“I can’t wear those anymore,” said DS1, in response to me asking him to put his trainers on.

“Oh. Are they too small?”

“No.”

“Are they uncomfortable?”

“No.”

“Why can’t you wear them, then?”

“Because they were covered in quicksand.”

“But they are all clean and dry now.”

“Yes.”

“So why can’t you wear them?”

“You know why.”

Perhaps, I should explain about the ‘quicksand’. We are extending our patio area and the bottom of a now exposed trench of earth had turned to mud during the recent rains.

Responding to a cry for help, I ventured into the garden to find DS1 lying half-in–half-out of the trench.

“I’m stuck,” he wailed.

Indeed, he was. His once shiny yellow trainers were submerged in thick brown liquid and he was unable to get himself upright.

With a surprising struggle I managed to haul him out of the gloop.

“How did you manage to end up in there?” I asked.

“I sort of fell in,” he said.

Yes, well I could see that. But how? You couldn’t fall in by accident – the trench is right at the edge of the garden and not anywhere near where he would have been playing football.

Tick that one off as another of life’s little mysteries.

Anyway, I extracted the mud-caked trainers from his feet and got him in the shower without too much objection. Even he had to admit he was filthy.

Anyway, here we now were – a perfectly good pair of relatively new trainers, in his favourite colour, now perfectly clean and dry, and ready to wear.

Only he could no longer wear them because, as far as I could glean, they had once been covered in gloopy mud.

I tried to guilt him into them. “Well, I’m not buying you a new pair when you have a perfectly good pair already.”

“Oh great. Then I’m not going to have any trainers,” he stated.

Through the barricades

We are starting to see some signs that he is turning a corner – this seems to be since we had a word with the school and he has now started daily OT sessions… or is it just coincidence?

He is becoming more flexible about things (apart from trainers) and didn’t even bat an eyelid when I went to football the other night.

“Oh yeah, it’s the semi-final isn’t it?” he replied when I said goodbye. It may have helped that his friend Henry was there and they were playing FIFA at the time, but I’ll take it as a good sign.

When he’s needed to be on his own, instead of rudely banishing us from whatever room he is in, he has started taking himself off to his room.

This does normally involve a door slam, just so that we know where he is, a quick thump of his drums, the sliding of the lock on the bathroom door that adjoins his room and then the sound of his desk sliding across his other door, so there is no way we can get to him.

We have pointed out that barricading himself in his room presents a health and safety issue because we can’t then get in if he requires help – nor can we use the toilet.

Thankfully, he agreed (through the closed door) that this was a problem and resolved to just close his door if he didn’t want to be disturbed.

“So can you slide the desk back now then,” the wife said.

“Starting tomorrow,” he called back.

Inside out

For every step forward, there is always a backward turn lurking. While we got him out of the house to go to the town’s May Fayre – something we haven’t managed for a few years – and we got him to go to a tapas restaurant for the second time in as many weeks, where he ate well and was extremely chatty.

The first time had proved somewhat tricky. We’d booked a table, and when we went in I asked if we could have a table outside – it being a sunny evening and, more importantly, it was less crowded and therefore quieter. Ideal conditions for the boy. There was also space for him to get up and run around should he so desire.

As we sat down, he looked clearly agitated.

“I don’t want to be outside,” he simmered.

I explained my reasoning, but he was still unhappy about my choice.

“It’s OK, if you want to go inside we can go inside, there’s room.”

“We can’t. We’ve booked and this is the table we’ve been given.”

“But we can change.”

“We can’t.”

Even the confirmation of this fact from the waiter wouldn’t change his mind. We’d booked, been given a table and that could not be changed.

So we suffered in the sunshine, until he regained his equilibrium – i.e. when the chorizo and cheese turned up.

Determined not to make the same mistake this time, I made sure to ask him his seating preference.

“Inside or outside?” I enquired.

“Outside, of course,” he replied, as if I had asked the most ridiculous question of all time.

Outside in

So, jumping back a few days… After enjoying Henry’s birthday treat and sleepover, we went to pick DS1 up from his friend’s house. From there we were heading straight to DS1’s Grannie’s house to see his Grannie, obviously and his Auntie, Uncle and cousin, who were down from that Yorkshire.   

Now, while this wasn’t ideal – packing too much interaction into a short space of time – we’d prepared him for it. And in the days leading up to it he was excited to be going to see his cousin, Daphne. Even when we pointed out it might be a bit much straight after Henry’s sleepover, he wouldn’t entertain the idea of cancelling.

As expected it took a bit of persuasion for him to leave Henry’s house and get in the car, but we just put that down to the fact he was having such a good time with his mates.

But as we pulled up outside Grannie’s and got set to get out of the car, he hunkered down and refused point blank to budge.

“I’m not going inside,” he exclaimed. “We are going home now!”

“No, we’re not. We’ve come to see Daphne, like we agreed,” I said.

“I did NOT agree,” he fumed, clutching his hand tightly over his seatbelt buckle so that we couldn’t release it.

“OK, you just stay here then.”

The wife and I went in, returning every now and then to check he was OK and to try and encourage him inside. After an hour or so of cajoling, threatening and pleading – and getting nowhere – the wife employed a cunning pincer movement.

First, she explained to him the social rules that dictate the need to spend a certain amount of time (in the house) with the people you are visiting before you can politely take your leave – in layman’s terms: the longer he stayed in the car, the longer it would be before he could go home. Second, she appealed to his sense of importance by­ sending Daphne out to ask for his help in playing a board game.

Finally, he appeared. Withdrawn to begin with, he gradually gained confidence – joining in with the board games, before sitting down to lunch with us all.

But it wasn’t long before he started asking to go home, again. “We’ve been here ages,” he opined.

We hadn’t, but we decided to cut our losses and bail before it became an issue. He’d come inside, eaten and interacted – what more could we expect?

Once home, he went straight to his room, closing the door firmly. But he didn’t barricade himself in. Sometimes, he does take things on board.

As the clock struck bedtime, he opened his door and demanded my presence in his room for his bedtime story.

And then he promptly threw up all over his bedding – the anxiety of the day coming out in lumps.

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