Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 21st

Looking back on this day it looks so serene.  And I'm sure that in the telling I will fail to convey just how intense the anxiety was.  But all I can ask for from you is to, at all times, err on the side of extremism whenever I mention an emotional or physical state emanating from Ted.

We were meeting up with a friend and her children in the morning.  A new friend.  And as we all know as adults, new friends are tricky to find, slightly embarrassing to acquire and stressful to maintain.  My new friend has two children as well, and had the sweetest method of empathising with me whenever I started rambling off down the roads of discussing my own children's high needs.  "A-Ha!" I thought.  "Perhaps this may be a meeting of minds!"

We had planned for Steel Park - I was thinking of the ideal environment where the children could be challenged and interested in their surroundings for long enough without direct supervision that I might be able to engage in some form of conversation.  Perhaps even one at length (a woman can dream).  But as a blow to those plans we awoke to grey skies and drizzling rain.  Between us we came up with IKEA, since it's close, covered and has a play centre that the children enjoy.

Before that could happen however, Ted had to enact his Darren Hanlon show.  This time he was Darren Hanlon and Blue Baby was Teddy.  Turns out Darren Hanlon loves Star Wars too and chatted to Teddy all about it and even volunteered a special one-off private performance of Elbows (as can be seen above).

Eventually we made it down there and met up with my friend.  Ted whisked me away to the food before there was a chance for any pleasantries (and by whisked I mean dragged).  Whilst there he ate a plate of organic pasta, an apple and a cinnamon roll (this was after two pieces of peanut butter toast and a bowl of porridge at home).  After sitting still for long enough to eat everything within arms length, he set off at pace with my friend's son to go and investigate the planes as they were landing.  You see, this lulled me into a false sense of security, that today was going to be an ok day; a day within the realms of manageable and reasonable.

This simulacrum was shattered upon their return to where we sat.  After acquiring food, accompanying a child to the toilet, then the other doing the same, then supervising potential injury control, then having maybe a complete ten minutes of uninterrupted talking time, the boys returned and I could tell immediately that we were not going to be able to stay seated for long.  All assumptions I had held until that point regarding civility, discussion, compromise and understanding were lost to the climate-controlled winds of the Swedish wonderland.

I strapped myself in and readied my patience over-ride. My friend volunteered to take the children over to investigate the magical moving trays and their ultimate disappearance into the tunnel and as I looked over and saw Ted racing from one end to the other, peering dangerously close to the side of the tunnel's attachment to the kitchen, I knew I had to up sticks and leave.

You know why?  Because I could see the truth.  The truth is that my friend has delightful, mild-mannered children.  They listened to her, responded with consideration and calm, and were absolutely engaging.  My children?  God I love them and their wild, crazy ways.  But I could see that any possibility of my friend being able to control my Ted-gone-wild was impossible.  She's too nice.  Too nice and gentle and lovely to do any such thing as...well as the things Ted needs in order to stop himself from his kamikaze streak from seeing a full realisation of its strength.

And you want to know just how even more fantastic my new friend is?  She even complimented me on my way with the children.  Despite the two of them running the wrong way up the travelator over and over and over and over and over again (remember - no matter how I say it, err on the side of extreme!  Extreme!) and their screaming being so loud as to obliterate all sense from her talking to me merely metres away, she still retained the grace and composure to have such beautiful sentiment for me.  

I found a good one, huh?  I'm pretty stoked about it.  As I said, new friends as an adult are tricky to find. And even rarer when they're not a school parent either.

We had to head off to have the children's school uniforms fitted.  Oh give me a break.  They just needed a new polo shirt for the love of god.  However the shop insisted on every family going in at a previously arranged time to be 'fitted'.  Our fitting, for what it's worth, involved the woman looking at the children from over the counter.  Choosing their shirt size off the top of her head.  My two trying on their tops and they fitted perfectly.  Paid for those, some caps, music/book bags and we were off.  Done and dusted in about fifteen minutes.  And most of that time was filled with the crying, sobbing sounds of Teddy refusing to try on his polo shirt that he had been BEGGING us to go and pick up for weeks.

I really do think it's necessary to point out that Ted's general defiance in the past few days has revolved a lot around the very simple, basic aspects of life.  Getting changed.  Brushing teeth.  GETTING IN AND OUT OF THE GODDAMN CAR.  And look, I am venting here, but I do try to work with him, be gentle and rational, mentally sympathise with the status of his hunger/tiredness/agency etc.  

However I have to say that after days and days of this.  That after I have had him yell-crying at me about how he refuses to leave somewhere and get in the car to go to buy food and then, a split second later, complain that he is starving and don't I care that he is STARVING? - well when the two points are placed in stark contrast like that, well yes.  I guess it's safe to say that I may respond a little curtly.  I may become a little intolerant.  I can't be the only one, surely?

As always, back home for some r&r.  We still didn't manage to make it to anything approximating a place that would sell me food.  In desperation, Ted pulled out one of our beetroots and asked me to slice it thinly for him to eat raw.  This child, who refuses to eat a reasonable proportion of considered, balanced dinners, was happy to eat sliced raw beetroot.  Awesome.

Harriet called us all together for a lesson in her new venture called 'Think About'.  It's an outreach program from her umbrella company Harriet's Learning TM.  This lesson was on Women Artists, starting with Frida Kahlo.  The lesson was based on a book we gave her for Christmas which is well pitched for the early primary reader.

It surprisingly worked to keep Ted calm for a little while.  Just prior he had been swinging large pieces of wood around and yelling loudly.  Essentially it was chaos. 
But by the time James came home we decided that a walk out and about in the world may hopefully work to quell the madness Ted felt compelled to demonstrate on a perpetual basis.  Harriet, bless her sweet little heart, was busy cuddling him and smooching him, even as he thwacked her with a fairy wand that he had broken earlier that day (causing our back step to momentarily look as though a fairy had been decapitated there).

We walked along the banks of the Cooks River in despair.  Everywhere we looked there lay plastic bottles in thick ropes along the tideline.  We decided to ensure that this year we made it to Clean Up Australia Day.  You should too.

Let it not be thought that I do not find moments to revel and enjoy in the brilliant, surprising and wonderful individuals my children are, even on days like this.  When I look back I can really only remember the screaming and running and defiance and anger and the monumental effort it took to retain my cool.  But I also remember Ted's gentle, peering, curious enquiries as we looked over the beetroot plants.  And his sweet manner in ensuring Harriet wrote eleven-twelfths on his notebook instead of just four or four and three-quarters as he was concerned she might.  And I equally remember Harriet's screaming frustration at how the stapler wouldn't work and her indignant stomping off after narrowly being wiped off the road when she failed to check for cars.  

We all walked home in different groups - Harriet wanted to run it on her own, so she went off ahead.  I like walking at pace and found I kept Harriet at the edge f my sights as I did so.  Ted was struggling to find the energy required to walk even one more step at each and every step and so James took over the role of gentle encourager as I felt that particular role had been tapped for me on this day.

And as we walked home, the bats flew overhead.  Love Sydney.  Love the bats.

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