Another School Sports Day?! Noooooooo!!!

Here is Caleb’s little sister ❀️ Today, she took part in three events at the children’s Primary School Sports Day.

In the first and second individual races, she was first across the finish-line, and then in the team relay event her group came second! She was absolutely on Top of the World, and basqued in all the deserved praise.

Her 9 year old brother also picked up 2nd place for the Long Distance Race, and came 3rd in the Sprint. He enthusiastically carried on his own Sports Day in the garden, with his sister, as soon as they returned home πŸ˜€

To be honest, the pair of them had been buzzing since bedtime, last night. Excited. Nervous. Going to dream about it! Today, searching for us in the crowd. Big waves!

But that is just NOT the case for Caleb, our oldest, 11 year old, Awesomely Aspergers boy. Things couldn’t be further from this happy picture!

It has always mystified me how much discomfort Sports Day brings Caleb, on EVERY level. 

Is it the change from the usual school day routine? Motor control challenges? Team events? Physical exertion? Public praise? The disappointment? Crowds of spectators?…

I’ve never really researched it as an Aspergers issue, but I can tell you that Caleb and Sports Day, for whatever reason, have a troubled history!

Last year seemed a lot better because Caleb had a gentle-natured male teacher who he massively looked up to, and the competitive events were reduced to a short period, with fun activities and group games taking up the majority of the day. Caleb even happily acknowledged we were there watching (!), which was amazing because usually my presence only seems to exacerbate his misery. Playing football that day, he regularly called over to us, and seemed very proud!

But having recently moved to a new school, Caleb struggled today, albeit he bounced back quickly when home. He talked about the positives much more than in his younger years. He was keen to point out what he’d succeeded at. Happy classmates didn’t criticise that he was allowed to sit out of the sprint race. No one insulted him.

But not a pleasurable day!

So I tried to put myself in his Aspergers shoes…. And this is the ‘experience’ I imagined…

Dazzling sun or drizzle assault on skin; What will these next hours hold? 

Shoe laces have (AGAIN) come undone. Fingers shake as I bend down.

DON’T look for those familiar faces in the crowd. A frenzy of excited children, surround. A rush of activity, where to now? 

Sit there! Get in line! Get ready! Look smartAn in-charge voice rings out LOUD across the field. 

A high pitched whistle blows. Cheers and chanting explode. From somewhere my own name is called. “Faster! Faster! Come on! You can do it!”…Every stranger’s eye on that finish line, high expectations abound. 

The scent of cut grass mixes with sweaty bodies.  This body, no longer my own… Heavy limbs, prickly skin, aching chest. Breathing shallow.

Can’t swallow. 

Senses in overdrive, yet feeling my energy leave. So weary.

Team points, others look to me… So much for just blending into the background. 

Everyone else happy, celebrating community?

Pressure. Scrutiny. Competition. 

Broken routine. Adapted rules.

1st? 2nd? 3rd? Not today. Yet to know HOW THAT feels.

But all the fun’s in the taking part, I’m told.

……………………………..

Glad I didn’t keep Caleb off school, despite secretly wishing for rain! Proud this is another tough area he is facing and navigating his way through.

Maybe I need to look into it more, to help him keep moving onwards and upwards. I can see, from a quick google search, we’re far from alone in this challenge.

If you can relate in ANY way, or have your own insight, I really would love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences 😊

Another Sports Day over!!βœ…

And Caleb already has a smile back on his face, on the same day! 

This is most definitely progress ❀️

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When Laughter Matters

Facebook Memory; February 2014The year Caleb gained a Step-Dad ⭐️

Mum: Caleb, can I ask you something? Do you think you’d feel brave enough to get up in front of everyone, at the wedding, and read something out from the Bible, down a microphone? 

Caleb: [deep, hesitant breath] Ye-eess. Sure Mum, I can do that for you.  [Pause] YES! [more certain this time, beams a big smile]… Actually, I’d REALLY like to!

Mum: That’s brilliant Caleb, thanks!

Caleb: [Walking away, he continues to himself…] I think I’ll start by telling everyone a joke first, of course…

πŸ˜† Haha!

An ‘awkward sense of humour’ is a commonly identified trait of Aspergers with inappropriate timing and misplaced content, if given the chance! BUT! I just don’t think social cues are the be all and end all here. 

There is SO VERY much about Caleb’s communal, energised, wholesome, fun-seeking outlook that, to me, is just heart-squeezingly special. Hilarious too. Enviable. Maybe even more advanced than the status quo?

Take me. When did I last properly laugh out loud, with abandon? Today? The beginning of this week? The weekend before? I’m actually not sure, off the top of my head. Not that I’m a misery! I’d like to think I’m rather cheerful! πŸ˜‚

Can you recall when that last, involuntary, bubbling up feeling overtook your body?

For Caleb, interacting playfully ALWAYS comes hand in hand with the sort of laughter that has him gasping for breath!

Things don’t get in the way. He doesn’t care about looks, how popular you are, nor about age, gender, ethnicity, background, sexuality, disabilty … Or any other label you can think of.

Face-to-face with you, Caleb will just accept you, wanting NOTHING MORE than to laugh with you. LOTS.

 LOUDLY!

Tactile and affectionate, he was saying to me only this week, about high school I’ll be friends with anyone Mum. I’m not going to write anyone off, so long as they are nice back to me, and nice to my friends’ 

I read somewhere recently (unverified!), that babies laugh up to 300 times a day, and yet the happiest adult compares with a vastly lower 20 times a day, and even still – the typical 40-year-old laughs, on average, just three to four times daily.

I’d LOVE to have the capacity, like Caleb,  for laughter to override the challenges… wider worries dissolving: The house is a bomb site  – The bathroom STILL needs cleaning – I just watched something traumatic on the news, AGAIN. What is WRONG with the world?? – I’m in a rush – People are watching, this is embarrassing, what will they think? – Just had an argument, feeling sad -Got caught in the rain – hair is frizzy – Feeling fat … It’s-been-a-lonnnnnnnng-week...
But for Caleb, laughter is a regular,  in-built release, overriding all the negatives and anxieties. What an awesome gift!

Granted, he does rely heavily on his agenda and interests driving play. Caleb’s not remotely convincing in pretending to have fun, if the activity isn’t all that attractive!

And yes. You could argue he lacks some of the subtleties and timing, which more readily connect his peers…

But what I wouldn’t give sometimes, to strip away the sarcasm, synicism, caution and weariness – and just enjoy daily, good ol’ Laurel and Hardy Slap-stick, TRUSTING, fun!

I think one school teacher captures Caleb’s nature beautifully, in a single end of year report paragraph:

Caleb’s enthusiasm for life and the way he throws himself into each day with a smile on his face, and a spring in his step, is purely infectious, leading him to being well liked by adults and peers alike. He’s SUCH a keen, fun-natured learner, full of confidence, always excitable and enthusiastic…and I know he will continue to shine!

Summer 2010: Caleb leaps onto the school stage,taking his turn to shake the teachers hand, and receive his year-end Learning Journal ❀️

Today, compared to your average 11 year old boy – Caleb laughs a LOT. Regardless of any awkwardness! And that makes me VERY happy.

Research identifies laughter at the heart of health and well-being: It basically ‘switches on’ our immune systems; reducing levels of stress hormones, increasing health-enhancing hormones, neurotransmitters, and infection-fighting antibodies; and improving blood flow to the heartβ€”all resulting in greater relaxation and resistance to illness, improved mood, sleep, short term memory, creativity, relationships, and overall positive outlook!

I’M IN! 

How about you?!

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Living Happy. One Family’s Way…

MY LIFE, transformed by four other little lives, brought into the world, now ages 11, 9, 7 and (almost) 1!

As a parent, what should I want most for my children, if not HAPPINESS?

And yet my Awesomely Aspergers boy, in particular, can have the BEST DAY [with a lot of effort, from others, to this end], and STILL his thoughts refill with broader, perceived challenges in his life 😬 

So how do we equip ourselves, as a family, to be truly happy and fulfilled?

Certainly, it is not to say that life needs to be without challenge, effort, or even failure. I’m definitely NOT saying that. Finding purpose and stepping towards our dreams, through the challenges, surely makes good outcomes most special; ownership, a building block to self esteem. Action becomes committed and motivated. AND ‘the learns’ keep the door open to change and new possibilities!

IN A NUTSHELL, our family outlook has somehow developed three pursuits: 

  1. COURAGE, in the face of the tough stuff
  2. to keep OPTIMISTIC about the future
  3. to be GRATEFUL in the day to day 

Not that I find any of that easy myself, ha! I naturally focus on the bad moments, dwell on them, over analyse them. I usually search for a way I could have done things better. Feel guilt. Pointless stuff.

It’s not about pretending it’s all a breeze though, is it? Learning to mask reality with surface glossiness? Sometimes, life, work, health and relationships ARE tough. I’m blessed with a husband who is masterfully calming when my hysterical waterworks switch on! And he’s very good at caring deeply, and showing it.

Yet there’s a few practical things we have introduced, daily, to help MODEL AND BUILD these traits within family life, especially for Caleb, whose inner voice remains very challenge-focused.

For example, as the children go to sleep every night, we talk to each, in turn, about what they are going to dream about. There is a rule; it has to be forward thinking and positive. Whether that be a birthday party next week, or a future dream career, we encourage the children to end the bedtime conversation by naming a positive thing they are looking ahead to.

On the fridge we often use a visual countdown for bigger, exciting events, which everyone gets involved in updating. We sometimes add pictures, linked to the EXCITING THING, a talking point that keeps the positive anticipation at the forefront. 

Equally, we enjoy looking back on photos of past adventures too.


En route in the car, day-to-day, we regularly list and reflect back upon the highlights of our weekend, week, month, year… We name the good times and get to know each other’s preferences while we’re at it. WE LAUGH TOGETHER! It reminds us that even if this week is tough, there have been plenty of happy times recently, and there will be more to come. 

Similarly, at the end of the school day, we each share two positives, no matter how small, before we launch into any difficulties about our day.

For my son Caleb, I liken troubleshooting any perceived challenge, to feeling travel sick and being unable to get off a merry-go-round! No progress, no agreed solutions, and stubborn pessimism! But if there is a shift of focus, from extinguishing the negative, to looking instead to his character strengths, perceived skills and reflecting upon attractive end goals; this positivity counteracts the pessimistic thoughts, and helps us to move forwards!

When it comes to courage, we tell each other it’s NOT about being fearless. Nor is it about avoidance! Perhaps instead, the first step to courage is self awareness? Knowing what makes us each anxious or uncomfortable, and naming it! And then asking ourselves if it’s important? Is our fear restricting our happiness? If so, let’s find strategies and incentives to face into it, and cheerlead one another, instead of labelling each other negatively, or humiliating one another. Supporting one another is key. In our house we try to promote lovingness, above being right! A work in progress !!

You see, it may be our journey to seek out courage, optimism and thankfulness. BUT, what I want MOST OF ALL, even above these traits, is for the children to GROW TO BE KIND; In my mind, this is the heart of happiness. What’s life without kindness? Without relationship? If the pursuit of happiness is me-first motivated, with jealousy and bitter gossip snapping at its heel, and the pain of unresolved past hurts lurking under the surface, then fun-times or success surely cannot sooth, for long, a deeper brokenness.

Not that I’m in the unbroken camp! Far from it…But I CHOOSE gratitude, and loving deeply goes a long way to helping me feel very fulfilled. It also acts as a balm to the sometimes sharp slap of bad bits, hurtful things, outside of my control.

Yes, I’ll own up now, the Cinderella story ‘The Slipper and The Rose’ was my all time favourite movie as a child; and when the latest ‘Cinderella’ film came out, whilst others found the phrase “Have Courage, and be kind” utterly nauseating, I was (internally) shouting a massive, emotional, ‘AMEN!’ in the aisle…!

Which takes me to my final thought.

I talk to God. I believe in a relational God. I find just TALKING, out loud, to a greater power, liberating.

In all my efforts to be the best Mum I can be, I am reminded…

I’m human.