As the Summer Holidays draw to a close I have been reflecting on the reality of my experiences which as usual, are in sharp contrast with my expectations.
Of course we all share the disappointment that the endless Sunny days with happy children just enjoying the weather and playing for hours in the garden didn’t really happen and for at least the 3rd year in a row the bottles of sun tan lotion lay barely used. Despite this I have still managed to neglect the lotion on the one sunny day we did have and both Charlotte and Sophie have "strap marks" which did eventually fade from lobster to acceptable fudge.
Last night, on only my second "girls night" this Summer we were discussing the impression one gives when strangers look at you as a snapshot . When I am out shopping with my twins, apart from the occasional pre teen ‘you are the worst Mum in the world’ sulkiness, we could appear to many, to be the image of happiness. At this point I often feel like wearing a Tshirt that says ‘I have a disabled child at home’ as I cannot live the lie.
Alexander has Cerebral Palsy, Hearing Impairment, Severe Learning delay ( a funny phrase as it does give the impression that one day he may go from understanding Mr Tumble and his slapstick humour to reading Shakespeare ), and Autism. Of all of Alexander’s difficulties his Autism is by far the most challenging to deal with. This mainly displays itself by obsessive behaviour around some of his favourite DVD’s. At present Harry Potter is the number 1 obsession. Yes, I did spend 1.5 hours using an extended coat hanger to retrieve Philosophers Stone from under the decking , and also I have gone from being quite a fan to developing a slight hatred for poor Harry.
This Summer has been, as usual a logistical operation, planning almost every day of Alexander’s ‘break’, with play schemes , overnight respite, home Tutor and babysitters . He spent a week at Fairthorne Manor, a local activity play scheme run by YMCA that Alexander has gone to for the last 8 years. As usual not without incident Alex decided on day 2 that he had to be a tiger (based on some face painting he had seen) Not having a face painting kit to hand my Chanel bronzer and waterproof eyeliner came to the rescue - I can only now pay homage to the impressive lasting power of the eyeliner as the whiskers did me proud for 4 days!!
As usual Alex has tried to be ‘helpful’ around the house. One of the girls favourite stories about his creative streak revolves around him decorating a Cottage Pie I had left on the worktop whilst dashing out to the Brownie drop off, with sliced Mango that I had already cut ready for next day’s packed lunches. It was an amazing creation that looked like either the struts for the O2 Arena ,or a giant Orange monster claw reaching out through the potato topping of my pie. Needless to say, we were all hungry so the Mango was removed and we ate our slightly more exotic pie anyway.
Not all hilarious though. On the first day of the holidays Hubby was to receive his long service and Good Conduct Medal at Police HQ. Admirably he wanted Alex there as family photo’s were to be had with the Chief Constable. He had prepared as best he could by arranging to be the first to collect his medal. Those of you with toddlers will relate to the short window of time you can rely on them to possibly conform and behave and sadly Hubby had misread the arrival time. We were an hour early. Alexander had other ideas though. He does not enjoy formality so decided to let out a few of his shrieks that make heads turn. (My heart goes out to the Mother who was asked to leave the West End production of Shrek with her autistic son this week). By this time, sat in a packed lecture theatre we tried to placate with a biscuit. This was deliberately eaten in a style that any ogre would be proud of. At this point I decided to remove my ogre before anything worse happened. Out in the atrium he swung for me in front of the Head of HR (at least she understands my application for flexible working now!) and made our way home. You see, had I allowed him to go to the ceremony with painted nails things may have been so different but we will never know!
So, as the new term begins what challenges will we be facing, a 30 mile round trip to collect "Woody" who has been left at school again ?, a trip to the local Superstore at 2am to find the right Teletubbies DVD that will bring sleep to our house – learning the hard way in lane 3 of the M3 that if your child doesn’t want to go to his hospital appointment that he may try and open the door. All this and more I’m sure