On Tuesday mornings Ted and I go to PEEP. It’s a chance for him to meet other children and experience things we might not think of at home – this week, for example, there was a kind of homemade moon sand – and for me to spend quality time with him without Ben demanding anything.
That’s the theory.
Unfortunately the structure doesn’t really suit him. As soon as you walk in to the playroom you’re hit by so many different toys and activities and colours and textures that he finds it hard to know what to focus on. The fact that he’s then expected to sit quietly for the “hello song” is difficult for him, and that being followed by a turn-taking sharing game is usually too much. We tend to let him cruise around while we do the songs & get him to come & take his turn at choosing a toy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve learnt not to force it as he just can’t cope.
Some of the other parents don’t appreciate the fact that Ted doesn’t sit with us as it can attract their child’s attention and make them want to get up too. I can understand that but similarly I don’t appreciate them loudly stating that it’s naughty not to sit in the circle, rather than that they’d like them to sit down or just that the other children are sitting nicely. They all know Ted now and that they’re using him as an example of what’s naughty is really hurtful.
I find PEEP really hard because Ted finds it hard. There are some activities he loves but when they’re not available he can’t understand why. He points to the cupboard the paints are kept in and doesn’t understand that we can’t paint every week. Other times the leader will go out of her way to get the dinosaurs ready at the place we usually sit and he won’t even touch them.
Sometimes, like today, all he does is cry and point out of the door. I’ve always managed to coax him into coming to play until today. We had the sensory room booked for after PEEP so the leader suggested that we just went there early instead of making him stay when he was so obviously unhappy.
It’s hard when he struggles and I spend a lot of our time at PEEP trying to look like I’m calm and in control when inside I want to cry. I want the other Mums to acknowledge us when he goes into meltdown rather than looking the other way or taking their children to the other side of the room. I just want someone to ask me if I’m alright or to remind me that he’ll be okay soon, because sometimes it’s not easy to remember that. It feels like everyone’s looking and everyone’s judging and no one cares how hard I’m finding it. It is So Bloody Hard.
I go to PEEP to try to help Ted develop but I also go for the same reasons as those other Mums. I want to have fun with him and show him how things work and help him explore. I don’t usually get to do those things and it makes my heart hurt.
Sometimes I get jealous of those other Mums. I’d quite like to be the one whose son plays nicely and laughs as he tries something new. I’d even like someone else to be the one dealing with the meltdowns.
I watch those other Mums chatting to their children and I hear those children chatting back, and I see them moving from one activity to the next and recalling the things they did last week and what they hope they’ll do next week, and I’m so envious.
I love Ted so fiercely and I want him to be okay because I want him to be okay. But I also want to do those things other Mums take for granted, because I want those experiences and memories for me.
And then the guilt starts again.