A holiday is what you take when you can’t take what you’ve been taking any longer

They say that a change is as good as a rest.

You do hear a lot of unmitigated bollocks*. It is emphatically not a rest. It is not remotely close to a rest. It is, pardon my vulgarity, exactly the same shit in a different toilet.

(Apropos, Harry, bless his 2nd percentile soul, generally shits like a Great Dane. His progress towards potty training consists of sporadically attempting to remove his nappy concurrent with urination or shrapnelling defecation, resulting stickily in catastrophic overflow.)

Harry slept in our caravan exactly as well as I expected him to: reasonably badly. Answering, as ever, to the name of Lucky, he rapidly acquired a sleep-annihilating cough, probably due to the spectacular pea-souper that thickly wreathed the so-called English Riviera for our first 2 days. (Not unusual. During a previous trip to the Minack

Minack

 I had marked difficulty in discerning the actors, and at no point saw the sea.) Harry was also difficult about his naps – too much new stuff to look at, mainly – so this, paired with poor night-time rest, resulted in a particularly prickly young pear.

Even though it is always Harry behaving like a monumental and complete arse, John and I, without fail, manage to blame one another for whatever family crisis of overwrought nerves Harry’s relentless, single-minded pursuit of trouble has landed us in. We are clever like that. Our bitter mutual castigation harmonises nicely with Harry’s ululating screams of inarticulate rage, and the juddering blows/protesting squeaks/sickening thuds from whatever unfortunate surroundings are currently suffering the full force of his directed fury.

I’m honestly not sure how much of Harry’s behaviour is a result of our joint genetic legacy, or his individual… lets call them… issues. I waver daily between fearing his behaviour is a pint-size, highly concentrated sample of our worst character flaws – or believing him to be simply a toddler with an iron will, an iron fist, an iron skull, a steely glare and sadly limited communication.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Thwart this child at your bodily, mental and marital peril.

It is, I fear, only a matter of time before Harry breaks my nose with his furiously lunging skull; I never expected to receive my first Glasgow kiss from my son.

He still has no speech. Proto-words are emerging, sporadically, unreliably and slowly. He knows dozens of signs, but simply does not understand how to use them to communicate. I see 10 month old babies communicate more effectively than Harry, and my sadness for him – and for myself, truth be told – is profound. We will never be here again. I can’t redeem the time – too much time – that I spend exasperated, grappling, struggling, coaxing, crying, furious, swearing, persuading, embarrassed, manhandling, dejected, out of breath, really fucking annoyed… and beaten.

The beauteous Amy phrases it perfectly: ‘a meltdown at a playground is different for us, that it’s not the kind of meltdown *your kid* has, no it’s just NOT, that it’s like someone set our child on FIRE, that there’s no redirecting or soothing, there is only FLEEING.’

Come 6pm, I would rather face down a hungry bear** than cross my ferocious – fabulous – flailing little bundle of determination. I am sometimes asked if I think he might be somewhere on the autistic spectrum – to which I used to reply No. Lately, I say… I’m not sure. He is a social, smiling child (when things go well; by which I mean: his way) who seems to be growing away from some of his odder quirks (fear/anger at certain noises/frequencies, some texture aversion) but he remains, in ways, a strange child, and a challenging one. Until we break his communication log-jam, I – glumly – expect no improvement. 

He was not feeling or behaving his best this week, and we were fairly strained in consequence, but I didn’t set out to moan quite as much as I actually have here. I am, when you get right down to it – and not very far down, either – wholeheartedly and emotively thankful for every last one of my bruises. The sound of his giggles lifts me. I beam when he beams. The comical little ‘uuUMM!’ noise of interest, pleasure and surprise he makes when confronted with something new and deeply intriguing makes me radiate happiness. I would slowly disembowel myself with a spoon – a rusty one – if it saved him from pain.

Mind you, after about the 45th minute of doleful howling from the back seat in protest at his Wrongful Carseat Incarceration, muttering from the front seat, and with over 100 miles of motorway still to go – disembowelling myself sans anaesthesia began to seem like a comparatively attractive distraction.

But we did have fun, in between the squalls. Look! Smiles, and everything!

sea wall

sea wall 2 

slide

But not at the waves, which Harry is highly nervous of, possibly due to witnessing the severity of our disgusted recoil from the filthy foam topping the waves at Weston Super Mare a few weeks ago.

waves

John taught Harry a fascinating new game: putting large handfuls of cold, wet shingle down the ample Mummy-cleavage.

pebble cleavage pebble cleavage 2

Hubby seemed oddly vexed when we fed pebbles down into his jeans in reciprocation. Apparently they got wedged in his underwear.

Harry shot through most of Plymouth Aquarium like a bored torpedo, but he particularly liked the sharks, and is consequently now the proud owner of a foot-long cuddly specimen.

 Shark

 shark2

I did actually manage to get one of the five books I took read, although I had run my fingers through my hair so much (as a result of wall-to-tiny-fucking-wall Peppa sodding Pig. Now there’s a porcine family that needs sausagizing, stat.) that it began to look like an Old English Sheepdog crossed with Spinal Tap; I did well to make out the words at all.

Fiery cross

And now we are home: the laundry mountain is visible with Google Earth and Harry is sleeping beautifully again in his own cotbed.

He starts nursery on Tuesday.

We can’t actually afford to send him to nursery. Not even the two measly mornings that he is booked in for – but I can’t afford not to send him, either. He needs to be surrounded by more speech than ours, he needs to learn to share toys, he needs to learn not to hit, and he needs to become accustomed to the school site in which he will be educated until he is 11 years old. He will begin a hefty 5-half-days-a-week-all-or-nothing preschool there in a year’s time; the year after that… he will begin school proper, a whole year earlier than his conception date entitled him to expect.

And I need him to go, so, so badly. I need a kitchen that isn’t a continual heap of clutter, and a bedroom floor that isn’t a swirling morass of toppled laundry heaps interspersed with ankle-crippling lurking toys. I have a young business that I need to spend time growing – which reminds me in turn that I have a sadly neglected garden. My to-do list is, in fact, impossibly long for the 6 hours a week that I am consigning him to daycare for – but no matter.

I need to draw breath.

*often on this site

 **I have incidentally, faced down a bear, albeit a really rather titchy one. I was walking across a Lake Louise car park; I had yummy-smelling food and the bear was obviously keen to partake. But so was I: stony broke and hungry, I convulsively clutched my bag of goodies defensively and glared with all the venom I could muster. The bear, recognising a stiff fight when he saw it, obligingly buggered off. I heart food THAT MUCH.

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11 Responses

  1. You sound well and truly fed up. Hopefully a couple of mornings of me time will help in the way the ‘holiday’ hasn’t.

  2. good to see Jamie is going with you:)

    Re: Harry – disclaimer: I have a degree in linguistics, including courses on language disorders and typical language development, but I’m not a speech therapist or child development expert –
    I did wonder, when you described how Harry takes you by the hand and leads you to what he wants, whether ASD was something you had considered. But, then again, based on what else you describe, he does interact socially.
    It’s not the delayed speech so much as the lack of communication that would be particularly noteworthy, based on what I was taught. e.g.: does he understand you? can he follow instructions? (rather than, of course, is he bothered, as few toddlers are:) ). For whatever anecdotal examples are worth, my godson only started speaking appropriately (i.e.: more than 5 words, some of which in pairs e.g.: “want keys, drive car, go HOME, mam”) a few months after his 2nd birthday, while on holiday in France (go figure). however, for ages before that he clearly interacted, made eye contact, understood verbal instruction e.g.: “go get your dad’s shoes and bring them out here, please, and then get the keys”) etc. so I wasn’t too worried, figuring that as a boy and a younger sibling he was likely to speak later anyway. While his expressive language was below average – but still on the range of typically developing – his comprehension was just fine.

    hope that makes sense. And hope that nursery is helpful for Harry, for Mr. HFF, and especially for you.

    • Harry’s communication skills … Christ. Where to start?! It’s all… odd. Yes, he does understand a good deal (although he is also exceptionally – and deceptively – good at interpreting visual clues), and can follow simple instructions, sometimes 2-stage ones. For instance, if I ask him – without visual clues – to go and give his Lion and Giraffe a drink, he will obediently fetch them and take them to his cup/vice versa and happily pretend to give them a drink. He clearly has a large-ish vocabulary, chiefly nouns, as he has an absolute mania for ‘labelling’. He will stab a finger at an object with a loud, questioning sound (‘Dis!’ ‘Da!’ ‘Ah!’) and gets agitated and quite upset if you do not oblige him by correctly naming the object. This causes problems with the Farmers Weekly, as what John calls a Loadall, I simply call a tractor, and so on… If I reverse the game and name the objects myself, he responds and points them out.

      He knows the signs for many objects and will use them, but only in a ‘labelling’ context. For example he demonstrates our sign for ‘drink’ perfectly well when a picture of a cup is shown, but he never uses it to tell us he is thirsty, even when he obviously is. He uses one single, all-purpose sign to denote ‘food’, ‘drink’, ‘more’, ‘can I have’, etc.

      He is often so absorbed in his play (he does like lining things up and stacking, but not obsessively so) that you can call his name/call out his favourite activity ‘outside!’/call out his favourite TV program (which he usually wheel-spins towards the TV to watch) loudly at close quarters, and he will not respond at all. His hearing (and eyesight) is excellent, although he is strangely sensitive to seemingly insignificant background noise – aircraft high overhead, for instance.

      He headbangs and/or throws himself backwards, both repetitively and playfully, and also in aggression.

      He has never mimiced a sound, or until very recently, a gesture. He will give eye contact freely during everyday activities and play, but does not understand its role in communication, and consequently will not give it at all, particularly when he is intent on obtaining a desired object. He will point out a choice, but expects you to interpret his eye direction, focused pointing and insistent tugging: he does not understand that he can convey his wants to you via looking in your face. We are currently working hard on this aspect, and slowly making a tiny bit of progress.

      His babble, according to his SALT, contains all the sounds he physically needs to speak. His default syllable is ‘Diss’ and he uses it primarily in interrogative and exclamatory fashion, but will also sit trance-like and chant it to himself for a minute or more, particularly in the car.

      Over the last 4 months or so, he has increasingly began to rub, pull, and finger his tongue and lips with his hands, to the point where I am now almost continually asking him to take his (perennially filthy!) fingers out of his mouth, which he always does with good grace. I thank him politely and praise him. He dribbles significantly more now than he did a year – or even 18 months – ago. He may have low muscle tone in his mouth and tongue, especially as he habitually has his lower jaw hanging open when relaxed, but his SALT thinks that, if this is so, the problem does not look acute. We encourage him to blow raspberries and move his mouth muscles. He cannot stick his tongue out very far, and may be very slightly tongue-tied.

      He cannot nod his head, despite months of exaggerated demonstration. He is now starting to shake it occasionally, particularly when he wishes to be very emphatic in his negative.

      We have had an important breakthrough THIS EVENING, and I would have been excitedly posting again tomorrow in any event. Both John and I thought we could discern a proto-word ‘yes’ a couple of times earlier this week. Today, he made no real response to John’s casual conversational offer of ice cream, but when I crouched down, and asked ‘Harry, yes or no… would you like an ice cream?’ there was an immediate bellowing ‘DJESS!’ and an eager look. I went potty with praise, and galloped off for said item at top speed. I know better than to expect that he will do it again tomorrow, but I feel that we are perhaps moving forward after a long hiatus. I have, however, felt this before and been wrong! We shall watch and wait.

  3. Is it wrong of me to be glad you are back and blogging again?

    I wish I had more to say, but you are ahead of me at every turn.

    B

  4. The shingles down the front episode reminded me of a time, with two kids in tow we were hurrying across a park to get to my husband’s work Christmas party. A large purple plastic spanner dropped out of my dress onto the grass. Andrew, 15 months at the time, had been holding it before we left home. It had been down my front for 40 minutes and I hadn’t noticed!
    I was amazed that I had any teeth left by the end of Andrew’s toddlerdom – I be bending over him to pull up trousers and he would manage to bring his head up under my jaw – especially bad if my tongue was between my teeth

  5. I know it must be hard to separate the normal toddler behavior from the speech affected behavior. Harry doesn’t sound terribly different from my extremely verbal daughter at the same age. Headbutting and screaming tantrums when thwarted were the norm. She has improved – now she just cries and whines. Wait, that’s not really much improvement…

    Anyway, with luck and practice, I hope Harry will quickly develop the verbal skills that will allow him to communicate other than through tantrums.

  6. My friend’s son was ‘on the aspergers spectrum’ on and off since he went to pre-school. He is now definitively Not on the spectrum, at age 8. So it can take a long time to sort these things out. Some kids just take a lot longer.

    He didn’t really talk til 4 (some words I think) Never babbled as a baby. Additionally he was only ever around adults so he didn’t do well at pre-school.

    anyway – you would never know he was a late talker now, so it is sooooo hard to predict from a two year old how he will progress.

    Good on you for actually going on holidays – our last was so exhausting we have not even thought about any sort of trip away in a year.

  7. *Hugs*

    And booze.

    The holiday snaps are beautiful.

    I wonder if pre-school will help Harry simply because he’ll see how other kids communicate? You know, on his scale, as it were. He might not get the looking at you thing because his current method more or less works – you’re too good at interpreting him – and because you’re too good at speaking and understanding to model for him. If he sees other little kids make it work by engaging with their eyes/face, he might imitate them. Or am I talking pure unadulterated drivel? I might be.

    Anyway, Diva, my youngest sister, (who does have Aspergers, but also is highly intelligent, charming, capable and talkative) also used to head-butt her way through life as a toddler, and was slow learning to talk, and threw tantrums the godawfulness of which made entire streets blench and run away. I’m not saying this in an ‘and all will be rainbows and sugar’ way. Diva was a hard, hard child to raise, and her confusedness, poor communication and utterly ballistic temper were TRYING. And I know my mother felt much sorrow, rage and guilt over it all. But Diva is so very splendid just as she is, in all her persistantly loopy glory. And in the end, her issues were nothing we her family could do much about. She just WAS. And I think I would disembowell myself with a rusty spoon for her too (it comes of changing someone’s nappies on a regular basis. Once you’ve wiped shit out of someone’s thigh-creases, you’ve sacrificed your heart. Catch me disembowelling myself for Trouble). So, in a tiny weeny way, empathy.

    Anyway. I am hoping very much for some peace and calm for you, and some break-throughs for Harry, and, indeed, rainbows sprinkling sugar over your house. Also, more time to read.

    (The ice-cream DJESS is wonderful! Go Harry!)

  8. DJESS! Djess, Harry! That’s the way.

    Sorry your break wasn’t much of one, despite the highlights. I hope nursery school will go swimmingly today.
    Good luck, little fellow. Have fun while your mother has a nice rest.
    xx

  9. Welcome back HFF! Confined space with toddler, any toddler is totally and completely insane. Well done to you all for not only surviving but managing to actually enjoy yourself on the outside, read on the inside and still be speaking to each other.

    DJESS! Onya Harry

  10. I was just thinking as I read this post that I admire anyone who takes a tiny person away with them on holiday. Yes, we take P to the States for a month, but jesus we have HELP in the form of my Mom. I struggle to take her out for dinner because that is always a trauma. Time away? I dread to think…

    Anyway, welcome back. I hope the time to yourself finally gives you the opportunity to relax, even if just for a little bit.

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