Sunday, 14 February 2016

Nana's Birthday!
There are those days that come along that, if you only read the small print, you'd realise had recipe for disaster written all over them. Today was one of those days. Today was Nana's 74th Birthday.

If I'm honest, it's not just that it was Nana's birthday that was the problem. It was firstly the fact that Katie had a birthday party at a new trampolining park in the morning. A day or so before the party the birthday girl's mum offered to take Katie. I said I'd check with her as it was a new venue and I wasn't sure if she'd want me around. Katie decided she wanted to go with the birthday girl. She came home buzzing but happy. I probably should have picked up on the fact that "buzzing" doesn't just mean "I've had a great time".  It also means "It's taken every single ounce of effort for me to cope with the hyperstimulation I have from not only going to a high octane birthday party for someone else but also going on a new adventure without mum so there's going to be a fallout"  I might have noticed and reflected upon this but for the fact that our aunt and cousin knocked on the door with a card for Nana and I was distracted and anxious to get out of the door to collect Nana.

Ideally, it would have been nice to stop the day after the party and just chill but we'd planned to take Nana out. Nothing fancy, just tea and cake at a nice local garden centre. Pip loves this particular garden centre because they have fountains on display. I like it because they serve a lovely peony white tea. I'd planned that Daddy could take the children off for a walk and leave me with Nana if it all got too intense and the children needed to let off some steam. What could go wrong? I had covered all the bases.

Or so I thought.......

I hadn't planned on Katie not wanting to part with Nana's birthday present, Constance the Victorian Doll. 

I hadn't envisaged Katie having a mini meltdown at the nursing home over Constance.

Why would I? Katie had been involved in purchasing the doll.  The reason we bought the present was because Nana had taken a fancy to the two Victorian dolls I had recently given Katie. We decided that getting Nana a doll for her birthday would be the perfect gift. Because of her Alzheimer's Nana is now in a more childlike state and we had chosen Constance's curly hair specifically so Nana could fiddle with it.  I know she will get a lot of enjoyment from it which makes me happy and sad in equal measures because her Alzheimer's seems to be worsening all the time.

Katie loved Constance though.  When Nana opened her present Katie offered to unpack it. She then didn't want to give it back. Apparently she was "too attached to it". When we took the doll up to Nana's room before leaving for the garden centre I couldn't prise the doll from Katie's hands.  Then the tears started and the refusal to leave and the laying on the floor etc etc.

After a stressful 10 minutes or so we managed to get Katie into the car in the hopes that a change of scene might distract her from her misery.  We arrived at the garden centre with a, still sullen, Katie sulking in her car seat.  Daddy was sat in the back with her and she had avoided all his attempts to cheer her up, a silent tear rolling down her cheek.  She was not going to give up her misery without a fight. She was hanging in for the duration. When we arrived in the car park Nana said she needed the toilet so I took her and Pip to the toilets in the garden centre and left Daddy to mop up with Katie and meet us at the cafe.

I adopted my "sing sing" voice.  The one that shows everything is hunky dory even when the sky is raining down all manner of hell.

Maybe removing her audience would help her sort herself out?

"Come along Nana and Pip. Let's pop to the toilets and Daddy and Katie can join us in a minute,"

"sing sing"

"Oooh I'm looking forward to a lovely, yummy cake.  Are you Pip and Nana?"

"sing sing"

I knew I had to get Nana away though before she started giving Katie a hard time for her behaviour and also before she wet herself.  I was already slightly concerned about some little whiffs I was getting.
Eventually a very disgruntled and rude Katie masquerading as her alter ego, Verruca Salt, arrived at the cafe and we chose cakes.  Katie chose the biggest cake she could possibly find.  A huge Black Forest cream cake.  I knew she wouldn't eat it all but there are times to pick your arguments and I was looking forward to my peony white tea and wanted to get everyone sat down in the hopes that a sugar hit might bring out some sweetness and provide a much needed distraction.

The cake-fest didn't work although a happy Pip enjoyed finishing off Katie's cake as well as his Viennese Whirl.  Nana got increasingly grumpy with Verruca's behaviour (as did I).

"sing sing"

Next, determined to feel we'd at least tried to give Nana a nice experience for her birthday, we tried a walk around the garden centre so Pip and Nana could see the fountains. Once again Daddy was on Katie patrol and lagged behind with Katie moaning about what she wanted him to buy her. I maintained my overly cheerful "nothing to see here" voice, keeping Nana and Pip as happy as I humanly could whilst glaring at Daddy with a look that said "don't you dare given in and buy her anything" and wondering how long I could keep this fake happy demeanour up for. Looking at Daddy's very tired and wan looking face didn't help although Pip's delight at all things water certainly helped keep me going.

With a lot of ignoring of the demands for toys and presents from Verruca we decided to give up and take Nana back home.

Interestingly as soon as Nana had left the car a certain someone's mood lifted.  It was like she could let go of her attachment to her bad mood once the recipient of the coveted doll had left.  It was wasn't a perfect end to the day. Katie was overtired and tetchy for the rest of the evening. Her sicky tummy made a reappearance at bedtime and she woke several times in the night with a sore throat. I just managed to finally get her back to sleep when Pip woke up and came in with us.

So the obvious lessons learned are:

1) Don't schedule two events on one day?  How could I say no to the birthday party though? The invite for that arrived after our plans were made for Nana. Should I or TCM have taken Nana out on her own and left the children behind? Am I attaching our expectations for Nana's birthday onto a person who, due to her condition, wouldn't have known the difference if we'd taken her out on a different day?  Was I just feeling guilty at appearing to not care if we didn't take her out on her birthday?

2) Don't buy Nana a present that Katie is coveting? No that is unacceptable in my opinion. Nana and Katie are in a similar emotional place at the moment so the presents we buy Nana will reflect that. It's inevitable that Katie will like the presents but I don't think giving in to her demands will help anyone in the longer term.

3) Maybe just accept that sometimes these things happen and ride with it and deal with the fallout as it occurs?  There will have to be times when this is the option we have to choose.

Sadly this is why we often don't include Katie in birthday celebrations.


  1. Thanks for your honest story today. It's amazing how we can plan and think through everything to make a day go as well as possible and then the unexpected just throws us a curve ball. Constance was the curve ball. We can so often look back on a day and feel that things could have gone better if we'd not tried to cram too much in. I planned a play date after school yesterday - the last day of the half term. What was I thinking?!? It seemed an OK idea at the time...Tomorrow's a new day is often our mantra!

    1. It's interesting isn't it that other parents wouldn't think twice about having a nice play date on the last day of half term yet, for us, we have to second guess and risk assess all the possibilities in these situations. No wonder other parents often think we're mad! Lol

  2. What a great post. Thank you.

    I'll make a note of the lessons - all really insightful.

    1. It's probably about time I took note of them as well! :)