I was having a discussion with some friends the other day about the levels of supervision our kids require. It was prompted by a scary near-miss with a wandering child at our play group, and of course some parents were wondering aloud how the mother hadn't noticed their toddler had disappeared. One of my friends doesn't have kids with special needs and has been able to teach her kids to stay in sight of her. Another has a son on the spectrum who she has to hover over because of his sensory issues and struggles relating with other kids which can lead to him melting down quite suddenly.
Me? I make a helicopter mother look distant. Both of my kids are runners, accident prone, and have no awareness of anything but what they're experiencing or looking for. Bubbly is six and still often wears a harness while shopping, and I have little doubt his brother will need it by the time he no longer needs it. On the rare occasion we go to a playground I check the fence, I stand by ready to catch my kid as they step off the edge of a platform into nothing. I'm there when they run under the swings, oblivious to the fact that the kid swinging really high will knock them flying, and I'm there when other kids push past them because they take too long sitting down to go down the slide. Usually I'm the one being ignored or backchatted by the little darlings when I ask them to wait their turn too. I would love to sit and talk to my friends while our kids play, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.
At home I can sit, but not relax. As long as my kids are up I have to be "on". It's exhausting, and every now and then I think to myself that maybe I should leave them to their own devices and let them learn to survive without me for a few minutes. Sounds easy, right? Because you can't wrap your kids in cotton wool. You can't put a helmet on them (The Little One's physiotherapist laughed and told me he's too top-heavy), and you can't always be there to protect them. Plus, you'll become a nervous wreck.
Well, I'm not a wreck, but I suspect my nerves are still recovering from my kids' antics and incidents this month, and since I deal with traumatic events by writing about them, here's our incident quota for the Month of May!
The First week of May
It was almost time for Bubbly's bus to arrive. I have this thing about not going out to the bus in my pyjamas, even in my driveway. My life is chaotic, but I like to at least look semi-together. I was half dressed when I heard The Little One start to wail. He wails at everything. He's either happy, or catastrophically wailing, usually over a piece of paper not flapping how he'd like it to. So I didn't run to see what was going on. I quickly finished and then went to see why he hadn't stopped crying yet.
My blood ran cold. I found him with his leg trapped under Bubbly's recliner that he likes to tip and rock on. Bubbly was oblivious to the commotion and watching The Wiggles quietly on the chair. I freed The Little One and checked him over for injuries. Everything moved okay and without hysteria from him, I couldn't see any marks on his leg, and he calmed down within a minute or so, so I thought he'd had a very lucky escape. Bubbly's bus came, I took him out while carrying his brother. Then we went inside and I set him down on his feet. He cried straight away and couldn't put weight on his leg at all.
By the time we got in to see the doctor The Little One was able to walk a little when I took most of his weight. There was slight bruising, but nothing looked broken or swollen, so she gave me forms for x-rays and said only to bother getting them if he deteriorated. I made him rest and gave him lots of TLC, and he didn't deteriorate, so I breathed easier. But the overprotective, anxious part of me won out and the next day I took him for the x-rays "just in case". The radiologist told us to stay until she'd had a look, and when she returned gave me the good news that nothing appeared broken or worth worrying about and we were fine to go home. That afternoon The Little One started running again out of nowhere and didn't seem to be in much pain at all. So I relaxed and was thankful, because it could have been a whole lot worse.
The Second Week of May
Nothing major this week. I had my best Mothers Day ever, and for the first time Bubbly seemed to get it was a special day for me! We got some assessments done for The Little One (which I will post about shortly), and to my very great excitement he was given a place in a playgroup for kids with additional needs at the wonderful preschool Bubbly went to for Early Intervention and his final year of preschool. Bubbly was also in a spectacularly good place. It seemed that his new medication (Strattera) was finally settling in his system, and he was calm, happy and doing great work at school and in his therapies. I actually posted just how great he was doing and started to think maybe we could relax a bit with him.
The Third Week of May
All hell broke loose with The Bubbly One.
Never, EVER post or share how great your child is going. I asked for it really!
Bubbly's medication has done wonders for his concentration and focus, but without the distractions his world was full of he's suddenly noticing everything. We've never thought he was an overly rigid kid when it came to routine. Bubbly was always fairly easy to distract. It was only really his sensory quirks that he would perseverate over. But with this new focus has come a fair amount of anxiety over where things are or should be, and what should be happening on certain days. It was like he suddenly got "less ADHD" and "more autistic", if that makes sense. It was fantastic for his learning, but we suddenly had to deal with a lot more meltdowns around things that weren't even noticeable to me, and our preventative strategies weren't doing much at all. He was constantly anxious about where his iPad was at all times, and this expanded to include my iPhone too. Several meltdowns were over him not being able to take them into the sand pit, or me having to check a message. School weren't having any issues, and we all thought that maybe he was just tired and letting out his stress after keeping it together so well at school.
Bubbly's meltdowns have always been mostly noise and lots of banging the wall or furniture with his hands. If we stayed out of his way then he wouldn't target anyone. But these meltdowns brought a new depth of frustration, rage and aggression. Even more difficult was that even a tantrum over something minor could escalate to a full blown meltdown in seconds which would take 30-45 minutes to subside, and during which I was a frequent target. Afterwards he was so upset that he'd lashed out, especially the one time he pushed his brother and realised that the'd scared him.
Something had to be really wrong, so we went through all of the health related things first, and realised that he wasn't drinking much, and that his bowel habits had slowed right down. This was an expected side effect of his meds, but without enough fluid we realised he was possibly constipated, which is really unusual for him. We started treatment for that which did it's job (in "spectacular" fashion) in a few days.
Then there was the incident on the bus.
I saw on the Monday afternoon that Bubbly's iPad had been taken off him on the bus. When I asked why I was waiting to hear that he'd thrown it, but his attendant said that he was biting his buttons off his shirt and chewing his car seat. Bus staff are there for transport, not to know the ins and outs of our kids, but I didn't feel that taking Bubbly's iPad was an appropriate response to what he was doing. It had nothing to do with him chewing, and he isn't able to understand that losing his iPad is a consequence of that; and secondly, if he's chewing things then that is a sensory seeking, stress relieving behaviour for him, and not something that he actually realises is "naughty". If it was happening regularly, and I'd seen it on that other seat several times before, then it was quite possibly related to Bubbly's sudden anxiety about where every device in the house was. When I asked him about it he got really upset until I told him I would speak with his school about it- and then he relaxed visibly and just collapsed into a big hug. I love that he knew that they would understand!
So I spoke with the school who were wonderfully supportive (of course), and we put some other strategies in place to assist with Bubbly's need to chew something. A chewy pendant is working well so far. His bus driver was very apologetic and concerned that Bubbly had been distressed. He also said he hadn't realised Bubbly's iPad had been taken and promised it wouldn't happen again. He's also really curious about sensory stuff now and is asking lots of good questions, so I am educating him for two minutes each morning and afternoon. The attendant wasn't happy that I spoke with the school and ignored me for a week, but she's slowly come around!
The Little One also managed to hit his head on his cot at some point through the night this week, and woke up with a giant bruised egg on his forehead, which he also fell on later that week, landing on the tail fin of one of Bubbly's planes, making a nice cut over the bruise. I got some "nice" looks in the shops that week!
The Fourth Week of May
The Little One turned eighteen months old, so I took him for his vaccinations. The doctor asked for his x-rays of his leg. I told her that I was told there was nothing wrong so I hadn't gone to pick them up- and then I learned that the radiologist missed a tiny fracture that the doctor found the next day. Feeling like the most negligent mother on earth I went to pick up the x-rays, sent photos of them to his physio and returned to the doctor the next day. Both reassured me that there wasn't a lot to worry about and that it was easily missed. The doctor said she'd have plastered his leg had we realised, and the physio laughed, and said "Can you imagine what damage that child could do with a leg in plaster?". No one seems overly concerned though and we go back for more x-rays next month to check that he's healing okay. I'd thought I was overreacting even going for the x-rays in the first place!
And just to top things off...
Bubbly was relatively calmer, having his routine settle down, his system "cleared" and his ipad untouched, until Sunday night as I was preparing his dinner. Arsenic hour is right before dinner time in this house, so I was relatively organised, but apparently not enough for Bubbly. He wanted his garlic bread out of the oven and cool enough to eat NOW. He'd eaten a punnet of strawberries already (great dinner, I know. Don't even go there!), and I'd managed to hold him off, though his whining was getting more and more urgent. He took issue with my choice of his usual plastic plate, and presented me with a very breakable porcelain one, which I explained wasn't safe as I put his dinner onto the plastic plate- and he looked at me, belted the fridge door, screamed and RAN.
I didn't see it, and I'm glad I didn't because the sound of breaking glass is still haunting me. Yep, he thought about it, and he charged at the window as he would a wall. The momentum must have carried his upper body into it and he was on his feet inside when my brain realised what I'd just heard. I ran to him to check his hands and wrists for blood, and saw a tiny bit of smeared blood and some hair on his hand. Then he whimpered and put his hand on his head, and I saw a long cut oozing blood. Thankfully Daddy was there at the time and one of us grabbed a clean towel for the bleeding. We did the "hospital or ambulance" debate in about 2 seconds and I called Triple Zero (Australian emergency number).
The paramedics were amazing. We'd stopped the bleeding within a few minutes so they said to relax and let Bubbly calm down and be comfortable letting them look. They reassured us that they were due to finish soon and were happy to wait as long as he needed, which turned out to be a while because Bubbly was pretty freaked out, sore and scared. We ended up giving him some pain relief and his bedtime meds an hour early in the hopes he'd fall asleep. He didn't, but he saw the bag I'd thrown together in case we had to go to hospital and decided he was going to Daddy's. We buckled him into the car where the paramedics got a good look and determined he had a deep scratch but not a cut needing stitches. They pronounced him a very lucky boy who'd probably have a good scar, but told him that "Chicks dig scars". They instructed us to keep it dry for a couple of days and call again if he grew disorientated or started to bleed heavily, then they wished us good luck with him and left.
So that was "The Month of May". Bubbly has recovered well, and he's off the hook for a haircut for even longer now- in fact, his too-long hair probably saved him from a worse cut on his head. The Little One enjoyed the excitement of the paramedics immensely, and Mummy and Daddy have almost recovered from the trauma, though we all shuddered at the sound of the broken glass being removed when the window was replaced. The Bubbly One has not charged at a wall since, and I'm desperately hoping that he has made the connection between his wall/window crashing tantrums and getting hurt. We're also revisiting the visuals that have never been particularly helpful for him in the past and hoping that his new found concentration helps him to more effectively manage his anxiety and frustration, and hopefully so that he can give us a clue about what's on his mind before things escalate too much in future.
And what have I learned? That my kids are still going to get injured even right under my nose! Seriously, this whole month has probably made me more vigilant about what my kids are doing, but overwhelming as it has been, everything could have been SO much worse. Sometimes survival is a victory in itself, and if we can look back on the last few weeks and manage a relieved smile before we tackle whatever's coming next, then I think we're doing okay.