Nemesis

Soft play can be challenging at the best of times. Even with a neurotypical child, the experience of too-bright lighting, too-lax rule implementation and multiple other-people’s-children scenarios can be taxing. 

But SP loves them! Despite the sensory overstimulation of Top Tots Pop Party Hits (or whatever the name is given to the album of ultimate saccharine pop earworms) set on a perma-loop and at intolerance level 11, it provides him with the chance to unleash his urge to just crash into stuff. Whilst Amy will skulk around the lower levels scared of certain death, SP will pelt up ladders and down slides (and often down ladders and up slides) without a care in the world. And it makes my heart leap into my throat less than when he plays in the parkour area of our local park. At least soft play doesn’t involve concrete blocks and somersaulting teenagers.

  
It’s not the noise or the physical challenges that are the problem for SP – it’s the requirement to be nice to other children who want the same thing as you that’s the hard bit.

I thought I’d been shrewd though. Utilising the lack of afternoon schooling I figured a Thursday afternoon would be an ideal time to visit. All the kids are pre-school age before 3 o’clock, resulting in SP being able to lay sole claim to the Over 4’s area. It’s the bit with the best stuff too (the ball pit, the giant gym balls, the funny mirror, the football zone and the  giant tube slide) – it’s a definite win to have free reign over it all. 

And for a while it was.

But then he played with the bead maze table, making the wooden beads follow their path until each row was just as it should be. He then discovered some soft shapes and defied the rules of gravity by getting them to stand upright.

But then another child decided he wanted to move the beads on the bead maze. This was a red rag to SP who launched himself back over to the table. 

The other boy, who was bigger than SP and seemed to be non-verbal and excitedly flappy (and thus may have also been in an excluded-from-school-for-being-autistic situation) very definitely also wanted to put the beads in just the right spot…except his version of where the beads had to go was different from SP’s idea of their right place.

And welcome to Wotld War III: kindergarten edition!

  
SP tried to grab the other child to maul him away from the table. I made a human shield and the other boy giggled aware, unbothered by SP’s protests. SP launched his aural assault – high-pitched screaming. Tears, snot, flailing. 

  
Some children would be able to happily share the beads and divvy up the maze routes between them. But not SP and the boy-who -was-now-his-nemesis.

I knew that moving SP away from the table would only make things worse. And he was too focused on the table to be distracted by anything else. I could only restrain him until either he calmed down or until the boy left.

Eventually the boy moved off and SP was free to move the beads back!…But just as he did so, the boy was back again! I might be an overweight older mum, but I’m like a ninja when it comes to intersecting an SP strike!

And so it was: more tears, more snot, more flailing!

On the brink of man-handling a screaming, lashing SP from the premises (but contemplating the issues of mixing a meltdown with a main road and a wait for a bus) the other boy’s mum told him it was time to go home. 

Oh blessed relief! 

I released my hold on SP and – snap! – he was back to the table as though he hadn’t just resembled Linda Blair in The Exorcist, happily placing the beads back where he should be. And all was fine…for a few minutes. And then, wouldn’t you know it, like a movie cliche, where the hero thinks the battle is over and turns his back, there the Nemesis was again!!! 

  
I think that may have been the point my eardrums shattered.

When you can rationalise with one or both children that’s fine. When you can rationalise with neither that’s tough. As Nemesis’ mum was nowhere to be seen we buried him in the ball pit. I wish! I just went back to being hit in the face by an apoplectic SP. Who may have had a point, but he’d have buried his nemesis for real, so instead I took the blows.

I need to find a way to soothe the rage, because it’s not ok for it to be SP’s default mechanism when things go wrong. But I’m struggling to figure out how to do this. All advice seems to be to avoid situations that might lead to a meltdown. But any situation is open to unpredictability! We can’t just sit in the house. (And there are situations you can’t avoid – not going to school in your pyjamas, for example.) I need to work something out…and the quicker the better. It scares me that SP will grow up with such rage. It scares me that it will lead to school exclusions. It scares me that I’ll always have to step in as a human shield.

As ever SP came away unaffected by the dramatics. Something he does do well is moving on with bearing a grudge or stewing on an incident. I wish I could be the same. Instead I came away tarnished by the afternoon. 

If anybody has any good tips or experiences I’d love to hear them. I’m frazzled and feel as though I’m failing SP. 

The boy at the bead maze table might have been SP’s, but managing his rage is mine.

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A Request

” I want to go to Thomas Land Japan.”

  
It’s Saturday lunchtime and Thomas Land Japan is 5,844 miles away. SP wants us to drive. I’m not sure we’ll make it by closing time.

  
“Oh come on – it’ll be fun.” (Followed by 8 hours of “oh, but pleeeeeease.“)

One day I might let him know there’s actually a Thomas Land in Staffordshire…but possibly not until we’re in the car with tickets booked.

Until then, is there a way I can block all access to Thomas Land-related YouTube clips? Are the parental controls that adaptable? Or does anyone know how to convince an autistic 4-year-old of the concepts of time/space/mummy not having a money tree in the garden?

In the meantime, I have warned Husband there’s every chance one day he’ll come back from a football trip to find a note on the telly: “Gone to Thomas Land Japan. Back (much) later.”

With or Without You

I’m sat writing this on the platform of Downham Market station. SP and I are stuck here for the next hour. Downham Market station isn’t the sort of place you want to be stuck at for an hour, but neither is a train carriage full of people when SP is in the middle of a tantrum. So, to save the eardrums of our fellow passengers and to teach SP that there are repercussions for behaving like a brat, here we are.

  
And he was being a brat. There’s a difference between meltdown and tantrum, although both are an outcome of his autism and are both are ear-splittingly loud and unpleasant to be around. Today’s outburst was the result of a trip on the train. We’d done and we’re heading for home, but SP decided he wanted to go the other direction to London (just as he’d done with his grandad the time before). Teatime is no time to be heading away from home on an hour-long journey with another hour and 40 minutes back. I put my foot down and said no. He conceded, got on the train…and erupted as it headed in the direction of home.

And thus we are sat on a desolate station, strong breeze whipping off the Fens, waiting for the hourly service to finish the last 14 miles of our journey home. An hourly service that’s just announced a 20- minute delay! We could have been home by now.

Luckily I have cookie dough bites (thanks M&S – your service to autism knows no bounds!) and SP has a bag of snacks to bide the time. It’s sunny. To be fair, I’ve sat here in a lot worse circumstances (thanks to a rail obsession in the midst of winter).

But it’s proof of the difficulties dealing with the summer holidays. I want the holidays to be nice, full of fresh air and experiences. Thus far SP has enjoyed the grounds of a stately home, the thrills of a theme park, splashing in the sea and flying through the air at a trampoline park.

  
And SP has truly enjoyed himself doing those things. Away from his iPad he’s been chatty and smiley and happy. He’s run, walked, jumped and played.

But no day has been without incident. At the theme park he screamed as we had to leave as it was closing. At the seaside he didn’t want to leave the arcades, even though we’d stood and watched the PacMan demo for two hours and spent a tenner repeatedly playing air hockey. Also he wanted to paddle out to the horizon.he didn’t like being told the sea was too deep. At the stately home he’d taken instant umbrage at the hall itself (something disagreed with his sensory processing) and we ended up in a pool of tears and screaming outside as a stern middle-class woman jabbed at SP, shrilly absconding “Discipline him! Discipline him!” 

  
At the trampoline park the tantrum was Amy’s – the safety video had put her off and she refused to join in. SP meanwhile bounced without care. Go figure!

Husband thinks that I’m being a perfectionist. “You have this idea of a perfect day out,” he said of the stately home trip, as though my expectations were written by Enid Blyton. “You should do things that you know he likes.” But how do you know what SP likes if we don’t try different things? We’d be sat on rural train station platforms all of the time! Hardly fair on Amy whose holidays are already dictated by SP to an extent that is greater than it should be. Fixing on what SP knows he likes would reduce our world further and further. Besides, how do you a judge the success of an outing: by the 90% enjoyment of the 10% abject hell of a meltdown? Although in the midst of the meltdown, it’s hard to be glad you stepped across the threshold of home and you vow never to go out again.

Furthermore, Husband is in no position to judge as he doesn’t join us for our trips and his days spent in charge when I’m at work result in iPad-dependent pyjama days…and then he moans that the kids are too fixated to their technology. It’s undoubtedly easier to stay within the confines of home, but it surely isn’t better?

Sometimes though, it’s not. Sometimes it’s wisest to tag team SP, with either myself or Husband staying at home with him and the other going out with Amy alone. It feels wrong, but also for the best. With SP a day at the Science Museum was a day chasing him around the exhibits, unable to pause to enjoy anything. Without him, Amy and I got to enjoy the V&A and more during a day in London. Sometimes for sanity’s sake it has to be done.

But I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep trying to figure out where might work for us. I’ll always ensure we’ve got supplies to sustain everyone when our plans go wrong. I’ll try to develop a thick skin for those meltdowns, because I’m never going to premeditate them all. Not until I can change the clocks or make the tide shallow enough to paddle out to the horizon.

And I’m going to keep trying to focus on the 90% rather than the meltdown 10%, because then I’ll have the energy to keep going and not let our world grown claustrophobically small. 

Even if it means spending an hour and twenty minutes at Downham Market station.

Shopping with Mrs Adelman

SP, by and large, isn’t a fan on shopping. I, by and large, am not a fan of buying stuff online, paying for postage and having to wait in for deliveries. It means that, by and large, if I want to buy stuff I have to cram it into my lunch break (if I get one…and even then I’m so consumed by the need for food I forget what I needed to buy) or I have to sneak out of the house when there’s someone else around to keep an eye on him as he stays glued to his iPad. It’s not ideal.

There is one shop that SP likes: the large out-of-town Sainsbury’s. Not that we get any practical shopping done. Instead we watch the bank of TVs with its endless loop of promo videos that you’d think we didn’t have a telly in the house. We’ve been known to stand there (and by ‘stand’ I really mean repeatedly run up and down the length of the display) for up to an hour. To lure him away I have to tempt him with the search for chocolate buttons. Except that he’s learnt that the chocolate buttons are in aisle 13, so anything for dinner has to be grabbed as we dash by the point of sale ends between the TVs and the confectionary.

Essentially from a monolithic supermarket I’m lucky if I get to leave with pizza. Maybe I should give more thought to Internet shopping.

Sometimes though a shopping trip is unavoidable – the other week I had to buy school uniform and a new car seat for SP as his sensory issues meant that he’d slip his shoulder restraints each and every time rather than being confined. To soften the deal I said I’d take him to the farm (to bounce on their trampolines as much as look at the animals).

It didn’t work out like that.

In the uniform shop SP was very good, pointing stuff out and saying “thank you” to everything. I breathed a sigh of relief. He declared he wanted to go to KFC. I agreed – it was lunchtime (I was hoping for sandwiches and cake in the farm cafĂ©, but eating dead chicken before we saw live chickens was do-able). SP enthusiastically waved goodbye to everyone in the shop – staff and customers alike – and we headed on our way.

It was when we went to buy the car seat that things got tricky. SP immediately launched himself up the main aisle, chanting “24-hour shopping, 24-hour shopping” on repeat. Trying to make an informed purchasing decision whilst simultaneously ensuring he didn’t then make a beeline for the automatic doors, wasn’t easy. I feared we’d actually end up shopping for 24 hours! As soon as it became clear that the car seat I wanted wasn’t in stock (essentially because a shop actually holding anything more than a bunch of display products is so passĂ©, apparently) I ordered it online… from my phone…whilst in the middle of the shop. (Don’t c’ha  just love the 21st century? Well, actually, when it’s like that – no.) I regretted not doing the whole thing from the comfort of my own house…but not as much as I was about to!

Technically we were now free to go to the farm at least. Except, no.

  
Do you remember the episode of Friends when Phoebe became possessed with the spirit of elderly client, Mrs Adelman and she wouldn’t leave until she’d “seen everything”? Well, it seemed that SP had been similarly possessed! From being shop-intolerant, he decided I was absolutely vital that we looked extensively at every shop along the strip. Some of them twice, and in the case of Argos, three times!!! (It’s Argos’s fault for having a demo video for Lego Dimensions playing, with a console with big shiny red interactive buttons. May SP never ever have any responsibilty for national security – we’d all be a gonner by the end of his induction tour!)

We walked a total of more than 12,000 steps – nearly 6 miles – backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.

We looked at games consoles, toiletries, sandwich fillings and muffins, three-piece sofa suites, mobile phones and fridges, plants, garden furniture, water features and sheds. 

  
It was only when he’d also got halfway around Tesco that he’d declared he’d “done.” Typically his legs then immediately stopped working and I had to carry him back to the car.

The afternoon had gone and we’d missed the chance to go to the farm. Not that SP cared – as far as he was concerned he’d had a brilliant day. So much so he wanted to repeat the experience the following week! Although SP is now a shopaholic, it’s only on his terms and so I’ve had to resort to sneaking out of the house if I want to actually get stuff done! With the summer break now underway, unless I want to spend my days off trawling after SP until Security throws us out for suspicious activity, I really must sort out an online account. Mrs Adelman can go and haunt somebody else. I’m done!

The Trouble With Transitions

SP has only 8 more sessions at nursery before he leaves. He’s seemingly unaware that this is the case. Meanwhile I’m the one whose really not coping. Every time I remember this means we’re losing our precious Mrs H my heart breaks. It takes a lot to be considered part of SP’s gang and she’s right at the middle of it. She lifts him up and calms him down. Through trial and error she’s worked out how to persuade him to join in, even if the tactic only works for that session. She accepts him, edges and all, and sees no need to shave his corners. And in 8 sessions’ time she won’t be part of his gang any more.

Instead we’ll be taking a step of uncertainty. His new school aren’t sure they’ll be able to meet his needs long term; the council aren’t sure if they want to help (or at least our application for an ECH plan is sitting in a pile on somebody’s desk); I’m not sure I’ve made the right choice. Anxiety at the next step up is normal. But whereas with my other children the hope that it’ll all work out in the end seemed to be good enough, with SP the fear is that making the wrong choice will impact negatively for a long, long time. It’s a horrible responsibilty, especially as there’s no one to say ‘this is the right way’ and even if they suggest a different way to normal, the places and the resources aren’t there.

SP himself sways between utter excitement at going to big school and utter determination that he’s not going. (Although he lives in the moment with no awareness of time, so as long as he’s excited when he’s at the school we don’t have to particularly worry about his lack of acceptance when he’s not there.) 

  
Both SP and his new teachers survived his first taster session at least.

So, despite SP having recognised issues with transitions, it would appear that he’s not the only one!

Maybe I need his coping strategies. 

In which case, can I please have a visual timetable for how the whole move to school is going to work out? One with velcroed pictures I can pull off the board when we’ve crossed a milestone. ‘Say goodbye to Mrs H and nursery’: tick. ‘Have 6 weeks of school denial during the summer holidays’: tick. ‘Agree to wear the school uniform, including the dreaded clip-on tie’: tick. ‘Day 1, make it from 8.30am to 3.05pm without the teacher reaching for a stash of gin’: tick. And so on and so forth until we reach ‘Pass A levels’: tick.

Can I have someone squish me with a giant cushion when I feels like it’s too much? Can they rock me and stroke my hair and reassure me that it will all be fine?

Can I wear noise-cancelling headphones and retreat to a room with mesmerising lights when it all gets too much? Or just curl in a ball with my hands over my ears when I don’t like the situation? Can I scream when things don’t go as I’d like, just to release the tension and make my feelings known?

SP has trouble with transitions because he lacks the theory of mind to see the possibilities. He’s resistant to change because he can’t predict that change as a possibility. He can’t imagine what it will lead to or what demands will be made of him, so he sticks to what he knows.

I have trouble with transitions because I can see all of the possibilities. I can see that everything might be fine, but I can also see that it very well might not be (and can construe the probability that at least in part it won’t be all ok from evidence from others before me). I’m resistant to change because it’s more comforting to stick with what we know. I dislike the lack of certainty that SP’s demands will be met.

  
For now I’ll stick to another of SP’s tactics, that of ‘First’ and ‘Then’. First I’ll brace myself to let go of Mrs H. It won’t be pretty or dignified. But I’ll have to rip the bond like a sticking plaster. I’ll try to bide the advice of Dr Seuss: ‘Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.’ Easier said than done. Long-term I will, but by the end of term, it’s unlikely. Then I’ll prepare him (and me!) for school. Which will more than likely involve the production of velcroed pictures to help ease the transitions. I’m still not sure how we’re going to get him to wear that clip-on tie though.

Whilst You Were Sleeping

SP has a big day today: his first taster session at primary school. Even if he is currently adamant that he’s not going. Damn and blast not getting a laptop/printer/laminator/Velcro organised in time to create a visual timetable to reinforce in his mind the looming prospect of potentially-two-hours-of-your-life-kicking-and-screaming-at-a-new-environment. (Hey ho! That two hours I’ll be spending in the gym to stop myself from fretting.)

I’m not sure how early on other kids pass judgement over their new classmates…or, more likely, parents reconcile who their child can/can’t be friends with, but I decided that it’s possibly a good idea to try and resemble ‘normal’ as much as possible. This may, of course, be immediately undone with a swift bout of ear-piercing screaming, which will mark his card as the child-least-likely-to-get-a-party-invite, but, you know we can try. Plus, there’s every chance SP will love it.

Best then to attempt to send him in looking a little less feral than his naturally-inclined state.

Besides which, he also has hair that could only be referred to as Boris Johnson-esque. And if there’s one person you don’t want to be resembling right now it’s a National Liar with a dodgy barnet!

  
It was time to tackle the hair!

A friend (of whom I am deeply jealous) made the most of an early weekend wake-up (a Whaaaatt?!?!) to get her sons’ hair tonsorially sorted. Both of her boys looked angelically cute. The last time I took SP to the barber it ended in a scene so epically loud and messy it resembled The Exorcist had it been set during the makeover round of America’s Next Top Model. It’s amazing nobody lost a body part!

 This, except more snot, flailing and melted chocolate buttons!

Needless to say, from then on preventing SP from resembling Cousin Itt has been an at-home DIY job. Moreover, when the drive-by snippings of Scissor Ninja failed (immerse in iPad, sneak up for a random snipping sand retreat before the tendril hits the floor) I took to nocturnal trimmings.

That’s right – I cut it whilst he’s asleep.

Which is fair to say is not ideal. Before now, Husband has accused me of giving SP a cut not too dissimilar from Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon. On another occasion he looked more like the Armish Ishmail in Kingpin. Shortly before our Disneyland trip I gave him a do that looked like I’d attacked his locks with hedge trimmers!

  

It says something though when battling a sweaty head, the inability to see both sides of the head at the same time and gravity (it’s always hard to judge the (relative) success of a trim until the morning when hair falls as its want to do, rather than at a 90 degree angle) is preferable to tackling the issue head on, so to speak. And that’s without consideration of the fact that I’m doing it whilst in the dark, juggling the torch on my phone along with the scissors so that I can see just enough without waking him up.
This morning I was able to judge my handiwork. Let’s just say I’ve had to reconcile myself to the fact I’m never going to have a son with the sort of Little Boy hair you see on Pinterest. Symmetry is so overrated. Well, at least it is when the alternative is the trauma of a barber’s chair.

  

I know that I really should face up to the issue of a proper hairdresser visit. The National Autistic Society has some great advice on getting a haircut done without too much trauma. But also, I feel, I only have the energy for so many battles.

 If anyone can point me in the direction of a barber willing to do this though, that’d be great. Can’t there a be a register of ASD-friendly hairdressers, not to mention doctors, dentists, shoe-shop assistants? 
So, for now, with or without the screaming it’s unlikely we’re going to fully pull off ‘normal family’. Ah, if they can’t like us as we are we wouldn’t want a party invite anyway.

Decanting

‘Red crisps’: one of SP’s major food groups, a limited diet being typical for a child with autism.

Also typical for a child with autism, those red crisps for SP specifically have to be Walkers Ready Salted variety, specifically in THIS style of packet:

  
Unfortunately at the minute, Walkers are running a competition, so their packets look like this:

  
Please tell me I’m not the first parent to decant crisps from the rejected amended packet to an old packet that I luckily hadn’t got round to putting in the bin (although I suspect if need be I would have plucked an empty packet from the waste paper basket).

Mercifully this time round the re-design is temporary, but I’ll be guarding the old packet with my life until normal packaging resumes. So if you see a woman losing her shit over a binned crisp packet in the next couple of months, do say hi.

Shutdown

I’ve learnt something this week: Man Flu is NOT the most melodramatic response to a common cold virus!!! Nope. Far worse is ASD Flu!!! 

Kids being ill is never fun. But an ASD kid with a cold? It takes it to another level!

1) Outgoing: Bodily Fluids

With luck with your normal child you get a bit of a heads up that they’re going to vomit. Not with SP! The first we knew was as the vomit flew from his mouth as he laid on my chest!!! I did well not to throw him across the room as a knee-jerk response. Husband meanwhile just stared. “HELP MEEEEE!” I cried. More vomit – I was covered. SP was covered in splashback as I tried to catch it in a tissue, whilst he tried to swallow it back. Grim doesn’t come close!

Oh, and on matters of all bodily fluids, normal kids won’t want to sit in whatever liquid they’ve expelled from their body. SP on the other hand, has howled every time I’ve removed him from a damp patch that’s leaked from his nappy and wiped bogies or bottoms. Seriously, little buddy, it’s better to have a house that smells of Dettol than one that smells of sewage!

2) Incoming: Food & Meds

Normal child poorly? Adjust their diet accordingly and administer meds as required. 

ASD child poorly? Calpol is squirted into mouths, but then dribbled out as swallowing is just not happening. Or sometimes the middle man is cut out and the Calpol doesn’t reach their mouth. Just squirt into clothes/furnishings instead. 

Meanwhile, no food passes their lips for days! The limited diet that SP normally demands (chocolate buttons, chip shop chips, cucumber and crisps) is rejected. And it’s replaced with…nothing. SP is already on the skinny side. He’s skin and bones by the end of this week and I’m at my wit’s end.

A Google search for help as to how to deal with this and…nothing!!! Realisation dawns: Google doesn’t know how to get food into an adamant ASD child! Since when does Google not know something?!!! I read various blogs and keep reassuring myself that he’s drunk enough red juice to sink a ship so we’re a little bit away from wasting away completely.

3) The Worry Factor

Looking at him though, you’d think he was at death’s door. All he’s wanted to do is lie down. He NEVER wants to lie down, even several hours after a reasonable bedtime. Normally the only place he’ll nap is in the car, but this week he’s dozed wherever he’s landed. 

Moreover, he’s not only rejected food, but all the things that he normally obessess over. I’ve had a week’s reprieve from the Tinkerbell/Curious George/Frozen trilogy that is required viewing every evening. Even his iPad has been on the same battery life since Thursday!!!

So laying down and staring into space it is. With a normal child, these dark times come at night (usually just after the GP surgery shuts, peaking around 3 a.m.). With an ASD child it’s all day – and all night – for days. Nothing adds to parental concern like total shutdown. Just two big, dark eyes wrenching your soul. 

This does at least mean there’s the opportunity to talk to the GP. But unless they can come up with a cure that doesn’t require doing anything to a resistant child then it’s not going to do any good. And chances are the advice is going to be ‘administer Calpol and keep up fluids.’ Back to no.2 then, with a hellish trip to the surgery thrown in for good measure. 

But at least all this languishing is non-demanding, right? Err, no. It’s been accompanied by constant requests for big cuddles. So I’ve been sofa/bed bound too. The washing pile has transformed into a moutain and SP is out of clean trousers to wear. Unsurprisingly, I seem to now be coming down with his virus too. That washing mountain is only going to get bigger, although the big eyes effect isn’t working for me in terms of sympathy.

4) The Sound of Silence

Thanks to the joy of sensory overload and lack of appreciation for general chit-chat, we’re used to a reduced level of talking in the house. But usually this is confined to anything directed at SP. What happens around him doesn’t bother him so much. But when he’s poorly it’s ramped up to the nth level. Whilst attached to the sofa, pinioned by SP’s little body, I’ve been able to make NO NOISE WHATSOEVER! Conversation with other family members is a no go. Even whispered instructions are out. Receiving a phone call – you’re kidding, right? 

Funnily enough though, the wailing at any spoken sound is far more of an assault to the ears, but doesn’t seem to bother him at all. Go figure!

5) Dragging it out

Normal child: maybe a couple of days feeling unwell, a night of a scary high temperature that’s gone by the time you can ring the GP and they’re back to normal, bouncing on the bed rather than resting in it. Or, sometimes, they wake up feeling wretched, you give them the day off school/nursery, dose them with Calpol and PRESTO! Half an hour later they’re fine and you wonder why you went to all the fuss of rearranging things at work.

ASD child: let’s eke this bad boy out. The period of feebleness is easily doubled, thus also doubling the level of concern and inability to achieve anything outside of patient care. It’s a good job he’s cute, because normally my patience would be wearing thin a week on.

Mercifully, we seem to be getting to the tail end of our traumas this time round. He’s back on his iPad and has a) eaten some crisps and b) smiled his first smile since last Sunday. Hopefully within a day or two he’ll be completely back to his usual self and I’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. All routines will be back in their place and I’ll have the Pirate Fairy song stuck in my head again. But, it turns out, SP isn’t the only one who likes predictability as at least I’ll know when I can crack on with that washing pile.