Saturday, 20 July 2013

The challenges of 'bonding ' a large diverse family.

 When my 3rd child was born my two sons both were very clearly on the spectrum, my eldest was ADHD/PDDNOS and my second son had the suggested diagnosis of non specific developmental delay later changed to Aspergers when he found his voice and we moved to the UK. I wondered just how they would adapt to her arrival and how my eldest would take to being weaned in order to accommodate my newborn. I chose to Tandem feed my second son and before her due date my eldest just announced , well I think I have to just have my cup now because of the baby. Nothing more was said . He just suddenly stopped.
My little girl had to become accustomed very quickly to a lot of tantrums and we did our best to stop my second son from poking and hissing at her too much although he did manage the odd nip when we were distracted as caught in the photo above. They did however show a lot of interest in her and would place her in a toy box as if she were a doll propped up. They would insist she was bought downstairs at the same time as them and it became very clear that my routine and schedule would have to be very tight with visual reminders that mummy needed a break too - a large - mummy time sticker with a coffee cup on it . The deal was if I had a cup of coffee in my hands that meant that until I was done drinking it they could not pull me over to do what they wanted . This of course had me drinking as much as 10 cups of coffee a day on some days as they could be very demanding . If you do not have a non verbal child I will explain, mine would tug on me and cry and whine , you would then be lead over and he would repeatedly make whooshing noises and become very frustrated when I asked him to point, unlike my eldest he so no point to pointing at things and very quickly found that his brother and he had their own understanding and he would just know what he wanted . I saw a very strong bond develop between them even back then .I also noticed that my two boys had weaned at about the age of 3 1/2 whilst my daughter weaned at the age of 15 months again , she was far to keen on moving about to have to sit still .

As the family grew it was interesting to see how the children would pair off together and play. Now by this stage I had 5 children my daughter amused my 3rd son always prepared to soothe him with showing him brightly coloured things and reading him stories .She was developing quite a strong personality and showed early signs that she was playing the role of mini mum on the childcare front. My eldest son too stepped up with his dad absent he joined in with play with his younger sisters and helped with chores around the house .

Accepting his stepdad and my two new children was hardest for him at first as he had an explosive temper and always reacted without thinking which lead to many a trashed toy or room.

 At one stage I was so overwhelmed with the combination of tantrums on the street and in the home I really thought I had made a terrible mistake. I had one setting a string of plastic peppers on light - he placed them in the oven - just to see what would happen.  He became obsessed with fire and flames taking the opportunity to explore this in a safer way we established a time where he could help with the BBQ and we would go and see a bonfire and we would let him watch his favourite movie in which a boy lit fire from his fingers over and over as this seemed to make him calmer and soothe the craving for his obsession .The other had developed a smearing faze and I was forever cleaning and repainting the bathroom and the laundry seemed never ending. I was tandem feeding my youngest two and attending classes at the hospital to get support on how to deal with their tantrums.
At the same time I was hosting coffee mornings for the NAS to support others and NCT coffee mornings to meet other mums. Despite my feelings of inadequacy I was always complimented on how well behaved and well mannered all my children where in public. That was the key of course in public we could all put on a fabulous performance. Dinners out with smiley happy well mannered clean children, shopping trips with no screaming and these moments are what kept me holding on hoping to keep that family feeling when we got behind closed doors .

Of course These days I realise that every new parent no matter whether it is the first or their 6th looks and compares their children and their parenting skills are measured  when surrounded by others. We all want those perfect picture moments, the reality is you need not worry you are UNIQUE and so is everyone else so stop worrying  ! - ( my daughters favourite phrase) I am pleased to say my children have become very independent and despite having two at boarding school we do maintain a close family bond and we share our picture perfect moments beyond a simple public photograph .

My eldest now has a flat of his own but chooses to come home to visit and invites his siblings over to have a dinner treat or cinema night with him 1 on 1 . My 17 & 16 year old share an incredibly protective bond always looking out for each other and always laughing.

And whilst it may have taken time , it was worth all those hours we spent at the dinner table playing family games and sharing stories. With only 3 at home of course games are a lot quieter and we look forward to having every one home.  Even now we have moved house one of the most exciting boxes to undo was our family games night boxes which has taken prime position in the kitchen ready to keep that family feeling going , when all the children are home together .

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