We are NOT helicopter parents

treading very lightly

treading very lightly

 We are NOT helicopter parents: An article in the HuffPost by WP blogger Cate at The Clear Parent which I think sooo many of us could relate to.

This is exactly what I want to say to teachers, even when they’re not arguing or condescending, just being very polite while I try to walk the line between looking after my child’s needs and getting all up in their faces.

And I really do try. But there’s that first day at a new school where you know your child’s anxiety is through the roof, but no one else can see it, because they sit where they’re supposed to, and do what they’re told without a fuss, and keep still and quiet, and don’t cry, but you can see it because it’s in their eyes like shards of glass, so you stand outside the class where they can see you and tell them you’ll be on campus for a while, because you know that once they get over the initial shock, they’ll be fine, and no one will ever know there was a trainwreck on the cards, because you prevented it by reading your child’s eyes when no one else could.

 

 

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A Very Aargh Day

 

climbing the wall

I drafted this post a couple of weeks back, on a bad day, and didn’t post it because….well, it was a bit ranty. But I’m posting it now because it’s background to where we are …today!

“An Aargh day today. My 12 year old son has Aspergers, ADD, plus informally diagnosed learning difficulties; dysgraphia (handwriting difficulty) being the most prominent. Today I got a letter from the school letting me know that if his writing doesn’t improve, he will not reach National Standards this year.

Aargh. Not because he is failing National Standards, but because JUST THE OTHER DAY I spoke to the Senco at his school, and his class teacher, mentioning his handwriting was a real disability and that they would never gauge his true abilities in anything which had to be handwritten, with not much more response than “yes that’s a shame isn’t it”. Ye gods, was I not clear enough? It’s not like I can ask the kid to just work harder and he’ll improve. Takes me right back to his first year at school when his lovely, well-meaning, but ignorant teacher asked me to request him to “try to focus” – like an effort from him would magically change the way his brain was wired.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this school, they’ve been amazing at looking after my kids. But even there it feels like there’s a lack of understanding – and if even there there is a lack of understanding, where else can we go and what more can we do.

So today, I am really tired of trying to explain, and trying to make the way clear to improving his future prospects. The child has incredible potential as a thinker – you know that just talking to him. But he will never be the kid who eases his way through school achieving a full deck of A’s. It will always be a battle, to an uncertain end. Just like any mother, I want my child to achieve his potential, but when one of the possible alternate outcomes is mental health collapse, there’s a good wack of concern also. And I’m just tired today, and I don’t have any answers.”

After that post, I did get some more constructive feedback from the school, and felt like we were getting some go-forward in some ways, and there was respite in a two week Easter holiday break.

But today, we are drawing to the close of the Easter holidays, and school is looming large on the horizon. The Prof is moody as all get-out, and ranting about how life is barely worth living because School, and he can’t keep up with the workload, because he is Useless.

I read a post by another WP blogger the other day, who through tragic circumstances discovered the incredible sensitivity of the bright mind. She posted a link to a book about this subject. Actually, I was already very well acquainted with how vulnerable bright minds are. To drive home the point, we also recently lost a cousin to suicide for I believe precisely these reasons. My first thought was, I have to get hold of this book! But then I thought, we already plan around this in the kids’ lives, in fact, having suffered myself for so many years, it is the exact thing I fear for my kids and work so hard to prevent. What makes me feel quite distressed is that I had hoped (assumed? planned?) that if I was aware of these pitfalls as my parents weren’t, as my aunt and uncle couldn’t know, then my kids would be ahead of the game, that we could avoid trainwrecks.

But it’s like we live on a knife edge. Yes, we might succeed in pulling through unscathed, but it takes such concentration to stay on that narrow track, and I cannot control for all eventualities and complexities. They’ve already had to live through a divorce. And even if I could keep them in a bubble, at some point they will be exposed to the Real World, and the extent to which they cope with that is presumably in large part the extent to which I have prepared them for the challenge.

The Real World don’t bend for no one. So if you have challenges, disavantages, disabilites, you just have to work that much harder to get by. But that’s Out There. Before they’re let loose, you do get some 18 years to train them up. What scares the crap out of me is making the most of the time that’s left.

And so when I want to ask the school work with him and strategise for his differences, it’s not because I’m an academic version of a soccer mom, it’s because I know that if his mind is not looked after, it won’t just stagnate, it will implode.

 

 

 

Tabitha’s Gluten Free Dishes – more than just different flavours

About Tabitha and her mission. I’m so down with this.

Grain Free?

 

wikimedia commons

wikimedia commons

I’m considering going grain free. When you have diffabilities in the house it’s almost inevitable that you end up trying a special ‘diet’ at some point. In my case it wasn’t the ADD, but the exhaustion I’ve been feeling for years that led me to explore dietary avenues. I wouldn’t say it’s chronic fatigue, except it is fatigue and it is chronic. Plus my older daughter had some behavioural issues. You might assume one is a corollary of the other, but I have reason to think not.

So I tried gluten free; it was difficult, expensive, tasted horrid, and there were no noticeable benefits (for our family). However, I did, kind of inadvertently, go completely grain free for a while, and lo and behold I felt the best I’ve possibly ever felt, in terms of emotions and energy. It was bloody hard to keep up though, so I have lapsed considerably. I’ve been through this cycle a few times now. First there’s the uncertainty what to eat in place of bread as a staple. Then there are the cravings. Ye gods. I’ve never been addicted to anything, even coffee, but after that experience, I have the deepest sympathy for anyone trying to kick a chemical habit.

Actually, I believe there is a physical addiction cycle at work, though I don’t think mainstream science would agree as yet. But I believe there is enough evidence, never mind commonsense, that what we put into our bodies has an effect on our whole system.

In any case, there are the cravings, which inevitably I cave to eventually. Whereupon which the cycle begins again; low energy, low mood, wondering how I could be hit so hard with the stupid stick that I would do this to myself again.

What I couldn’t understand was why all grains could be a problem. I still don’t know the science behind it, if there is any available, but I have come across some sites where people are living grain free and feeling great, which is news to me, but confirms that for whatever reason bodies might reject grains, it’s not my imagination.

So. I would love to try it, because I would really, really love to have energy and a stable mood. But I don’t know if I can make this work. I’m not much for cooking and baking (did I mention I’m not so organised?), and if there’s bread in the house I’m picking I’ll eat some. And alternative flours are expensive. But you can’t always control your gastronomic environment, and even one lapse sets your system back. So is there any point in even trying? Or is it worth the effort just to have at least some good times?

If anyone out there has experience they’d like to share I’d be interested to hear it!

And if you’re interested in learning more about going grain free, here are a couple of links:

Grain Free Living

Grain Free Gluten Free

Grain Brain

Brain allergies

And one from our own WP family: Tabitha’s Gluten Free Dishes

 

 

 

Sleep tips from a sensory integration therapist

 

Sleep - like a baby?

Sleep – like a baby?

Children and adults with ADD/ADHD often (usually?) have trouble getting off to sleep. For obvious reasons this can be frustrating for all.

My older children and I are typical. I struggled to pass into the blissful realms of slumber, until children and exhaustion happened. My kids still lie awake for hours. Although, ”lie awake” sounds so passive. In fact, my daughter, who is more ADHD than ADD, talks and sings for at least an hour, expecting participation from her long suffering brother, before sleep comes.

My son, who has ADD and Aspergers among other things, worked for a few years with an occupational therapist, a sensory integration therapy specialist, and she gave me some tips to help. The ADD brain, along with other sensitive neurotypes (like autism spectrum and sensory processing disorders), is very susceptible to stimulation,  and though we probably all know not to stimulate children before bed, what we might not realise is that things like brushing teeth or hair (although I personally find hair brushing soothing to the point of catatonia), even getting dressed, and the light level, never mind watching tv, are all stimulants to the system.

Her recommendation was to avoid any stimulation in the hour before bed. That means changing into pjs and doing all preps an hour earlier, and then letting the child (or yourself) sit quietly in a dimly lit room for the last hour before we expect sleep, reading or listening to (slow) music.

She also mentioned blackout curtains or blinds. Blackout should be a part of every ADD family’s sleep armoury. Although to be honest, even the smallest chink can disturb my sleep, and have you ever tried to make those suckers chink-less? Yeah. Well, they’re still much much better, as in, in a different phase of existence, to not having any blackouts.

My son still tells me he wakes with the first rays of dawn, but I’m pretty sure those rays reach his optical nerves substantially later than they would without the blinds. And luckily, he’s old enough now to entertain his own self when he wakes up rather than welcoming mummy prematurely to the new day.

 

 

Life with ADD

deadlineI make light of it, but being disorganized is compromising. Actually it’s not exactly that I’m disorderly (cuz I haz strategies for dat), it’s the way my brain functions best under pressure (which means it sets me up for last minute rushes by ignoring deadlines until the eleventh hour), it’s the way I don’t remember superfluous details (like deadlines, and birthdays), it’s the way I can’t focus – until I can, and then I can barely disengage enough to comprehend what people are saying. Not optimal when raising children. It’s the way that, despite my intentions, I never can get hold of a Round Tuit.

It’s the accumulation of these little deficiencies that create the appearance of chaos, and that unpleasant feeling of being perpetually tardy.

Calendars, liberators and warlock’s cats

Sadly, it’s taken me longer than it should have to cotton on to technology, but I have developed some strategies to outwit my neurotype and deal to deadlines and dates, and its name is Google Calendar.

Google calendar and its auto-syncing correlate, Android calendar, with affiliated notifications, are my liberators and deliverers. I mean, paper calendars are great and all, but you have to remember to look at them first.

It was never going to be any different. I was pretty much doomed to this fate. I don’t know if an ancestor stole a warlock’s cat or something, but the curse runs in the family. Both sides. As in, don’t come to the family pile expecting any semblance of normalcy.

The Chaos Path

Dr Gabor Mate is very illuminating on the topic of ADD, how kids ‘catch’ it, and how it affects their lives into adulthood – it’s not just a kiddie disorder, as people who have it know (unless of course they don’t, which is sometimes the case). Dr Mate himself was diagnosed only at 51, and it only occurred to me that there might be something wired fundamentally differently in my brain after my children were born with similar traits, and I was diagnosed after my son, just for my own information.

I see a diagnosis primarily as a term to google. It’s a label; whether it’s useful depends on what you want it for. When I got diagnosed the first thing I did was google the hell out of ‘ADD’ for a while. Forums are great places to get information from the coalface rather than from ‘experts’ who haven’t walked the walk, and there are forums for adults with ADD/ADHD.

So I know there are a lot of us around, and like any difference, it can be disorientating to be off the bell curve. Which is why I thought I’d blog a bit around it, because if I’m honest about my disjointedness, it might resonate with others. I’m no guru and don’t want to be anyone’s guide; I haven’t even got my own head properly together, but I know what it’s like to walk the chaos path.

So if you’re new, welcome to Chaos Girl’s blog, where I’ll be writing about wrangling chaos.

You know, when I get around to it.

 

Chaos Girl’s Entropy-wrangling Tip of the Day for the Organisationally Challenged

 

by mazzali on flickr

by mazzali on flickr

Make the Bed!!

It may seem self-evident but it’s not. Come on, I know your dirty little secret. We all pretend like making the bed is obviously the first thing we do in the morning (what kind of scrub do you take us for??) but nope. We stumble blearily out of the bedroom only to catch a later clear-eyed view of the disaster that is the bed.

Motivation killer.

So MAKE THE BED. You will feel like the queen of clean right there. Success breeds success, chances are the day can only get better after that. Go to it, chaos-wranglers!

 

 

Survival Storage, Part 1

Kids' treasure display

Kids’ treasure display

Or, How to Thrive with What You Have

Oftentimes, for reasons such as budget, time, energy or ownership restrictions, when it comes to decorating our homes, we don’t have the option to rip it all out and start again with a clean slate. And even if we have the means, this is not always necessity so much as choice. Personally I think you can do a lot with what you already have, save your moolah and the earth while you’re at it. You only have to look at what people achieve with rentals and dorm rooms to know how far creative thinking can take you. I’ve lived in the same 85 sq metres (915 sq feet) for something like a decade and a half. Two children ago I began to feel the squeeze.

Admittedly we also have a 35 sq m (376 sq ft) detached garage out the back and 600 sq m (6500 sq ft) to grow veggies and keep chooks. Into the garage goes furniture items I am considering living without, and clothes stored for the kids to  grow into, plus husbandly tools and camping gear. It’s storage purgatory. Things which end up there exist in a shadow world somewhere between real life and op shop hell.

However. Aside from that dirty little netherworld, in terms of real living space, I felt the squeeze  years ago. Now we have 3 children and 2 adults (and a dog) in a 3 bedroom, one living and ONE BATHROOM house. And I’m here to tell you, it’s ok.

Perspective and Vertical Storage

It’s partly in the perspective, and partly in how you manage everyone’s stuff. In terms of perspective, you only have to look at the world news, google world average wages…I won’t bore you. You know what I’m talking about. First world problems vs you know, real problems.

In terms of practical management – Vertical Storage. My friend, your friend, we’ve been through this. More in a bit.

A lot of people manage their lives well, they’re awfully organised, but their spaces just don’t exude the wow, they don’t sing; frankly they scare off people who crave style and make them think you have to gut a place just to get the wow. Like you can’t live small and cheap and have the wow.

The Wow – you can have it

No. I disagree. I live small, and cheap (or as we cheap snobs like to say, ‘frugally’), but everyone who walks through my door comments that they like what I’ve done with the place. “Warm”, “stylish” and “happy” are some of the words that are used. That’s despite the amount of stuff packed into the space, and the fact it’s a 70s…I don’t even know what to call it; ‘bungalow’ is too posh – it’s the kind of house they built on the cheap in the 70s, with nothing much to recommend it except water-tightness. (It’s tiny, but it is perfectly formed. I have always admired the designers for getting everything a house needs in all the right places in a perfect 85 sq m rectangle. Awesome.)

Small but perfectly formed

Small but perfectly formed

But the truth is, there’s almost nothing about it that’s new or fabulous. Plus the stylist in me has to contend with kid whozits and whatsits, and tools which, you know, need to live in the house ’cause the garage is sooo far away…..not to mention household paperwork etc queuing up for my attention. The real world of families. And that’s where I just don’t gel with those blogs where everyone seems so super-organised (daily chore checklists, pffft, in my house things get cleaned when they start begging for it; squeeky wheels and all that. And if my baseboards are dusty….ok. Maybe growing up in a third world country has left me with different priorities, or maybe I’m just grubby, IDK. I just know I don’t notice other people’s dusty baseboards).

Cupboards the size of houses

I know it’s styling for the photos, akin to airbrushing  advertising models, but it has the same effect of making ordinary people feel inadequate. Don’t misunderstand me, I do love them blogs, they have great ideas and fabulous homes; they’re pinned all over my Boards for inspiration, but where the hell is all the child-litter? Hidden in cupboards the size of my living room I’m guessing.

And that’s where my life and home exists in an alternate universe to theirs. Perhaps having add/adhd doesn’t help, but I’m still pretty sure this is the soul cry of many other real-lifers. So while it’s all very well to be inspired by these beautiful, pristine interiors, how does one marry style with real life, especially if one is confined by space, budget and ADD?

As men are wont to say, it’s what you do with it that counts. And it’s probably more true for decor than for men.