Holidays! The upsides are the lack of rushing; no lunch boxes; no uniforms; no homework. The downside for us is the complete lack of structure and the sudden withdrawal of this routine and level of stimulation from the day. Consequently, to keep things calm at home we have to think of activities to do to keep the boys occupied, physically engaged and physically organised.
The boys just love the water. Every morning the boys start the day with a nice warm, Epsom salt bath with lavender oil. It calms them. A bath is something that is often requested at odd times across the week and weekend. For them, it’s a way of self-regulating – it’s something their little bodies need.
When we began swimming lessons with the boys when they were babies, initially Tom was rather reluctant about the whole deal of being wet, putting his head under, all of it – but he now just loves it and is quite capable in the water.
James was obsessive about water from birth. Water would always calm him. He loved playing with a hose; running under a sprinkler; being in a warm bath; taking a shower; playing with toys in the laundry sink; trying desperately to escape our yard to get to the river beyond; randomly and regularly jumping into the river whilst we enjoyed an afternoon walk; emptying every bottle of water from the fridge onto the floor; licking water off the car after rain and my personal favourite … drinking water directly from muddy puddles! He loves the water.
Due to the boys’ love of the water and it’s very positive affect on them, I regularly take them down to the local swimming pool which is mostly indoors and heated; and I just let them play. It’s interesting to watch. Tom is all about throwing the water toys and fetching them from the bottom of the pool. He’s quite happy to just repetitively play these kinds of games, or put his diving mask, snorkel and flippers on and go for an explore. James is another thing indeed.
At the pool today we had a win! James would always need to completely dressed for the pool before leaving home, including his dive mask, snorkel and flippers. Of course he would become extremely irritated about the fact that it was near impossible to get into the car successfully with all that gear on! Despite this, he would persist. He would then waddle with flippered feet all the way from the car into the swim centre (which is no mean feat!) and from there would proceed directly to lane 3.
For quite some time James has had an obsession with having to swim in Lane 3. Where James is concerned, I find that this kind of repetitive behaviour will last for as long as it takes him to let go of the need to control the situation (anxiety). Today, for the very first time, James swam in a variety of places in the pool, not just lane 3! Hoorah!
In the past, if Lane 3 was occupied I would politely approach the Lane 3 swimmer and explain the situation. Without exception, I got a positive response from people. Generally, they were older people doing their daily laps so I guess it was no bother to them to move to any of the other lanes, but none-the-less I’m so appreciative of peoples’ understanding and kindness in this kind of situation. The fact that “Aqua Man” was pacing backwards and forwards in an agitated fashion muttering repeatedly about Lane 3 probably may have helped to encourage this positive response.
I’m certain that the reason James loves the snorkel and dive mask is because his motor planning is poor. It’s really challenging for him to coordinate his body to complete strokes, kick and turn his head to breathe. With the snorkel, he can keep his face in the water at all times and just kick along using his arms as best he can.
His usual routine until today has been to don his full “Aqua Man” apparel (dive mask, snorkel, flippers) and head directly to Lane 3. He would then just do lap after lap, following the straight white lines on the bottom of the pool. Today, he donned the apparel but was happy to remove it after some time and did not once even venture into Lane 3. When I asked him about it, he just said, “I really liked Lane 3 when I was 7. Now I am 8 so I like all the lanes.” This “I am older now, so now I can cope” response simply means “I’m OK now, I’m confident now, I’m now able to explore the whole pool.” Whatever anxiety he had previously had about the pool has now gone and therefore the need to control with repetitive behaviour also seems to have disappeared.
We just had a genuinely pleasant time. Upon our return home, James requested a “lovely warm bath, with lovely smells, and lovely bubbles” and Tom asked if he could hop into his bed and play his iPad. They often request this kind of down time upon our return home from a busy, loud or socially demanding environment. I’m so proud of them both that they are learning to self-regulate so well.
Days like these are absolute gold! I do love my funny, loving, quirky little rogues.