I decided to update my blog for the first time in months, typed the whole thing up and then LOST THE POST.
It's been so long I think I have forgotten how.
I will see if I can pluck up the courage to do another attempt later.
I am the drinker in the family. I am a dedicated, loyal, committed and consistent drinker. I drink 2-3 glasses of Chardonnay Every Single Night. Only Chardonnay. Every night. If there is no Chardonnay, I won't have anything else. There is never no Chardonnay though. And I drink alone because my husband doesn't drink. At all. Nothing. It works out wonderfully well because on the very rare occasion we go out, I always have a dedicated driver. Win!
Funny aside: We have a really impressive drinks cabinet at home with just about every type of drink you can imagine. Looking at it you would think either of us were big drinkers (we aren't. Except me and the Chardonnay) or that we entertained a lot (we don't). In actual fact the booze in the cabinet is so old that when my almost 18 year old happily discovered the treasure chest of booze, he found out that many of the bottles had actually expired. He offered to help us get rid of it. What a kind chap! I have tried to put a pic of him in front of the booze cabinet at the bottom of this post. Not sure I will get it right as I am working off an ipad app.
I am not particularly proud that I drink so much wine because CALORIES!! but at least I don't gamble/smoke/bite my nails/insert other bad habit here. She says, trying to fool herself that it's not that bad.
One would think that such an experienced drinker would like to go out and have a party now and then, have a few more drinks to let my hair down, but I don't. I only drink in the early evening until my dinner is finished. The last sip of wine is drunk just after the last bite of food. Even if the glass is half full (optimist!), I don't drink any more. I throw the rest of the glass of wine away. Because drinking wine after dinner makes me feel drunk. And I although I like tipsy / buzzy, I don't like drunk.
As I said, Marko doesn't drink. Except when we come to Umngazi. Then he makes up for lost time. He has the best time ever here. Every night after dinner he joins the other guests who like to let their hair down at the bar and they have a HUGE party. He probably has about 20 drinks. Gets back to bungalow wayyyy after midnight. As in closer to morning time than night time. There are a group of husbands here that get together every night in the bar and get up to all sorts of mischief. Climbing on the bar, swinging from the rafters, drawing on each other with permanent markers, having chair races.... I can't believe how silly drunk grown men are. Marko just sits there and laughs. He says his face aches from laughing so much.
I am so glad Marko is having fun. I am hugely anti social (I hate going out at night, love my bed and my house) and Marko doesn't have many guy friends who like to go out for a drink. So he never goes out, which is a pity as even though he is a quiet guy he is quite a sociable chap. This way he gets to let his hair down (in a big way) and I get to have my 2-3 glasses of wine and get into bed by 10. Win win.
I am actually really impressed with his social skills. He has met so many people here and they all seem to like him. I have met only a handful of people. Funny. At home I am the one who has to interact with people all the time and he is the quiet one. Here on holiday the roles are reversed. Very few people know me and everyone knows him. I lounge around on my own or with the kids and don't really interact with anyone. He is always chatting and interacting with everyone. I guess that is what holidays are all about. Taking a break from your usual life.
It's really great to see my husband having such a good time. It's good for him. And I am really happy he has found friends to stay up late with so that I don't have to! Sounds weird to say that you are proud of your husband for staying up late at the bar and interacting with a whole lot of very tipsy people, but I am proud. Part of it is that he gets to have fun and the other part is that other people get to find out what I already know. That if you get to know Marko (and you get past the slightly scary, strict exterior), he is a super fun, funny, kind person.
Here is Marko and some of his new BFFs at the bar yesterday. Before midday. Bottom pic is of my nephew and the booze cabinet
We are on holiday in our favourite place, Umngazi. http://www.umngazi.co.za/. It's our fifth year in a row, we love it here. It's the only place where I actually have a holiday as everything is done for you and it is totally focused on family-friendly holidaying. There is a separate dining room for the kids (with kid friendly food of course) plus you are able to hire a nanny to watch your kids while you lie by the pool sipping on your Chardonnay. It took me four years to relax enough to let the nanny actually look after Max but this year I just about got it right.
(Except, funny story.....: I am not a natural relaxer. Relaxing doesn't come easily for me. I have to work very hard to relax. This year I made a concerted effort to force myself to relax. I have not checked my email once and I have actually let the nanny look after Max for stretches of two hours at a time. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. But yesterday as I was speed walking (it's the only pace I know) between the sandpit and the lounge (just a quick peek to see whether Max was ok with nanny), one of the other guests grabbed my arm and said "do you ever slow down and relax?!" I stopped in my tracks and laughed. I realized that I was doing my rushing-at-100-miles-an-hour thing. He said "I have been watching you and you never sit still. Relax! You are on holiday". I laughed again and said "I know, but the kids....." They will be fine he said, relax! So hard for me to let go and relax. Teeny bit of a paranoid mom)
Today I gave the nanny a few minutes off to have some tea (my fave thing to do so that I can be with Max myself) and he and I were in the sandpit for 30 mins. I told him that we should go find Dad by the pool and lie down on the lounger. And off we walked. The pool is about 10 steps from the sandpit, just around the corner. Past the bar and entertainment area. As we were walking out the sandpit he said "ouch" and so I asked him if the sand was hot and he said yes. I turned my head back again and walked the 10 steps on to Marko. As I got to him I turned around and Max wasn't behind me. How irritating. Dawdling again. I walked back to the sandpit to tell him to hurry. He wasn't there. I looked in the entertainment area where he sometimes like to go to play with the snooker balls, not there. Back to the sandpit. Not there. I went to Marko to tell him that Max has just disappeared and he must help me look.
And we looked and looked and looked. Our friends started looking. Adam and Kate started looking. Our voices getting higher and higher pitched as we called his name. I started scanning the river to see if I could see anything. Dreading, absolutely dreading seeing something floating in the water. We looked every where. Up and down.
I was willing myself not to panic. I could see Marko starting to get scared. Every horrible scenario flashed through my head. He fell in the river. Someone saw that he was speech delayed and WAY too unshy and trusting and lured him off. Madeleine Maccann. This all obviously happened because I had been thinking how tough it is to have a child with developmental delays. I was feeling sorry for myself. I had brought this on myself.
Wild terror set in. We called in security to help us. They looked worried. 20 longest, scariest moments of my life.
And then Adam found him. On the toilet in the entertainment area. Making a poo. Waiting for me to come wipe his bum. "I was calling you and calling you Mama".
After wiping his butt I picked him up and bawled my eyes out. I sobbed and sobbed. My god. I don't panic easily but the longer it took, the more terrified I became.
Poor Kate. She was really upset to see me cry. I never cry in front of them. She tried to cheer me up by saying "at least if you lost Max you would still have two children left". I laughed through my tears. "I know my girl, but I would really like to keep all three of my children" I replied. "But you are always saying how hard it is to have three children? she says" Oops! Yes I do say that. (Because 3 kids does = v hard!) "yes, three kids is hard but I love you all very much and I want to keep all three of you".
It's ironic, because I am the most paranoid parent ever. So for me to "lose" a child is crazy. I usually watch them like a hawk. Especially Max because he is how he is. Thing is, things happen so quickly.
I felt sick afterwards. I still do. I am so very, very, very thankful he is ok.
This is for Erin who said if I don't put up a blog post in March it will be the only month in 10 years I haven't ever put something on my blog. We can't have that.
I actually have quite a bit I want to say but I am on holiday with no laptop and as much as I love my ipad, I do not love typing on it.
More to follow shortly.
If I had to pick only one word to use to describe Adam, it would be 'kind'. He is such a kind-hearted, kind-spirited child. He is my sweet, loving, kind boy. He will offer you his last sweet, his seat, his turn. (Whereas his twin sister - not so much). I was reading through our Whatsapp messages* last night and it made me smile:
2014/01/07, 6:40:36: Tertia: Morning birthday boy :)
2014/01/07, 6:41:43: Adam: Thanks mom
2014/01/07, 11:42:47: Adam: Mom I am hot and David
2014/01/07, 11:43:05: Tertia: You are hot?
2014/01/07, 11:45:10: Adam: I am hot because I have been running around. We also went on xrider
2014/01/07, 11:46:54: Tertia: Are you having fun?
2014/01/07, 11:47:18: Adam: Yes
2014/01/07, 11:47:45: Tertia: Good :)
2014/01/07, 11:47:54: Tertia: ❤️
2014/01/07, 11:49:08: Adam: Love you
2014/01/07, 11:49:30: Tertia: Love you too 👍
2014/01/07, 11:50:20: Adam: Bye mom
2014/01/07, 11:54:09: Tertia: Bye boy
2014/01/07, 11:54:52: Adam: See you later
2014/01/07, 11:55:33: Tertia: Yes
2014/01/08, 11:19:20: Adam: Hi mom
2014/01/08, 11:25:30: Tertia: Hi boy. What you doing?
2014/01/08, 11:28:41: Adam: We at movies waiting for popcorn
2014/01/08, 11:28:52: Tertia: Cool. Enjoy it!
2014/01/08, 11:29:09: Adam: Ok
2014/01/08, 11:49:01: Adam: Love you
2014/01/08, 11:49:28: Tertia: Love you too
2014/01/08, 13:37:18: Adam: Mom we are on are on our way home
2014/01/08, 13:40:11: Tertia: Looking forward to seeing you.
2014/01/08, 16:24:28: Tertia: Hi
2014/01/09, 8:49:44: Adam: Hi
2014/01/09, 8:52:10: Tertia: Hi boy. What u doing?
2014/01/09, 9:00:49: Adam: We are playing on our I Pashtun
2014/01/09, 9:03:41: Adam: Mom what cheese do I eat
2014/01/09, 9:09:15: Tertia: Gouda
2014/01/09, 9:29:32: Adam: Mom where is my j board
2014/01/09, 12:14:39: Adam: Mom I am loving my phone
2014/01/13, 17:05:12: Adam: Mom I am at Mimi's house and now we are going the shops
2014/01/13, 17:06:52: Tertia: Good boy. Enjoy. Xx
2014/01/13, 17:53:25: Tertia: Are you home now?
2014/01/13, 20:24:19: Tertia: Sleep tight. Love you ❤️❤️❤️❤️
2014/01/13, 21:04:24: Adam: Good night mom love you
2014/01/14, 7:46:24: Tertia: Morning
2014/02/08, 17:24:34: Tertia: Hey boy, you having fun?
2014/02/08, 20:30:12: Tertia: I hope you are having a lovely time. Sleep tight. I love you ❤️❤️
2014/02/09, 12:39:24: Adam: Mom when must I come home
2014/02/15, 12:15:18: Adam: When are you come in home
2014/02/15, 12:15:36: Tertia: 30 mins
2014/02/15, 20:35:00: Adam: I love you
2014/02/15, 20:54:20: Tertia: I love you xx
2014/02/15, 20:54:27: Tertia: ❤️❤️❤️
2014/02/15, 20:58:53: Adam: I love you lots good night momy
2014/02/15, 21:09:09: Tertia: Good night my gorgeous son. Sleep tight. Sweet dreams. ❤️
* The twins got (hand-me-down) iPhones for their birthday because I want to be able to contact them when they are out / at sleep overs. It has proven to be very useful.
PS Even though he is very kind and sweet and he loves his mom, he is also very cool and so I am not allowed to do any PDAs at school anymore. No obvious hugging to say goodbye in the morning in case I ruin his cred. Which makes these messages even more precious.
Kate cares less what other people might think and so I get lots of hugs and kisses when I say goodbye in the morning.
Adam at the rugby sleepover - he was SO excited to go!
I am extremely fortunate that I am able to work from home, I realize how lucky I am. I get to take the kids to school and fetch them during the day, attend sports matches where necessary etc. Working from home is the best of both worlds (being 'there' for the kids during the day AND earning money. Doing two things at the same time isn't always easy!) and the worst of both worlds (having to be a full time mom AND a full time worker at the same time). Working from home is awesome and horrible. But mostly awesome.
Even before I had my own business, I used to work from home a few days a week, and I always worked harder from home than at the office. If I slacked off at the office, well... it was ok because I was AT WORK. I could afford to take a lunch break or sneak off to check Facebook. But when I worked from home I was very aware of the trust and the privilege I had in working from home, and so I worked extra hard, all the time.
Now that I work for myself, where I am responsible for not only putting food on my family's table but putting food on my employees' table, I work even harder. I work in the early morning and late at night. I work when the kids are at school and at the side of the sports field. I am NEVER without my laptop. And yes, I am lucky enough to occasionally go for a pedicure at 10am, but I always take my laptop with me, everywhere I go! Every one who knows me knows that I am ALWAYS tapping away at my laptop. I work work work. And so does my entire team. We all work from home. We have Dropbox and Skype and email and we run the business this way. My team are all mothers who are able to fetch their kids from school, go to swimming practice, soccer and extra murals with our kids. And answer emails at 5:30* in the morning and at 9pm at night. We are all full time moms and full time employees. And it works amazingly well. We are balanced, happy, hard working parents and workers. We work bloody hard but we absolutely LOVE what we do because we have the best job in the world.
(In fact, it is exactly because my life is so busy that I don't have time to do 'personal' things like blog anymore)
Not everyone gets this. There are many people who are very old school and who don't get that 'working from home' can mean increased productivity, higher profits and happier employees. They believe that the only way work can happen is clocking in at the office at 8am and clocking out at 4:30 am. I know that while that works in some industries / situations, it doesn't always work. I have been that worker that clocked in and out at the office and believe me, I work about a million times harder and am so very much more productive now than I ever was in an office.
*this morning I got an email from one of my team at 5:45am. Another replied at 6:00. I responded at 7am. We have sorted out an entire issue before some people have even woken up.
NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, the twins have a lovely Au Pair who helps out in the afternoon because it is physically impossible for me to be in two places at once, no matter how hard working I am. Max finishes at 12:15 and the twins finish at 1:45. Then they each have different extra murals / afternoon obligations. So yes, I have help with the kids in the afternoon while I work.
My dear husband, who I love dearly and who loves me very much too, and who, although he doesn't say it perhaps as often as I would like, appreciates what I am doing - running a successful business, contributing significantly towards the family coffers and doing a fairly decent job of taking care of our three kids. HOWEVER, he sincerely believes that because he works in an office, and I work from home, he works harder / better / more importantly than I do. That working from home is easy. That my day is made up of gym, pedicures and messing about while he works WAY HARDER than I do. That even though I work AND do the majority of the child care, and even though he SITS AND WATCHES TV WHEN HE GETS HOME WHILE I WORK AT NIGHT, he still believes he works harder than I do because he has to get dressed for work and drive in the traffic to the office. Which, you know, is a little quaint and not like massively annoying (mostly). I try not to let it irritate me too much. I blame it on his Afrikaans Calvinistic upbringing (love you dear MIL!).
For the whole of January, I have been running my arse off. A few mornings last week I had to wake up at 4am just to get through all my work for the days. It's been really hectic. Exhausting. I am not complaining though, as business is good and I am very aware of how fortunate I am. As I say, rather a 'too full' life than a life that is too empty. Am grateful.
Today, at about 3:30 after working hard the whole day (and the entire first 6 weeks of this year!), I went out my study to have a wee. As I was up, Max was wondering around and saw me. Now that he has started big school after being at home for many months, I don't see him as much and I miss him. And so I gathered Max up into my arms and went to my room to lie on the bed with him. I hugged him and we lay together for a bit.
And just then Marko walks into the room. He is NEVER home early (wouldn't be the right thing to leave the office early!), but today, on the ONE day I decide to take 30 minutes off to lie on the bed with Max, he comes home early. "Ah, so THIS is what the two of you do during the day!" he says with a knowing look.
How fucking irritating. What can I say. I will never live it down now. I am so annoyed. If I had more time and energy, I would try to MAKE Marko admit that I DO work as hard (harder!) than he does, but you know what, I don't even think it will make any difference. So I will just carry on doing what I do, working hard and taking care of our kids as best I can, and taking the 30 minutes here and there to lie on the bed and hug my child. Because I want to, and because I can.
I love my husband very much, and he loves me very much and he is very good to me. And he is mostly not a pain in the arse, and I am lucky to have him and all of that good stuff. It is just this teeny tiny thing that drives me insane! "Words of Affirmation" is my love language. I need to hear I am doing a good job and that I am appreciated. And I need to believe that you mean it.
(This feels kind of ranty. I started it last night, and then got distracted and am not as irritated today as I was yesterday. But I decided to post it anyway as I hardly ever blog any more! A ranty blog is better than no blog at all :) )
One of my biggest fears with Max starting big school is that he would act out and hit other children. As I have said before, being the mom of the child who has been hit or hurt is hard. Being the mom of the child who hits or hurt is even harder. It is mortifying. You feel terrible for the other child, for that child's parents, for the teacher and for your own child. It is not a pleasant experience at all. Last year I had to send at least two letters to other parents to apologize for my child hurting theirs. Well, I didn't *have* to, but I felt compelled to. I felt terrible.
Thankfully, so far, Max has not hit or hurt anyone at school. A combination of a quieter environment (which helps with his sensory overload) and firm rules, plus a more mature child and better verbal skills have meant that Max is hopefully learning to count to 10 and react verbally instead of physically. I know it is still early days but so far so good.
And so when I went to fetch Max on Tuesday, and the teacher called me aside to say that there had been an "incident", my heart sank. Oh no, I thought, here we go. But it wasn't what I thought. She said Max was upset at break time because someone had hit him in the face. The kids were playing in "McDonalds" (a jungle gym like the one they have at McDonalds - with multi coloured plastic tubes to climb in) and someone must have hit him while they were in there. The teachers are in the play ground but they can't see into the tubes. Max came crying to the teacher to say that someone had hit him. She asked him to point out who had done it, but he didn't want to go back to the jungle gym to show her.
He was totally fine when I came to fetch him (he is a very tough cookie), but he did tell me that he cried at school. Poor thing. I bent down to give him a hug and noticed a mark on his cheek. "Did someone bite you Max?" I asked. Yes he said. The teacher obviously misunderstood "someone hit me" for "someone bit me". Poor thing! The teacher was mortified that it had happened.
I am ashamed to say my first reaction was "thank god it wasn't him doing the biting!". Max was fine and I thought to myself there was obviously an altercation in the jungle gym, where he might or might not have been partially to blame, and another child bit him. Happens. He was fine.
(Pretend you don't see the thing in his mouth. Don't judge. He needed the soothing)
The rest of the week was great.
On Friday I went to fetch him and the teacher said she needed to talk to me. Oh no! The moment I was dreading. Max had done something. But no, he hadn't done anything. Someone had bitten him again, on the other side of the face, and this time they knew who it was. It was the same child as before. Happened in the same jungle gym. Apparently the child has issues and is even more speech delayed than Max.
I am very pleased to say that apparently Max didn't react negatively at all, or try to retaliate! He cried and went to tell the teacher. Phew! After the initial relief I had a brief moment of panic because I knew Rose and Marko were going to freak out. They are not as understanding as I am. Rose wants to race over to the school and have a word with the other boy and Marko wants to know "what is the school doing about it!".
It is not acceptable to bite, and obviously I don't want my child to be hurt (I worry that because he is fairly speech delayed he might be the victim of bullying as he can't properly speak up for himself), but being on the other side of the equation, having experience of being the mother of the culprit, I am not angry, at anyone. Not the little boy, his parents, the school. It is impossible for the teachers to be everywhere at once (or see through plastic jungle gyms), and I feel sorry for the little boy and for his parents. It is so hard being the parent of the child who hurts others. And obviously the little boy is frustrated. The school will address the problem with the boy's parents and action will be taken to help the little boy and to prevent it from happening again.
(And of course, the other worry is that he is going to think that biting / fighting is what happens in the playground and I am SO keen that we keep up the good work that we have done so far this year - I do NOT want him to get into a situation where he has to / is tempted to hit.)
I was so worried about Max hurting other children that I didn't for a moment think he would be the one to get hurt! Luckily he is a tough cookie who doesn't stay upset or cross. He is fine.
This parenting thing sure ain't easy.
Max started "big school" this week. As you know, I was extremely anxious about it. Two days before school started I found out that the teacher I thought he was getting was no longer teaching that grade. To say I panicked would be putting it mildly. But once again, our wonderful school came to the rescue. I heard from the old teacher, the other teacher and the new teacher all within 24 hours. They listened to my concerns and they reassured me that they would take extra special care of Max.
On Wednesday morning the four of us left super early for the first school day of 2014. Max and I hung around the playground while we waited for Adam and Kate to hear which class they would be in (they each got awesome teachers PLUS they had their best friend from last year in their new class). After 30 minutes of hanging around (which is really long because he was really excited to start 'big school') Max decided that he had enough of this school thing and said he wanted to go home. Max always wants to go home. I had a little internal panic but distracted him by suggesting we walk around the playground to the fabulous jungle gym on the other side. Eventually it was his turn to meet his new teacher. Teacher Kelly. Teacher Kelly is young and beautiful and very sweet. When we walked in she got down on her haunches and looked at me as if to say "will he let me?", I nodded and she asked Max if she could have a hug. He launched himself into her arms and gave her the biggest hug ever. Max is a very good hugger.
I hung around for a bit and then said I was going and would be back later to pick him up. We kissed and hugged goodbye and off I went. No problem.
Everyone was thinking about him that morning, hoping he was ok. Marko and I were Skyping each other
[2014-01-15 11:25:09 AM] Marko Albertyn: Hope it was ok for him
[2014-01-15 11:25:41 AM] Tertia Albertyn: me too!! he was fine this morning. but leaving him is never the problem
[2014-01-15 11:26:34 AM] Marko Albertyn: Just hope he was ok and if he didn't hit anyone, then I would say his first day was ok.
[2014-01-15 11:26:54 AM] Tertia Albertyn: agree 100%
[2014-01-15 11:27:07 AM] Marko Albertyn: Ok, let me know later.
Leaving him is never the problem. He will happily go anywhere, with just about anyone. He is a confident child. But of course, what we were worried about was how he would interact with the teacher and the other kids.
I was super early to pick him up and waited anxiously outside the classroom at 12:15. First day = HUGE success! Apparently he was perfect, no problem. He kept hugging the teacher and patting her tummy (??!).
First day, very good.
The second day I felt a little better, but still a bit anxious. When I picked him up the teacher said there had been an 'incident'. Oh dear. "But" she said, "he handled it extremely well" Phew! He was playing with some blocks and walked away to do something. Another little girl thought he had finished and played with the blocks. He came back, saw her with 'his' blocks and went all stiff and clenched his hands and made a 'grrrrrrrr' noise but he didn't hit out or do anything to her, he went to tell the teacher and she sorted it out. PHEW!! I was so relieved that we had our first incident and that it was handled well by all. Because I knew it wasn't a case of 'if', but rather 'when' something would happen. And something did happen and it was fine!
AND!! He did a painting!!! When I went to pick him up he was very proud to show me his painting (of a squiggly line, but it doesn't matter!). That was one of the things I was worried about - I was worrried he would refuse to draw or paint (or participate!). I was so proud and happy I thought my heart was going to burst. I kept telling him over and over how proud I was of him for being such a good, big boy at school. I told him he made my heart very happy to which he replied "Oh thank you mom!". Cute. Eventually Marko told me to stop telling him how proud and happy I was as I was going to start freaking him out. I was just so proud! And happy! And RELIEVED!
The third day was good as well. In the morning Max asked me "No more small school?" and I said "no more small school. You are at big school now". Good, he says.
The teacher next door (the other English class for Grade RR - there are two English classes and two Afrikaans classes) said that Max was doing really well. The previous Grade RR teacher popped in to check on him and said that he was a happy boy in class. Even the nursery-phase cleaner stopped to tell me Max was a happy boy. (And while I had told the two teachers above about my concerns with Max, I promise I hadn't told the cleaner!)
I am so very very very happy and relieved that the first few days went well. I know it is early days and we could still have many more incidents, but these first few days were critical. Max's teacher is really sweet and I am so pleased that Max has connected with her, and her with him.
I am so grateful to the school and the teachers and the therapists (and even the cleaners!) who have all been so good to Max and I the first few days. It seems like I needed it more than he did :)
So far so good! I am a very, very proud and relieved mama.
Thank you so much for your support on my blog post the other day. You make me feel very comforted and contained. And relatively normal, which is always a good thing.
It’s funny. I used to share everything about my life and about my babies on this blog. But as they get older, I blog about them less. Because I don’t ever want anything I write to come back and embarrass them or disadvantage them one day. (Telling people that one of them pooped in the Agapanthus will probably embarrass them one day, but so will my taste in music and the way I dance and practically everything else about me. As I tell my kids, it is my job to embarrass them about things like that ;) ) Plus as life goes on, I get busier, I have less time to blog. But every now and then I need my 'village' and so I thought I would write about Max. Your help, support and advice has been so amazing in the past and I could do with some help with this. This is going to be long. Probably without any structure or flow. I hope it comes out ok.
I am going to talk about some of the issues Max and I are facing, but know that this is not a prediction on his future. This is not conceding to any limitations for him. We are not limited by how we are made up. We are all different – good at some things, we have to work harder at others. At the end of the day, it matters not what you can’t do, it only matters what you want to do and what you love doing. There is so much about this child that is wonderful and amazing and I really do believe that there is something special about him. That he will achieve great things in his life. In this post I don’t talk much about all the wonderful, awesome, admirable qualities Max does have. I am not sure there is enough space on this blog to list them all :)
Max is my special child. My baby. My heart. I am still amazed by his presence every single day. For so long, I knew that I couldn’t make babies without enormous amounts of assistance and perseverance and medication and money and the help of experts. And blood, sweat and tears. As you know, the twins came after 9 IVFs and many losses and 3 months of bed rest. I feel like I made those twins through sheer, raw determination and perseverance. It was as if I put my head down, gritted my teeth and fought my way upstream through the strongest of currents in order to get them. I fought with everything I had not to let go and get swept back down stream again. Time and time again, I gathered my strength, dug really deep and started the trek back up again, only to get knocked off my feet and washed back down to the bottom. Pick myself up, get knocked down again. After 4 years and 9 IVFs, many heart breaking moments and almost losing my mind, I made it. And then, while I was floating peacefully in the pool of motherhood, thanking my lucky stars that I never, ever had to make that harrowing trip upstream again, Max arrived*. Through no hard work or pain or effort. Easy conception, easy pregnancy, easy birth. No bed rest, no NICU. ONE full term baby!!! How is that even possible? One can have a baby without even trying? HUH?? Ok, other people can, but not me. I am broken remember. So it must be him then. He must have made this happen by himself. He found me. I am amazed and in awe that he is here. There is a sense of wonder that still hasn’t left me.
*What many people don’t know is that Max was actually my third pregnancy after the twins. I lost the other two. By the second loss (my 5th loss in total throughout the previous few years), I gave up hope of ever being able to hold on to a pregnancy like ‘normal’ people.
And so maybe because he is my special ‘miracle’, my youngest, my last, my baby, I baby him a lot. We have a very special bond that is perhaps more often seen between a mother and a new baby. We love each other so intensely. I love all my children equally, but some I love with fierce pride, others with fierce nurturing, this little boy I love with fierce intensity. And he loves me back the same way. He tells me about 30 times a day how much he loves me. There is an unbelievable bond between the two of us.
Max was an easy baby. Chilled. But as he has gotten older, he became less ‘easy’. For want of a better word, he became quite ‘naughty’ (although I know now that he wasn’t being ‘naughty’ in the traditional sense of the word). The twins (and everyone else) called him ‘naughty Max’. He would get overly excited and hit them, break their toys, tease them. And they of course didn’t hold back with their retribution. (And then of course, they learnt how to tease him back, which is VERY annoying). He hit, he threw things, he broke things. And he wasn’t scared of anyone or anything.
He started play school at 2 years and 8 months and the first year was ok’ish. He refused to sit at the table and do any fine motor stuff and was mostly allowed to do his own thing. He would wonder around and play outside or with the toys. And then last year he started acting out at school. He started hitting the other children. Without any provocation. I started dreading going to fetch him each day at midday. I would hunch my shoulders and brace myself when I walked in and asked “how was Max today”. 9 out of 10 times the answer would be “not great. He hit XX and XX today”. Or he refused to sit at the table. Sometimes I just didn’t have it in me to hear about yet another thing Max had done wrong and I used to slip in and take him home without making eye contact with any of the teachers, hurrying as fast as I can to avoid having to hear how Max behaved that day.
I didn’t know why Max was hitting. It wasn’t because someone took something away from him. It wasn’t because he didn’t like them. They weren’t fighting with him. He seemed to do it impulsively, randomly, without any provocation. Which made it even scarier. I scolded him, I begged him to behave. Nothing worked. I think what made it worse is that he is not a bad child. He is not a bully. He is a friendly, happy chap who would act out impulsively and unpredictably.
After 6 months of this, and after a particularly bad day when Max hit three children and the teacher phoned me to say that she didn’t know what to do with him anymore (not in a horrible way, in a “not sure how to make it better for Max so that he doesn’t hit”), I decided that I couldn’t cope with this anymore and I took him out of school. A little school that I loved and that the twins had thrived in for two years.
It was at the moment that I realized that Max wasn’t the same as most kids. He was a little different and it broke my heart that unwittingly, unintentionally etc, he had been found wanting. He didn’t fit in. He was rejected. I cried and cried. And I worried. If he is not coping at a play school that is kind and caring and small, how on earth was he going to cope in the big, scary, tough world? Would the world reject him? Would he never fit it?
I took him out of school and I enrolled him in a speech lessons and in OT. And I kept him home for about 5 months. The OT and the speech have made a big difference. There is progress, but there is still plenty of work to do. I sent him back to school two mornings a week this term and it went ok. There was less hitting, but I don't think either of our hearts was in it anymore. He never did really find his groove.
My big worry is that this year he goes to big school (where Adam and Kate are). To grade RR. And life is very different in big school than it is in play school. I am hoping that this difference will be good for him (the rules and formality). Max needs a very firm hand. He needs to be reminded all the time about what the rules are.
The speech lessons and the OT sessions have helped a lot. I can see improvements in him all the time. In my gut, I believe that he will catch up and that he will find his groove but I worry terribly about at what cost. I, we, need to help him through these early years to ensure that while he is catching up he doesn’t get ostracized by his peers and his teachers. That he doesn’t get labelled – we don’t want him to be known as the problem child, the naughty child. That he doesn’t develop negative self-images about his own abilities. That he doesn’t hit or hurt the other children!!
Max’s speech has been assessed at 2 years and 10 months. He is 4 years and 7 months old. The fact of the matter is that he is significantly speech delayed, which of course has added to his frustration and his acting out. But he is showing enormous improvement (in both speech and behaviour) and next year we will up the speech lessons to twice a week.
The OT believes Max has dyspraxia (which could be a cause of the speech delay) and SPD. And anxiety related to the two things above. I am taking him to a paediatric neurologist and specialist psychologist this quarter for a formal assessment.
When we had a sit down session with the OT to discuss her observations I was devastated. Obviously. I knew he had 'stuff', that he was a bit delayed but when you hear it stated in black and white, it hits you. As I said before, no parent wants extra challenges for their child. I had already seen what Max’s behaviour was doing to him. He was already facing rejection, I don’t want that for my child. Most people tell me not to worry. That I worry too much. I know I do. I am the world's biggest worrier. I know he is ok, I know he will catch up, I know that I worry too much, but there are facts that we can't ignore: Right now, at this present moment, Max is significantly behind his peers in terms of speech and fine motor ability. Those are the facts. And it is those facts that we need to deal with.
Aside: I took Max to his first birthday party recently. No one had invited him to a party before. I guess that what happens when you (a) can’t talk as well as the other boys and (b) you hit the other boys!!. The mother was a friend of mine, hence the invite. All the other kids were running and shouting and screaming and playing with each other, but Max wants to stay with me. He is not shy (at all!), but he preferred not to play with the others. He wanted me to push him on the swing and climb on the jungle gym with him. (Not easy when you are as old as I am!). Then the two of us sat under the tree for a bit, on our own, away from the noise. Another little boy arrived at the party and saw Max. He said “Oh no, not Max!” Max didn’t hear. My heart broke. After about 45 minutes, Max said “Let’s go home Mama”. I tried to encourage him to stay but he wanted to go home. He always wants to go home. And so we went home. My heart was sore. At that party I saw clearly how different Max is to the other 4 year olds and it hurts. Not for me. For him. For all the possible rejection he might face. All the “Oh no, not Max.”
I was and am extremely worried about this year. This year is a big deal. This year he goes to big school. All new children. Children who will be able to speak a whole lot better than him. Children who might not want to play with him because he is less mature than them. Because he might hurt them. Because he can’t speak well. I worry. But there is also a lot to take comfort from. Firstly, I love the school. The classes are small, the teachers and other staff are excellent. His speech teacher already consults at the school so there is continuity there. I know his teacher well as she taught the twins. I have already been to see the school psychologist and she is going to get all the teachers and therapists in to have a meeting to discuss Max and how we can help him.
My gut says that he will be ok. That he just needs more time to mature and develop. He might always have issues with focus and concentration due to the SPD or the dyspraxia but I believe that he will be able to manage it once he matures. (Concentration issues I can deal with, I am used to those!) I just wish we had a bit more time for him to catch up (having said that, he is only 4!!) I just worry about the cost of getting there. I worry that his teacher will try to get him to do what the other kids do, but he will refuse or tell her to “just shut up” and she will give up on him. The school will give up on him. His school mates will give up trying to understand him. And then he will get left behind and left out.
You know, reading this, I realize my biggest fear is that Max will get rejected. By his peers, by his teachers. When he is having a therapy session and I am sitting in the waiting room and I hear him start to act out (refuse to do something), I cringe. It’s like hearing the screeching of car tyres outside. You cringe and wait for the loud bang of the impact. You hold your breath for a few seconds waiting for the big collision. When I hear the screeching of Max’s tyres I cringe. I am so scared there is going to be a collision that is going to result in the therapist giving up and walking away. Or shouting at him. Which is the same as giving up. I keep reminding myself that they are used to this. That they deal with children who are in far worse positions than Max, with far greater issues. They won’t reject him, they won’t freak out. I keep trying to tell myself that.
On the bright side, Max is an incredible boy. He is intelligent, enquiring, extremely loving and lovable, attractive, sweet, confident, funny and happy. In fact, his OT says that it is exactly his charm and attractiveness that makes everyone want to do things for him. Which he often uses to avoid having to do tasks that he finds difficult. He is such a clever, charming little boy.
I had a great conversation with one of his future therapists. I phoned her in a panic a while ago to make an appointment for an assessment. I said to her that I am so worried about him and she asked “Is he happy?” and I said yes, he is a very happy child. He really is, he is happy and confident and he knows he is very loved. She said “well then he is exactly as he should be. He is only four. We have lots of time to work on the other stuff”. That made me feel so much better. He is fine. He is a bit behind where he should be, but with time and help, he WILL catch up.
When I am alone with Max, I see a happy, healthy, confident, intelligent boy. Who is improving all the time with speech and other things. But when I see other four year olds, I realize how behind he is. With speech, drawing, socializing etc. And then I panic. And I worry. And worryworryworry. People say don't compare. Impossible. Life compares. Life makes judgments. Life accepts or rejects. I don't want my child to be 'just like everyone else', but I do want him to feel accepted. He needn't win, but I want him to have the opportunity to be in the game
I know I am doing all I can for him right now. He is getting great help. He is going to a great school next year. He hasn’t even officially been diagnosed with anything. He will be fine. He is a clever, charming little boy. With the right guidance he can do anything.
So there you have it. I swing between feeling totally anxious about how he will cope with ‘big school’, whether it will all go pear shaped and he will get rejected, and feeling confident that he will find his groove and catch up.
(I know you are going to tell me not to let my anxiety spill over to him about school, and I really think I haven’t let it. He is super excited about big school, we he tells everyone that is going to big school, with a new teacher and new friends and a GINORMOUS jungle gym. He knows the school well, as we go there to fetch Adam and Kate.)
Two weeks to go to big school. Dear universe, please let him find his groove there.
PS what was so interesting is that on the day that the OT had the feedback session with us and discussed her concerns re Dyspraxia, I connected with my long standing good friend in the computer Tess (who started blogging again after a break of a few years) and I found out her son has Dyspraxia – what a coincidence. Tess is a very clever, resourceful woman and I am glad to be able to learn from her).
I am feeling a little battered. Today we received yet another 'challenging' diagnosis for one of my children. Between the three of them we have varying diagnoses of ADD, SPD, dyspraxia...I am beginning to wonder, is it me? Is it just us? All three kids?? Is it their crappy genetic inheritance that is to blame? I know I have varying forms of all of the above. Which makes me feel super guilty for passing it along to my children.
Or is it just that the professionals are too trigger happy now days with diagnosing these kinds of 'issues'? I am extremely grateful that I can afford therapy for my kids and that there are helping professionals willing and able to assist, but I am beginning to wonder if it is just us?
And then there is my secret, dark fear. That this is all I, we, deserve. Because I struggled so hard to have children, that having children with challenges is what I deserve. That 'normal'* children are reserved for people who conceive easily and without help. "Normal" families get to have "normal" children. People like me, families like mine, should just be happy with what we are and just shut up.
*Normal meaning "average" / typical / no challenges / no learning issues / no therapy needed.
Of course my rational mind (haha) says this is not true. But there is a part of my mind that is so scarred by infertility and loss that it is beyond rational.
I don't care about myself, about any extra work that might be required from my side, but I care deeply about my children. I feel extra guilty because I brought this on them. Because of my own genetic make up and the predisposition to the ADD/SPD/Dyspraxia above, because I am broken (infertility), their path somehow has to be harder.
Please don't think I feel that my children are "less than". They are not. They are awesome and amazing and clever and competent and funny and brilliant and "normal" in so many respects and have HUGE potential. I wouldn't be surprised if they become leaders / CEOs / entrepreneurs / presidents / stars / celebs / best-at-stuff. But I worry, when I get these diagnoses, that their path to being whatever they want to be is going to be much harder. No mother (or father) wants their children to face extra challenges. Life is challenging enough.
You see, that is why I say infertility is such an insidious affliction. It doesn't just affect the mother-to-be. Or the the father. Or the single/gay/married/straight parent-to-be. It affects their friends, their family, their lives, their relationships, their health, their finances, their mental and psychological well-being. During and after. It affects more than that. It is a wound that leaves a permanent scar. The bitter legacy that infertility has left for me is the fear that because I had to fight and beg and plead and struggle to have children, that my children are somehow damaged because of that struggle.
I wrote this post 3 months ago. I never posted it because it felt too raw. I was worried about being misinterpreted. The most recent diagnosis was too fresh. But I have had time to process this and I am calmer and more in control. And like with Adam and Kate, I will do whatever it takes with Max to make sure he lives the happiest, most fulfilling life he can. My kids are awesome and special and unique and I am so incredibly lucky to be their mother.
I am going to write a separate post about Max and what we have learnt so far.
I am strong. If I can survive infertility, I can survive anything. I wil do whatever it takes to make sure my children lead happy, fulfilling lives.