Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Life after 'switch on'

So we're about a month in with Little One's cochlear implants and we're still trying to balance the swings and roundabouts of it all.

An hour's concentration on listening games might mean no energy left for the travails of wearing trousers for two days. Nine or ten hours of unprecedented auditory input requires 12 hours of deep sleep, without which there will be thrown toys or raised fists or bared teeth. An elated message to Hubby 'He turned his head, he definitely heard something' must be paid for in tears.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy though and we're slowly settling into a routine for our current version of normal. Sadly, today both the swings and roundabout in our local playground were wet, so we headed for home after the school drop-off and proceeded to play with every toy in the whole house. Upending every storage bin, throwing every ball and knocking down every tower took us almost an entire hour and soon we found ourselves at 10:03 running out of activities.

Aha! Surely it was time for a snack? Little One brought me to the press where one might reasonably expect to find crackers, peanuts or other delicious savoury treats. Alas, there were only marshmallows there so we left the press empty-handed.

Next we spent some happy minutes colouring in the envelope intended to carry Little Man's school tour fee safely to school but our hearts just weren't in it. Suddenly, Little One hit upon an idea. He ran off, and came back with his baby brother's coat and a winning smile. Of course! We should take a walk.

With Littlest and me suitably attired and Little One insistent on his t-shirt, nappy and wellies combo, we departed. What a jolly walk we had. For the first 20 feet. And then, at the side of the road, an impasse. As I tried to continue around the corner on our Going For A Walk route, Little One waited patiently to cross the road for our Going To The Playground/School/Out Of The Estate route. Oh dear.

Little One: *points across road, smiles*

Me: 'No, I'm sorry. We need to go this way now.'

Little One: *points across road, smiles, nods*

Me: 'Later. We'll go there later. Let's go this way now. I'll race you!'

Little One: *shakes head, points across road, smiles, nods*

Me: 'But the playground is all wet! It's yucky. We'll go for a walk now and play later, after school.'

Little One: *points across road, signs 'eat', smiles*

Me: 'What the- ? Oh my goodness, you are bringing me to the shops to buy peanuts, aren't you?!'

Little One: *nods, smiles*

So right now, life can be tough. Each day requires more work and patience and calm and ingenuity than we ever thought possible. Each tiny piece of progress is fought for, and earned. There are days when the battle seems lost. But that cheeky little kid? Well, he's worth fighting for.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Hello. Can you hear me?

Hail slicing down
While under a tree
I wonder how much you can hear with me.

Does that pitter patter escape you still?
The running children's shrieks, so shrill.

Your hair still smells of sand and sun,
Warmed by an hour's playground fun,
While ice falls from a sky so clear -
It bounced on your hood then, did you hear?

I know right now it seems too much,
To hear and see and smell and touch.

Your shoes hurled furiously to the floor
When you simply cannot take anymore.

Your favourite hoodie rejected with rage
Its confines now feel like a cage.

Unfamiliar anger on that beautiful face
Relearning your sling is a safe, calm place.

Of course, fun times are still ours
Building high and destroying towers

Developmental listening games,
Learning to hear your very own name.

But this won't be the last day with tears
Because of your lovely, imperfect ears.
So for now we'll stay here, under this tree,
Where I can protect you, perfectly.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Sudden silence

Eerie calm where hordes of shoppers once hustled.
Silence as a thousand telephones do not ring.

Front doors left ajar reveal unswept floors.
Dishes are piled in sinks, or still on tables
With their half-eaten meals long forgotten.

A child's picture stays forever half-coloured
While an uncapped marker dessicates alongside.

A lone tap drips, unnoticed.
Something more important is happening now.

The stairs are unstomped
A child's tambourine unshaken
A book suffers damage to its spine as it lingers face down on a side table.

It's clear that something has happened here.
Something profoundly odd has disturbed an ordinary day
And changed it forever.

It's Ireland
And the sun is shining.
Drop everything!
Go outside.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Unlocking a memory

I have found myself in possession of Marian Keyes' new book. Apparently that sometimes happens when you make a trip to the local bookshop and offer them money. Who knew?

Now, anyone who has read Marian's work will know the nod-and-laugh combo guaranteed to punctuate any sitting with the book. The feeling that this exact scenario has happened to you, but she has explained it so much better than you ever could, and what was once a mortifying moment is now a gleeful giggle of recognition.

I was reading with Littlest asleep in my arms, and was making every effort to keep my chortles in check so as not to wake him. And then, mid-nod, while reading about the horrors of hairy, 5 O'Clock shadow legs, I stopped. Oh. Oh my. A vague inkling of embarrassment, and then I remembered all in a rush. How could I have forgotten?

It was just about a year ago, and I found myself with 3 hours all to myself. Yes, 180 minutes with nary a child (bar the one I was gestating at the time) to be looked after. What would I do with such a luxury? I had a long shower, then breakfast with a book in the local café. After retiling the roof and solving World Hunger I became a bit bored. And I still had over two hours left. So I rang the local beautician to see if I could sort a last-minute leg wax. I explained that I knew I was totally chancing my arm, but I didn't have anywhere to be until 1.30 and could she squeeze me in?

'You need to leave here at half past one? Oh I can sort you out, absolutely! Pop in at ten past one, ok?'

'Oh thanks so much!!'

'No problem at all. Sorry, what's the name now till I write you in?'

'Aisling. Aisling Cahill. Thanks again'

'Oh. Aisling. Right.
Eh, lookit you better come in at one o'clock in that case. I'll see you at one, ok?'

And there you have it. It's not my imagination. I'm not simply being unkind to myself. I am, verifiably, FIFTY PERCENT HAIRIER than the other women in the village.
Have I been brave enough to go for another appointment? Not Yeti!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A few home truths


'Quick Mammy, get up and bake a cake!'

'Mmmf what??!'

'For if Daddy and Little One come home from hospital today, we need to have a party. We need a lemon cake and some crisps! Crisps are Little One's favourites.'

Now, I love dawn baking as much as the next person, but I politely declined the request. There's dishes to be washed, floors to be swept and lunches to be made. And if I'm honest, I also don't want to jinx Little One's chances of getting home.

I told two disappointed faces not to worry. After I brought 'the boys' home, I would simply pop to the shops while they rested, under the pretence of getting bread and milk. While there, I would get some crisps and perhaps even buy a cake if I didn't have time to bake one. Then I waited for the smiles, cheers and possibly even hugs.


The conspirators looked at each other. They communicated silently for a moment, then looked back at me. Little Man went first.

'Well, you'll have to be REALLY careful to keep it a surprise Mammy.'

Little Lady chimed in.

'Yes. You see, sometimes you say "Oh goodness, I don't know why the kitchen smells like chocolate chip cookies, there certainly aren't any in your lunchboxes!" and we actually realise that there ARE cookies in our lunchbox.'

Little Man wanted to clarify.

'Sometimes your voice is how we know, and sometimes it's because you're smiling. You need to practice tricking without smiling I think.'

I kept my face VERY straight as I expressed my shock and disappointment at having spoiled so many surprises in the past. They had me practice a couple of times.

'I'm just popping to the shops for milk.
We need milk, I'm just popping to the shops.
I'm off to get milk now, back in a minute.'

I nailed it.
Operation Surprise Party is a go.
Sssshhhh ;)

Monday, 14 March 2016

The good days

The good days. Ah, the good days. When we marvel at your ability to use your whole body, your face and surely some kind of magic to communicate with us.

You are full of mischief, but of such a cheery mischief that it's impossible to scold you. On those good days, the ones filled with engagement, I imagine the cheekiness of your inner monologue.

'Hello mother. Oh you've seen that I am wearing my coat and wellies? Perhaps we should take advantage of this fortuitous turn of events and go Outside together?'

'Walk with me, won't you? Oh look! We have happened upon the front door. Did you know that it leads to the aforementioned Outside?'

'I'd like to have something to eat please. I really don't mind what it is, so long as it comes from the press we keep the Fish Crackers in'

'Mammy, come quick! Something Terrible has happened! Look!! Someone - and there's really no way of knowing who - has spilled my Shreddies all over the floor. Who could do such a thing, on this, the day of my sister's play date?'

'Look Mammy, we've had fun together. It's been great. But, Daddy's here now and, well, this is awkward...'

'I've taken the liberty of bringing you the baby's coat. Perhaps a walk Outside is in order? You may notice that it's the coat he only wears in the stroller. Because I won't be needing the stroller, I shall be extremely busy picking up sticks and posting pebbles through railings'

'Here's the remote control. If you'd like to point it over there please, until Curious George comes on? Not this one. Not this one. Oh I like this one! You shall have a round of applause for a job well done'

'What's that you have there? ANOTHER hot coffee? Hold on, let me put down this toy so I can blow it cool for you. Honestly, I don't know why you make it so hot every morning...'

Your charming face, your disarming smile, your sometimes alarming can-do attitude would be assets for any child but for you, my darling Little One, they are invaluable. You know what? I think you'll be just fine.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The tough days

I knew what you wanted.
Of course I did. I knew even before you did that you'd want to go with Daddy. I don't blame you, he's kinda cool! But you didn't know that I knew. How could you, when you hadn't been able to tell me what you wanted? When I was stopping you from going out the door with him?
You were so upset. You held my hands, gently tried to squeeze your thoughts into them. I was trying to tell you something, but you were too sad to pay attention. Frustrated, you started to hit my outstretched arms, but gently so that it wouldn't hurt. Those soft, tiny fists striking out with less than half your strength.

I asked you to choose a coat. Aha! We WERE going outside! You calmed, wiped the tears decisively from your face. The blue one, because it's fluffy. Excited, you carried your toy car to the door and climbed on.
'No' I signed, 'I'm sorry'
I showed you the stroller.
'No' you signed, deflated. I could see you thinking about getting angry, wondering if those little fists could make me understand. I smiled and nodded, pointing to the front door and you climbed in my arms. You held on tight for a few moments, with your still-damp cheek pressed to mine. Satisfied somehow, you climbed down and got into the stroller.

I'd love to know what went through your head. Were you remembering Wednesday? I'm still so sorry about Wednesday. I wanted you to get into the stroller at the wrong time of day. Despite what your body clock was telling you, it was time to collect Little Man.
'No' you signed. Ran away.
I followed. Picked you up. Put you in the stroller.
'No' you signed, arching your back so I couldn't strap you in.
'Yes' I signed, while my elbow prevented your escape. 'Get brother at school'
'NONONONONO' you shouted, signed and squirmed simultaneously. I was so damn proud! You were doing exactly what we've worked so hard at. Communicating clearly, orally. But I would have to ignore your wishes, without being able to tell you why. I grabbed you and ran to the kitchen press, your tears and mine mixing. A treat. Part-bribe, part-celebration of your achievement. You got into the stroller willingly then. It was only when your brother came over in the schoolyard and high-fived you that you realised I had been planning this all along. Mammy knew best.

Some days are hard. But Daddy and I have a plan. There will be more hard days, but I promise you sweetie that we are working hard on making things easier. We may not always be able to make ourselves understood, but just trust us. Together, with our arms around you, we will figure it out.