Sunday, 21 April 2013

An Afternoon of Sun & Shopping

We had a lovely day out yesterday at Bents Garden Center with a family friend, Bee's Uncle Stu.

We usually start with something to eat in the amazing (if expensive) restaurant and today was no exception. Moroccan pancakes for me and hot beef sandwich for Stu. The sun was beaming down and, although there still a cool edge to the wind, we decided to eat outside. This weekend we've seen the first real sunshine of the year and it's been wonderful to share great company and food under the clear blue skies. Bee had a plate made up of bits from both mine and Stu's and did a sterling job of tasting all the different foods. She stuck to the broccoli and peas in the end. That's my girl!

Of course Bee finished way before and was soon mithering to be set loose on the playground she could see from our table, pointing and  asking "me play here mama?" and "me pah, me pah". She meant 'park'. I made my impatient little miss wait until we'd both finished eating. I can't let Bee loose to play unattended. Firstly her danger-awareness, anything from surface level changes to strangers, is zero. Secondly she often needs assistance on play equipment as her gross motor skills are under-developed and she needs to be lifted on and off or helped in other ways. After 10 (torturous for her) minutes Stu and I were ready and we headed over to the park.

She spent much of the first 10 - 15 minutes running around the various pieces of equipment, deciding which to go on. she's get so very excited that she runs and screeches, flapping her arms and flitting from one piece of equipment to the next, not being able to commit to one thing or another long enough to actually go on it. Once she's calmed down she becomes more willing to actually use the park!

Bee's first choice is always whatever climbing structure leads to the slide, although she rarely will use the slide until we've been on the park for a while. Her confidence in her mobility needs boosting much of the time and she requires a familiar adult to be near her at all times. If she moves ahead she will stop and turn around until I reach her, or take my hand and pull me along with her. Sometimes, on days when I'm having a bad day, I'm feeling tired or stressed, I envy those parents sitting around the edges. Those parents watching their children run around while they drink their coffees and chat. Then I look at my girl's beaming face as she takes my hand and says "me up mama" and I remember that I'm the lucky one. They're the ones that should be envious.

To begin with I had to lift Bee up to the 'bridge' level on the main climbing structure for her to walk back and forth, waving and giddy to be up there. A couple of times she sat down at the top of the slide but no amount of encouragement could get her down and each time she backtracked and moved back to the bridge where she felt more secure. It didn't last long, she wanted to be off exploring the next piece of equipment so I lifted her down and she was away.

It wasn't long before she started asking for the doll I'd been carrying around. Something that always helps is having a doll on hand. Often Bee will participate more if she can use her doll to do the activity first then follow and do it herself, almost like she's using the doll to 'test the waters' and see that it's safe. She pottered around for a bit, deciding what to go on before she headed back to the slide. She started up the steps, putting one foot on and using the bars to pull herself up but her courage left her and she froze, refusing to continue up by lifting her back leg on or moving off the steps by bringing her front leg back down. I used the doll to climb the steps, trying to encourage her but nothing. Bee wouldn't move. Until a small girl, much smaller than Bee, came charging past and climbed straight up the steps. Bee watched her and as soon as the girl gained the top step Bee was straight up after her and followed her down the slide! It took one tiny tot 15 seconds to accomplish what I'd spent 5 minutes trying to do. This little moment is one of the reasons we are so keen on Bee going to a mainstream school with special needs provision. Bee thrives around others that can do things she can't.

Once she'd climbed the steps and gone down the slide once that was it, there was no stopping her. She looked back for me less and charged ahead by herself more. 

After almost an hour we decided to give Bee a break and have a look around the garden center. She was starting to stumble and had already fell over a small, raised wooden bridge after not noticing the level change.

Bents is a beautiful place, full of beautiful (if waaaay out of our price range) things and I always enjoy a mooch around with Stu. On this trip we spotted something that I couldn't leave without: a Peppa Pig ball! Bee fell in love and it didn't leave her grasp for the rest of our day out. Even on our second visit to the park she took the ball around with her instead of the doll. The ball went down the slide first, the ball was pushed through the tunnel...

Bee's Peppa Pig ball created a lot of interest from the other children on the park. Every time Bee dropped or threw it there would be another child racing to pick it up. As first I kind of hovered behind Bee as she went to retrieve it, ready to pounce if she got into communication difficulties but as time passed I started to hang back. Bee will be going to school in September and regardless of what type of school she'll have to learn to deal with other children of all abilities. As always she made me proud, handling the situations with aplomb and more confidence than I'd expected, even though she did come back to me for reassurance occasionally.

We had a lovely day out in the sunshine and Bee had a brilliant time. By the time we were ready to leave she was so tired, both physically and mentally. I think she'd run her little legs to water with her double session on the park and exhausted her mind with all the stimulation and interaction with new people/situations. We made the 15-minute drive back into the town center to pick up Foz and headed home, where Bee was straight to bed and, unsurprisingly, straight to sleep!

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