For our last week of holidays, darling man has taken some time off work.  Not as much as he’d like but the compromise is rather lovely – early mornings into work then back hom by half past ten for family time.  Yesterday was our first such day and he really enjoyed taking big boy and princess out for a bike ride to the common.  Little man Tom was at Cherry Trees enjoying making rice crispy cakes and chilling out with a few films.  I had a little taste of holiday as I went into town to buy a cake tin – angel cake was baked as was a rather delicious meatloaf.

Today, swimming was the plan.  Since starting his weekly hydrotherapy sessions, Tom is much more confident in the water and far less likely to vomit, so I am fairly happy to venture into public pools.  But he does get cold very quickly and extremely tired.  Weighing up the pros and cons we decided to arm ourselves with his wetsuit, throw caution to the wind and deal with the probable ear infection that will follow in order to enjoy one of Tom’s (and the other kids’) biggest pleasures.

Off we went to the local leisure centre.  I have to say, I’m impressed with their renovations – very large, well heated family dressing rooms and lockers big enough to fit a family’s paraphernalia.  The pool is a plain and simple one which works very well for me on two levels: entry cost is affordable and it is much more peaceful than the fancier all singing all dancing leisure pools.

We had a truly wonderful time.  Zack and Kesia showed off their swimming with Daddy, and we were able to stay long enough for Kesia to settle down and brave the deep end (if only she could believe how well she swims!).  Tom had a fabulous time splashing in his ring and swimming in the little pool… all good.

In his wetsuit he managed very nearly an hour and I’m proud to say that once he had had enough the other two came away with very little fuss -how difficult it is to have a younger brother with special needs.  It always seems that life is lived on his terms.  I hasten to say “seems” because in fact, the various special needs of all the children do mean that the playing field is in fact very level!!

We had planned an outing to Costa Coffee and duly drove into town.  The children were very excited at the thought of drinking their baby chinos (these are a new and still delightful treat, and one I am thrilled to offer them – a simple yet true pleasure!!).

To be fair, it was a decision taken with a little trepidation.  Our sweet girl was tired and very over-reactive.  Little man was also clearly exhausted and he hasn’t looked well for a number of days now, so the chances of a longer outing going well were diminished.  But with everyone keen to give it a go, off we went.  Fortunately we managed to keep things going until the last drop of chino was drunk, and the last crumb of cake gobbled by my big boy who despite the deep voice and hairy bits does still look like a little boy with chocolate all over his mouth!

As ready as we often are when an emotion explosion occurs in our family, it’s still pretty impossible to foresee the trigger, thereby avoiding it.  In this case, a little girl walking past us trod on Tom’s toe.  She should have been looking, she should have been more aware of her surroundings, she should have even said sorry.  But as we all know, life doesn’t often happen the way it should.  My son should have said “ouch”, maybe had a little tear, called for me etc… Certainly he should not have whirled around to her and shouted “oy” in such an angry manner.  I have to say I’m pleased that the little girl didn’t even notice him.  I certainly did.

Knowing how tired he was, I trod lightly, if firmly.  Unsurprisingly he did not respond.  Surprisingly, he ran away.

Now, I am reaching about four or five years of having a child in my life who runs.  It is a horrible experience, and one which robs you of all control.  A child who runs like this has little if any awareness of danger in that moment, and will likely run across roads without looking, may hide from you and who knows how they may react in the face of a stranger approaching them.  In my experience, if you attempt to come towards them they will run faster, further and more out of control.  It’s important to realise in this situation that the adult has no control over the situation which is frightening as a parent, but worse still, the child has no control over their reactions.  Not a good thing for anyone.

Given my knowledge of my children, in most cases I know that the only thing I can do is nothing.  I will probably appear calm, maybe even indifferent to the casual onlooker.  I will continue “chatting” with the remaining children, walking at a normal pace, and I will seem not to be looking in the direction of the runaway.  Please do not judge.  Under the semblance of indifference and lack of care, I am wound as tight as a spring.  I am looking for the tiniest opening to reach Runaway, judging how best to approach him or her.  Will I be able to talk them down, will a gesture be enough to bring them back, will I need to use some physical restraint?  Each situation is slightly different to the last but they all share a precarious unpredictability and a sense of imminent danger.

Today was the first time that Tom has runaway – clearly this is a behaviour he has seen and lived with thanks to his siblings and today was the time when seeing turned to doing.  So it was essential in my eyes that I make it clearly and totally unacceptable behaviour – Tom is by far the most physically vulnerable of the three, and looks about five years younger than he is – not a good mix if he is seemingly alone.  When I told him I would have to hold his hand on the way to the car, he did not take it well.  He was still very angry and upset and combined with extreme tiredness, he was simply unable to make sensible choices.  So there we were, Tom trying to fight me and run away once more while I held his wrist to stop him doing either… And I was struck by how tiny and skinny my little chap is.  I was so careful to hold him in a way that could not hurt him, and yet he was fighting so hard and with such leverage that I found myself worrying about his arm.  Luckily, I was able to keep a hold onto him while dancing around to stop him hurting himself.  But I am left with a feeling that he has lost yet more weight, and that checking his bone density might be a sensible thing to do.  If he begins to display the kind of behaviour he has seen from his siblings, I’m going to need some guidance on how best to keep him safe.

One question remains… how to make sure a message is understood?  Running away is dangerous.  I am guilty at times of talking too much, I realise this.  So.  Simple words.  Few words.  And then just deal with what comes next.

Mostly, despite having had a lovely afternoon I have learnt that it was too much for little man Tom.  Pacing is the name of the game, and a bonus is that in the future, a trip to the swimming pool and a trip to the coffee shop will fill two days, not just one 🙂 .