Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Zoo Trip

With school scheduled to start in a few weeks' time and a new shop opening soon, I have limited time to take Little A out on what's left of his summer holidays.

Big A was out of town on an overnight work trip, so Little A, the Au Pair and I got into the big car and went to the City Zoo.

The Manila Zoo has been around since the 1959, and as primary school children we were taken there on school trips. Back then it was hot, dank, and dilapidated. Thirty years later, save for the marvellous trees that have not been trimmed since they were first planted, the zoo is just the same. Very few improvements have been made, so while the space is good (wide walkways, constant shade, a decent breeze), the animals are sadly confined in concrete spaces with little or no greenery to remind them of their natural habitats.

The selection of animals is probably the most pitiful of any zoo in the world, even among other Third World Countries. There is a lone elephant, which animal rights activists have been clamoring to move to a safari-type location in Thailand, a couple of tigers, each kept in a separate pen, some sort of zebras (brown and white striped as opposed to the traditional black), several cages and aviaries of birds and a reptile cave.

Little A enjoyed watching the tiger walk back and forth around his pen. He also enjoyed the turtle ponds and the storks flying around the aviary.

There is talk of the rehabilitation of Manila Zoo as a new project of the former President, who was convicted for plunder and now holds office as Manila's mayor (will people never learn?). Given the massive misappropriation of taxpayers' funds for decades, I hope that this project, at least, will push through and be carried out properly. Our city sorely lacks public spaces and greenery, and most of all places where children can safely play. Let's hope this space, with all its promise, is developed right into one of them.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Night Waking

It's been a long time since I posted about a book. I read many, close to 200 in a year, many of which are wonderful. Until I joined this book club, I never used to keep track, but now I have a reading log and an ever growing pile of books to be read.

Sarah Moss's Night Waking was a Daily Deal in Amazon's Kindle store last year. The blurb sounded interesting so I went ahead and purchased the book, only to have it sit in my virtual library for months. I finally got around to reading it, and was astounded at the quality of her writing, and how much it resounded with me.

As the title suggests, this novel is about sleeplessness. The protagonist is a scholarly mother of two stuck on an island off the Scottish coast trying to get a book written while managing her children, who do not sleep. It is dark and perceptive, everything you'd expect from a Granta novelist.

The timing in which I read this book coincided with a period of Little A's sleeplessness. While he's never been the best sleeper, we'd gotten into a decent schedule of sleeping from 10pm-7am, or 9pm-6am once school started, with the occasional early waking - 5 am maybe twice in ten days. He sometimes wakes up at 2 or 3 am, but falls back asleep within 2 hours as long as I'm lying next to him. We've already established that getting out of bed properly is not allowed until the sun is up.

Since his sixth birthday party at school, though, we've had a lot of night waking. And night crying, and, for the first time, night screaming. Four or five nights a week in the past fortnight. For maybe the second and third times in Little A's life, his dad has had to put him back to sleep after the 2 and 3am wakings, as there is less screaming involved when he is in charge.

It is at these times, lying in the dark at 4am, having gone to sleep at 11 and been up again since 2, that I come perilously close to harming my child. Only a mother who has been through this would understand; unfortunately I may be in for this for a long time, as children with autism tend to have sleep issues. These nights I try to fall asleep soon after Little A does, so that I've managed at least 3 hours before the wakeup call.

We've been unable to pinpoint what caused this development, though I suspect it is the memory of his birthday party, or the thought of more parties, singing and clapping that initially triggered the crying. While the crying and screaming have, thankfully, and hopefully permanently, stopped, the 4am waking continues, now every other night. I can manage this, as one night of 5 hours' sleep followed by another of 7 is far better than 3 hours, 5 nights a week.

4am wakings mean we are up for the day, as the sun is up by 6. Big A sometimes falls asleep at work, and I get by with coffee. This week school is out until August 12th, so we hope to get Little A's sleeping back to its regular schedule of 8 hours or so a night. We will see how that pans out.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Super Six

I actually have a few blog posts lined up. They are sitting, quietly, unfinished, in the Drafts folder. The reason they haven't been getting posted is because Little A has appropriated the laptop for his own use. Every time he sees someone working on it, he asks to use it, using his communication cards. As initially we were after the communication goal, we made sure he got what he wanted immediately, provided he asked for it properly.

Now however, we need to move on to the "wait" phase. Anyone who has ever interacted with a child, nonverbal or not, knows how difficult it is to get them to understand that they may get what they ask for, but not necessarily at the precise moment they request for it.

At any rate, since I've been spending mornings at Little A's school while classes are on and there is no Internet connection in the temporary Mummy's waiting room, I get my "real" paperwork done during class time and can relinquish the laptop to him in the afternoons while I am at the shop.

Three weeks of school went quickly by, and midway through the summer session, Little A celebrated his 6th birthday with a small party at the school's playground. Since there are only eight children in class, and two of them don't particularly like birthdays (one being Little A himself), the teachers thought it would be a good idea to do a dry run.

The day before the party, the kids "practised" having snack time on the playground, at the art tables, followed by active play, which is a change from the usual classroom routine. All seemed to go well.

On July 5th, while the kids were in class, I set up the playground tables with a little centerpiece, loot bags, paper plates and cups, and snack items. They came out at snack time, and the first thing we did, to get it out of the way, was to sing "Happy Birthday." Little A blew out his six candles, and proceeded to cry.

He stepped out of the party room, upset, and sat with me, his teacher and my mum, until he calmed down and was ready to join the "guests." He didn't eat, and didn't want to play, but he did manage to get on the swings and hand out the loot bags and balloons before we left school.

Little A was fine the rest of the day, but didn't forget that he dislikes birthday parties as he cried that night, as I was putting him to bed, when he saw the birthday banner we'd brought home from school and taped up in his room. He cried every night after that and every morning on waking up, even when I took the banner down, until enough days had passed and he realised that his birthday was well and truly over, and that there would be no more singing of the Happy Birthday song.

We celebrated with his cousins two days later, but it was just a meal. No singing, no candles. Little A was happier that way, and that's what birthdays are all about, aren't they? Happy for the celebrant, never mind what anyone else wants or expects. And so he is six, and so we go on.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Becoming a Big Boy

In the days and weeks leading up to Little A's birthday, I would remind him that he was going to be six. Six! A big boy. A proper boy, no longer a toddler.

Little A seemed to take this in stride, as we worked on independence skills like brushing his teeth with less supervision. I wondered though, how he really felt about turning six. While he couldn't tell me, we soon found out he took this growing up seriously.

He suddenly learned, after ages of being reminded, to throw the towel over his head after a shower when he only used to wipe his face and chest and then wander off, dripping, to play.

The night I realised he really did mean business though, was when he went to the toilet all by himself.

Little A potty trained quite early, and with very little fuss. But when he needed to poop, he would look for someone - myself, the Au Pair - to keep him company and clean his bottom when he was done. Big A and I would be at the dinner table and Little A would come and take my hand and lead me into the bathroom. We'd gotten used to this over the past several years.

Since summer school started though, Little A has been having his dinner earlier because we'd had to push forward his bedtime due to the early morning wakeup. He usually plays in his room, or uses the laptop in ours, while Big A and I eat, and then we begin the bedtime routine.

One evening last week, I left him with his YouTube videos and sat down for dinner. A few minutes into the meal though, the bedroom was unusually silent. Looking in to check, I didn't see Little A at the desk. Neither was he in his room, or the bathroom in the hallway that he usually prefers to use. The last room was our ensuite bathroom.

I peeked in and there he was, sitting on the toilet in the darkness. When I turned on the light, I saw the bidet on the floor, instead of on the hook next to the toilet where it normally rested. I asked if he was done, and looked into the toilet to see half a roll of toilet paper already in there. When I checked his bottom, it was clean.

Little A had done his business and cleaned himself up, but was waiting, waiting, waiting, for someone to come and tell him he'd done it right. Once he got confirmation, off he hopped, back to the laptop.

Since that night, he's gone to the toilet by himself most times, but sometimes asks one of us to come with him and hand him his iPad while he's sitting there. And while we're there, we help clean up.

This is what I look forward to then, in the world of six-year old motherhood - independence. Clearly, my son is up to the task.