We are pretty much used to the secluded lifestyle we have been forced into due to our son’s behavioural difficulties. We know that he really struggles at social gatherings and becomes quite anxious and can’t really be left alone to just play with the other kids. For this reason, we avoid big family gatherings for the most part. The trouble is that a lot of the family members don’t really see why we avoid them. They don’t actually notice that we spend our entire time tracking our son and playing with all the kids in order to ensure that his play is well supervised to avoid him doing thoughtless things when he becomes anxious and aggressive. We do at least get to notice that all the kids do and say ‘naughty’ things, not just ours, because we hang around kids so much without other adults around.
For the most part, the other adults are drinking (in moderation of course) and enjoying a good old chat while the kids all play elsewhere together and have a ball. So they don’t really notice that my husband and I tag team spending time with the groups of kids so that our son can have successful social interactions. We do it occasionally because we know he needs the practice. We also try just leaving him to it for a little while, but inevitably something will happen and because his reactions are different to the other kids, he’ll either get blamed or the kids will just stop playing with him. We don’t want him to feel that way all the time and that’s why we tag team to help him see better ways to play. Christmas is a time that we really notice the restrictions this has put on our lives.
We have a couple of really good friends with kids who come over very often and we can leave our son to play with them in the yard or house. He still doesn’t play ‘normally’, but the other kids kind of accept that and just come and let the adults know when it’s not working out. They love him so much that they will always go back and try to work things out with him after we’ve helped him calm down. Naturally those friends have other friends and so we can’t have them over all the time, plus we’d get sick of each other eventually I’m sure. Our son’s biggest problem is when the group increases from about 6 or 7 people with mostly adults, to any more than that. He just can’t cope at all. Especially if the kids outnumber the adults. He starts trying to control everyone around in an effort to try and feel less anxious.
We had a lovely quiet Christmas this year, although we did miss one set of grandparents who are in America. We avoided the family gatherings to try and give ourselves a chance to relax a bit this year, but we also know that will have set tongues wagging. Never mind. Until they’ve been in our shoes, they will never understand.
The thing that really got me realising our situation was when we were given tickets to see Les Miserables from my parents. They told us to buy the Gold Class cinema tickets and it’s all very exciting. We mentioned this to our friends and said that we just needed a babysitter. We hadn’t actually meant for them to babysit as they have two kids of their own and we know they can’t really handle our son very well. What upset me was when they both kind of looked up at the ceiling and away from us and started mumbling things like.
“Oh… um… well… sorry, we can’t really handle him for any length of time more than an hour or so. Last time we watched him we had a lot of trouble… ummm.. he really doesn’t like being told what to do.”
Sigh. Yeah, I know all that. They are right and I thank them for being honest. They even said how they aren’t as good with him as we are and just don’t know how to handle him. I don’t know why it upset me, but it kind of did. It made me realise just how limited our opportunities for adult time or ‘freedom’ are. He pretty much can only be babysat by one or two adults and no other kids around. That means, only his Nanna. My parents live thousands of miles away in the USA, and his Nanna works a lot. If she’s not working, she’s often tired from working so we completely understand that she needs time to rest and do stuff too. Hiring a babysitter is almost out of the question because they would need to be trained to cope with him, and although we have a single friend who handles him really well and can look after him… he’s young, single, and doesn’t really want to baby sit very often and I don’t blame him!
We will of course just wait until Nanna has a spot available for babysitting, but in the next year or so, she might be moving quite far away from us, so that will mean little to no respite at all. Of course we love our boy and don’t mind being with him all the time, but sometimes we just would like to be able to know that someone is around to help out if we needed it.
Well, lots of people offer, but we kind of feel bad to take them up on the offer because either our son doesn’t feel safe with them, or we know they might struggle if they have him without us around to help out if his behaviour escalates. People often offer without realising what they could be in for because they’ve not seen him when he gets going. We try to avoid other people seeing him in that state, so not many friends or family members have experienced it.
It’s a little depressing as we approach a quiet New Year’s Eve where most of our friends are abroad or interstate. We can’t take him to large outdoor public gatherings, that just doesn’t work for him and is way too stressful for us too. We also can’t stay long at the party we’ve all been invited to because again we end up just having to constantly keep track of what he’s up to and whether he’s stressing others or himself out.
Hopefully all this hard work we are doing now will start to show results in a wider area and with more people around he’ll start to learn how to deal with his feelings of anxiety. Perhaps next year he’ll be the life of some party with a bunch of other 7-9 year olds while his parents chill with the other adults? Here’s hoping!
Happy New Year Everyone! Remember to really enjoy who you are with and what you are doing! 😉 Oh… and have a glass of Champagne and a boogie for me!