Half term is done and dusted. Like many parents, as half term approached, I was torn between the feeling of relief that we don’t have to rush around to be at school on time and despair that I have to come up with ways to entertain two small children for a week, whilst squeezing in work.
I’m often quite slack at filling a school break with daily activities, but I like to have at least a couple of things booked in. Lockdown was certainly a time where we all realised that we could survive (just about) without having places to go or things “booked in”, suddenly we just had to make do with local outdoor space, our own company and home activities. Having a child like Audrey meant that home was actually an easy place to be – but Audrey’s brother is more like a puppy – he needs his daily exercise or he tears the place up!
I always have to remind myself that with children you go through phases – where some of what they do makes them ‘easy’ and other aspects are hard. Like when a newborn doesn’t sleep well, but at least they don’t move. With a child who has additional needs, it’s harder to second guess when they’ll be “easier” and when they’ll be “harder” to deal with. For example, Audrey wasn’t mobile until she was 16 months old (when she bottom shuffled) and once she was able to walk, she wasn’t immediately the sort to wander off or purposefully run away – that came around age 5/6 ish when it made outdoor life much more tense. She was definitely what I’d call a relatively easy child when she was small. She’s more complicated now.
Because of my tendency to fret about the little things that could make a trip with children stressful, I usually aim to “play it safe” and take my two to places we have been to lots of times or to meet with others so I have more hands/eyes on deck. I’m usually worried about parking, distance to a toilet, their stamina for walking distances… some of this can be planned for, but general whining or dislike of the place can (and too often does) come out of the blue. You can’t always plan for a child’s mood.
So it feels a shock for me to say that this half term was a success. In the past I’ve had some disastrous days; like Audrey completely disappearing for approximately 15 minutes and me calling 999 or Rex stacking it on concrete 30 seconds into a park trip… but this week I have told my children everyday “thank you so much for a lovely time today and for being so good” and meant it! I mean, what is going on?! It had made me sit and think: are they getting easier or am I getting braver? I guess it’s a combination of the two.
In many ways, with Rex aged 5 and I’d say, quite grown up for his age and Audrey at nearly 8 but “delayed”, at times it is much like I would expect dragging twins around would be. Audrey often makes the rules, as it can be her stubbornness that dictates where we go and when we leave, although likewise she has a kind and generous streak which allows her to be convinced to give in to her brother’s demands.
This week I did things that would normally scare me (like going on a train alone with the two of them, with no buggy) and we didn’t just survive – we had a good time! We went to the cinema and Audrey wanted to go to the toilet three times during the film(!), but with a friend sat in the row behind us, I didn’t have to convince Rex to join us. In all honesty, I trust him much more to stay still or stick with me than I trust Audrey, so it was a relief she was the frequent toilet visitor and not him!
At the beach, Audrey was happy sat making sand castles for a lot longer than she usually would be. Rex adores the sea and could probably stay all day if it’s warm, but on this occasion it was a bit chilly, so he was happy to leave when Audrey was (about 90mins in). This is an improvement (it’s always a disappointment if you’ve dragged everything but the kitchen sink down there for one of them to whine and want to leave after 15 minutes!). Naturally, Audrey needed the toilet and had I been alone with them, we would have had to pack up all out stuff (blanket, water bottles, jackets, buckets… laden across the sand) and hiked back over the pebbles to visit the toilets before dragging it all back. Thankfully a friend came along with us and watched Rex whilst I took Audrey off to the loo. There’s definitely safety in numbers when you have a child with SEND (or even in fact, just if you have children)!
Audrey still tests me of course, sneakily creating a bit of distance in the park or running off ahead around a big garden visit and she often decides she needs a wee once we are as far away from the toilet as we can be… but we got by, we had no accidents and I kept close to her without needing to sprint or feel stressed… and it’s made me look forward to the summer holiday ahead. I’m hopeful that the combination of my bravery and their progress will make for fun times all round!