A few years ago, the ‘My family’ sticker craze took off in South Africa. Various stickers for mom, dad, kids and pets are available, and by choosing the ones that best represent you, you decorate your car’s rear windscreen with your ‘family’. Initially I started off as book-reading mom. Then I became pregnant mom. And if I had to chose one to represent me best at the moment, it would probably be therapy mom (not that that’s an option).
There are two elements to it – taking Aiden to therapy sessions, and then the home programmes. The first involves a lot of running around. Aiden has hydra therapy every Tuesday, physiotherapy every Thursday, and occupational therapy every second Wednesday in between. The physio and OT are both a 20-30 minute drive; hydra is fortunately closer to home. I have varying levels of involvement in these sessions which range between 30 and 45 minutes. At hydra I just watch from the side of the pool and offer verbal encouragement; at physio I sit on the floor, interacting a bit and being available for frequent cuddles; at OT I’m the most involved – assisting with the games and occasionally even climbing on the swing with Aiden if he’s having an off day. Mostly though, Aidy enjoys his sessions and they are usually a bit of an outing for the morning.
The home programmes are a bit of a different story. When we started out with therapy, an OT friend said that it’s not the sessions that make a difference, its the little things you do every day. ‘You’re going to become his best therapist,’ she said. So for OT we’ve got an ever changing array of games and exercises. For physio we’ve got a variety of positions to play in. And we need to do elements of each every day.
I’m a system-orientated person and I’ve developed a number of processes to help me keep track of what we do when, and to try and keep myself motivated. It’s not a perfect science – I keep changing things to the point where only I know what’s going on! I’ve got check lists. I’ve got files. I’ve got notebooks. I’ve got boxes of toys arranged by type for OT. I’ve got crates of toys arranged by combination for physio. (And then the boxes and crates get mixed up and I want to lose my ever-loving mind!)
There are a few things I find challenging about the exercises. Firstly, it all involves me getting down on Aiden’s level and doing some sort of age-appropriate activity. But because I’ve been at home full time since Cam was born, I’ve spent nearly four years doing infant and toddler appropriate activities and honestly, some days I’m just bored with it.
Then there is the older brother element. Cameron comes home from school at 13:00 so our afternoon sessions involve him. In many ways this is a great motivator as Aiden tries to copy whatever Cam does. But on the other hand Cam is active, he’s boisterous, he wants to steal the limelight. Let’s just say sibling rivalry is real people, and proving to be quite the challenge to navigate! Take the other day for example… I had made Aiden an obstacle course, something I remember being a really fun activity with Cam. But while Aiden is trying to navigate the first hurdle, Cam is systematically destroying the rest of the course (despite the fact that I tried to involve him and get him to show Aiden what to do). It’s like trying to fly a kite in a hurricane, and I find my impatience rising rapidly. Many days I feel that I don’t have the wisdom to handle this dynamic properly and Aiden’s exercises get neglected as a result.
I find that I respond one of two ways to the responsibility of implementing the home programmes. Some days it’s the easiest thing to say, just one activity – it’s the small things that make a difference. Other days the weight of the responsibility paralyses me, I can’t motivate myself to do the simplest thing and then I start to panic because precious days are slipping by. And on those days I have to remind myself that essentially all I’m being asked to do is play with my son. It’s nothing major, it’s not rocket science; in fact it gets a bit repetitive. But it’s oh so important!