DS1’s battles with everyday life continue. While he is generally in a good place at the moment, his old friend anxiety is always bubbling just under the surface. Often manifesting itself in weird and wonderful ways.

His latest sensory-seeking habit on the way to school, for example, is to prick his fingers on a holly bush.

I mean, what’s that all about?

My cup runneth away

We’ve started a new campaign to re-engage him with my parents. He totally refuses to go to their house anymore and, if they deign to come round to ours, he bolts up to his room, slams the door and barricades himself in – pulling his desk across the door.

I don’t know where this dislike has come from. Yes, Nana tends to ask too many questions, but I’ve stopped her doing that; and, yes, it probably is a bit “boring” at their house – they don’t have the internet, so how can a nine-year-old be expected to survive, let alone entertain himself.

But he always seemed to get on well with them, particularly Grandpa, who has spend countless hours playing football with him.

So, every Saturday morning, they now pop round to ours for a cup of coffee. The idea being he will get used to this being a regular occurrence. The plan is to generally ignore him, but chat about subjects he’s interested in within his earshot.

This is in the vain hope that he will join in with a conversation that is not about him or directed at him, but stuff he knows about (such as football) and he can, therefore, contribute without the worry that an unexpected question that he doesn’t know how to answer pops up.

Though, with my mum you never know what strange utterance will come out of her mouth.

So far, it’s barricade myself in my room – two, stay downstairs and join in with conversation – nil.

Last weekend, I didn’t remind him they were coming. He was in the lounge playing, but as soon as he heard them he bolted to the downstairs toilet. Then, when they went into the kitchen, he scampered back up the stairs into his room unseen. The first we knew was when we heard the desk being pulled across his door.

It’s fair to say, it’s a work in progress.

Putting the boot in

Trying to get him to show respect for his environment is another issue. By this I mean, tidying up. He seems incapable of putting his pajamas or clothes when he is changing in the appropriate place – rather they are tossed to all corners, joining the general litter of stuff that seems to cover the floors.

I’ve found numerous socks in the most unlikely of places.

Another bugbear is football boots indoors. No matter how many times I remind him that running up the stairs carpet in his football boots is not the done thing, all I get is a “Oh, yeah, good point”, before he promptly goes and does it again.

Or, as happened the other day, when I found him on the landing in his boots… “Why are you up here in your boots?” I asked, quite reasonably.

“Because I’m allowed to – they’re my boots.”       

It’s a lot to ask

Another skill I’m trying to help him acquire is having the confidence to communicate with shop assistants. He likes to buy Match Attax each week, but this requires asking the person behind the till for them, because they are kept safely away from light-fingered children.

He won’t ask for them, obviously. He would rather go without.

“What do you think will happen when you ask for them?” I asked. “They are not going to ask you any questions. You just need to say ‘Match Attax, please’, hand over the money, take the packet and go.”

“NO! You do it.”

“We could practice the conversation before you go in.”

“NO!”

“How about you type the question on your phone or write it on a piece of paper and show it to her? You won’t even have to speak.”

“NO!”

“So, what would you do if I wasn’t there? When you are coming home on your own from secondary school and want to buy a packet of Match Attax what will you do?”

“I’ll ask.”

Slightly taken aback, I checked: “You’ll ask?”

“Yes.”

“So why not ask now?”

“La, La, La, la, la, la,” he sung, drowning me out; his fingers firmly inserted in his ears.

Draw your own conclusion

Communicating is clearly still a massive cause of anxiety. One weekend, I suggested he texted his mate Larry, who lives round the corner, to see if he wanted to play football over the park.

“You do it.”

Well, yes, fair enough – I suppose it best I check with Larry’s mum that she’s ok with that first.

“OK, shall I text Angela?”

“Yes.”

I started to text: “[DS1] would like to know if…”

“NO! You can’t put that, say it was your idea.”

“It doesn’t matter whose idea it was,” I reassured him. “It’s you that wants to go over the park and play football with Larry, so it’s fine.”

“No, it’s not fine! You can’t say that. Put it was your idea.”

Why this was so important, I don’t know. I can only surmise that it was a fear of rejection. If she said ‘no’, then it was my idea that was being rejected not his.

Plus, in the pursuit of factual correctness, it was strictly accurate to say it was my idea.

The following day, he started crying and mumbling to himself.

I didn’t respond.

“You never listen to me,” he screamed.

“I didn’t hear you say anything,” I reasoned.

“I didn’t say anything,” he replied.

Now, I was very confused (to be fair that doesn’t take much).

“You must have, otherwise you wouldn’t have said, ‘You never listen’. What was it?”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter.”

“Well, it obviously does. Why don’t you draw what it is you want, if you can’t tell me?”

He grabbed some paper and a pen, scribbled away and handed it to me.

On it were the words “Bad pens”, “Tumble” and “Isco”, along with some illustrations to represent the various statements.

Ah. “You want me to ask if Larry wants to go over the park again?”

“Yes.”

The wording referred to the previous day. Larry had worn a Real Madrid shirt with the name ‘Isco’ on the back. They had had a penalty shootout, where they both missed repeatedly, and DS1 had fallen over and hurt himself at some point.

Sometimes, it’s like being on The Krypton Factor (for those under 50, this was a challenging game show back in the ’80s that required some intelligence to win).

Actually, I’ve just Googled it, and to be strictly accurate: it ran from 7 September 1977 until 20 November 1995 and was usually aired on a Monday at 7pm on ITV.

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