healthy, he is safe, secure and loved. And he knows it. It’s much easier to get through the day when I focus on the positives.
But today, as I was handed in black and white a list of things my child is severely delayed with and unable to do, was not one of those days.
Today I was overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness because I can’t fix this; sadness because I can’t bear the fact that he will struggle in life and fear because I don’t know what his future holds.
Although I might be speaking too soon I think this holiday is going quite well. It’s exceeding my expectations anyway, although admittedly, my expectations were that the whole week would be a stressful nightmare. Happily, that is not the case!
I’m in Mallorca with Omar (3), Zaki (11 months) and my mum (she doesn’t want you knowing her age, sorry). We opted for a 4* all inclusive package holiday. I know, I know. It’s a soulless choice and I’m a slave to the capitalist machine. Really sorry for not chucking both my kids in a sling and backpacking around the Far East but quite frankly after the hellish last 12 months I’ve had I needed an easy option and this holiday, so far, has been pretty easy.
We’re staying in an apartment, so we have facilities to make Zaki’s bottles and a cuppa when we need one, but I don’t have to cook because we’re all inclusive, win! The restaurant is a buffet style one so I can always find something the kids will eat and there’s loads and loads of fruit for dessert, so I don’t feel too bad when they turn their nose up at all the veg I heap onto their plates and have chips.
We’ve spent most of our days around the pool and both boys LOVE it in the kid
paddling pool. Obviously I have to supervise them in there but it’s no hardship. I actually like being in there, it stops me from melting from the heat.
I bought Zaki a baby swim support seat and I’d definitely recommend one, it was about €8 and would be worth every cent if it was triple that.
Omar loves wearing a swimming ring and arm bands for some reason (weird kid) but he doesn’t actually need them in the little pool, I don’t think there’s much cope for drowning in a metre of water.
We went to the beach for a day but to be honest, I can’t stand getting sand everywhere and Omar wasn’t keen on the sea, so as lovely as it was, I don’t think we’ll go back.
There are lots of potential days out we could have; Alcudia Old Town and Porta Pollensa look beautiful, but this holiday is all about the kids and they just wouldn’t appreciate a day of walking around looking at ruins or eating in upmarket fish restaurants at the marina, so pool days work just fine for us.
In the evening we sometimes go for a walk after dinner or have a coffee in the hotel bar but often it’s just bath and bed for the kids and then me and mum read or watch a bit of TV before we go to sleep. There is hotel entertainment on each night but Omar and Zaki are always too tired to stay awake for the cheesy tribute acts and magicians, which is no skin off my nose.
Overall I think we’re all having a great time, just being in the sunshine makes people feel better, don’t you think? If you’re considering going abroad for a sunny holiday with young kids, do it! It’s not as difficult or stressful as you might think, the kids will love it and if nothing else, at least you get to feel the sun on your skin and a break from the washing up. Win.
If you’ve been on a successful package holiday to somewhere sunny please let me know where in the comments. I’m already thinking about where we’ll go next year. I quite fancy Turkey.
‘Two. He’s only two.’ Was my reply to the mother who loudly asked ‘how old is he?!’ with disbelief in her voice when I told her that I didn’t need the toilet cubicle thank you, because I was waiting to change my child’s nappy on the changing table.
It’s wasn’t a lie, he was two. But he was a week off his 3rd birthday. I omitted that information when the mother exclaimed that he was extremely tall for his age. (He is tall for his age anyway, as it goes. He wears 4-5 year clothes, mostly.)
So anyway. My son has just turned 3 but in terms of some aspects of development he is more like 2. The main delay is with speech and language; he’s not yet talking and he doesn’t understand as much as he should. And so he’s not yet toilet trained because we just can’t communicate with each other enough for him to grasp the concept. I’ve tried 3 times but he just isn’t ready.
I’ve gotten over the grief of finding out my boy has learning disabilities and now I plough my energy into trying to help him and encourage him wherever I can. So it really pisses me off that I still cringe when strangers ask me how old he is. I shouldn’t care. I should just give them the honest answer without feeling the need to justify his behaviour/silence/nappy to them. But I don’t. I don’t want them to judge him as a child or me as a mother.
The difficulty is, if I say ‘oh he’s just turned 3 but has learning disabilities so is actually more like just turned 2’ the poor strangers don’t know where to put themselves. And if I just tell them his age with no explanation of his delays they assume he’s a brat and I’m a rubbish mother. It’s a tough one.
Now he is actually 3 I know I’m going to find it even harder. When he was 2 (or ‘only 2′ as I always found myself saying) there were some 2 year olds that were at the same stage as him developmentally. Albeit they had just turned 2 and he was almost 3. But 2’s 2. Now he’s 3 people expect so much more from him.
At the doctors surgery yesterday I was struggling to keep him sat next to me, gripping onto him for dear life if I’m honest. Two old ladies told me to just let him have a wander. ‘Oh I can’t’, I told them. ‘He’d be out of those doors and into the carpark.’ They looked at him. ‘You won’t will you? Tell mummy you’re a big boy and you’ll be good.’ They meant well but they had no idea. If I’d have been able to tell them he was ‘only 2′ their expectations would have lowered instantly.
My son’s age really doesn’t matter. If I tell people he’s 2 they won’t question his behaviour and abilities, although they’ll probably have him pegged as a giant. They’ll tell me he’s going through the ‘terrible two’s’ with a sympathetic look on their faces and assure me that he’ll grow out of it soon. But I refuse to lie. His age in terms of the how many years it’s been since he was born means nothing to him, or to me really. I’m more concerned with the age his brain is operating at.
He’s 3. My boy is 3. And it ain’t nuthin’ but a number.