Three Years in Retrospect
Three years stretched out behind us and we take a look back. What to say, this year went fast. Very fast in fact. Still find it frustrating that all the child rearing questions I knew I would have one day, and saved until then, to ask Mum for advice about... oh well.
So what do we have. Probing my memory back to say, around New Years, it came to our attention that Lokien might be slightly Hyperlexic, which was interesting. He certainly is a bit different from his friends, but one can not be too sure if that is just the normal difference that all children have, or is it that we mostly compare to Asian children (who develop faster in many areas). But we certainly had the situation around his 15 month day or so, where he could count to 15 or so, and loved numbers and shapes. He stared at the label of a car for a while, then said "Jeep". Every bike and car's license plate had to be read, and supermarket trips were just reading numbers.
.. and yet, he did not really speak. Lokien spoke single word of somethings, but certainly not "papa" or "mum", nor colours and all those stereo-typical baby things. He communicates quite well with us, which naturally could be part of the issue I suppose. Mum, when she was with him, went through her checks as she had worked with Downe syndrome children a lot and was not worried, nor was I, but Hyperlexia is on the other end of that scale.
However, it gave us something to research and look into which I think helped us. It was not really a problem, but worrying (as parents do) if he would ever talk. Of course, we worried about the same for crawling, then walking, then... (as you do) and each time he takes his sweet time, and only start using an ability when he has already mastered it. I can still count the number of time he's tripped, or fallen, on my fingers.
So, we brought it up with our Dr in April, who conveniently enough, happens to also run a speech therapy racket on the side. As standard practise, we are sent to the Hospital for a consultation, MRI and EEG scans. They certainly do things full-on in Japan. Six, or so, weeks later we turn up for our appointment with the Expert. Interview and chat later, he felt that MRI & EEG scans were not needed, that the boy was not presenting any physical reasons for any speech troubles.
This for some reason was a huge relief to Ushka, to hear an expert say the boy is normal. To me it made not so much difference. 10 minute interview will only pick out the worst cases, and all others they need to stall for time and wait until the kid is older, and therefor it is for them to say that everything is fine. Either way;
So, back to our regular Dr and start the Speech Therapy sessions, booked one for 3 weeks later. Now, the best part of it is, during the time that we started the whole therapy, waiting for hospital visit, until the time we actually had the first speech therapy session, about 7 weeks in total, the boy started to speak more.
Typical. Not a lot, but definitely more, two word would come in. Started calling us by name too, so it would be "papa sit", "papa up", "nu sey". The last one is "water, this way". Not too sure why "water" became "nu", it just did. We often use "this way" when walking, or similar, which he says as "sey". The longest would probably be if you are sitting and he wants you to stand up and come after him. "up, down down, sey". While pointing at your chest, then each foot in turn, and then pointing in the direction to go. Now, he just says "papa come!". Lastly, when he has a bag of snacks, present or similar, the "open" word comes out as "obey!". Which seems appropriate as he's always barking orders.
So we started Speech Therapy, and first you have one or two "play sessions" where we just go and play with toys, while the assistant girl watches, plays along and takes notes. This is not too rewarding really, as we certainly got no feedback and suggestions from it. After that we have a consultation with the Dr and Assistant. The Dr seems to report back, that which we told the assistant in earlier sessions. Not sure I quite see the benefit in this. Some advice come out like "speak slower" and what not. I certainly have attempted to be less forthcoming with any attempts at eloquent communications with my descendant. We Speak, Good Now.
But anyway, he gets an hour solid playtime with 100% involvement of his parents, so it is probably quite fun for him. I'm just not having much fun playing the dolls-house every time. Pick something else, anything! So we still go to Speech Therapy.
Around that time though, it chanced again. Things that he were really sharp at, number and his obsession with numbers dulled. More so, shapes but other he started being into other things. He can do some colours and a few animals. Although animals seem to be the least interesting. Perhaps that is a transition they go through, get slightly less sharp on items they already know, but learn lots of other bits.
Moving into July, we were rejected for the Hoikuen that month. Hoikuen is the equivalent of Day Care. Yochien is the same as Kindergarten. You are supposed to apply every month, and that was our first attempt. Ushka had been taking care of the boy Mon-Fri for 3 years, and did a great job of that, but wanted to have a break and earn some money before the next one. However, we got accepted for the Jingu-Mae-Hoikuen in August.
First we came in for an interview/consultation with the boy. This is more of in preparation for the parents, to know what to bring, how the general flow of operations are, fill in the paper work required. We were lucky to have the help of Yuka-san and Manato-kun. It was quite stressful, about 2 hours of only Japanese, using a fair bit of vocabulary that is unfamiliar to me. All while the boy and Manato were playing. Also needed a Dr visit, which seems to be standard procedure more than anything useful.
They were quite impressed that the boy has lunch, then has a nap. This is how they operate, indeed everyone. I think that of all the great advice mum gave us, it was the regimented nap times that rock the most. You think YOUR kid does not need it, but does it ever make an enourmous difference. Lokien was much more happy but having routine, and having naps. Which means parents and those around him, are happier and it all just works so much better. It is clear that they just need it, they might they do not though.
So the agreement was we were going to start the next Tuesday, with both parents in tow, and stay the morning, but leave before nap time. This went fairly well, we managed to get somethings wrong, but that was the idea so we could pick up on the various things. 3 change of clothes go to random places, bag for used diapers (which you take home at the end of the day). Had lunch, which he did not eat any of, oh yeah, we still have the eating issue. He is still quite tactile defencive and generally does not like touching food. All the children had a shower which was amusing. Cousin Anna was a little surprised to hear that, since in UK they are no longer allowed to put on sunblock on kids. Kids growing up without human physical contact, what will that do to them?
Then came the first day to leave the boy at Hoikuen. Who would have thought that the emotion of abandonment would be so strong! That was hard to do, honestly think it was be really good for Lokien to go to Hoikuen, spend most of 3 days there with other kids, in an all Japanese environment. But rationale aside, you feel like you abandon you child. Naturally he cried when we first dropped him off, there was some language trouble at the very first day, he kept saying "ball" because he wanted to play will the ball and basketball hoop, but they did not understand him, or rather, he is not getting the same amount of attention as he does from us.
But, three weeks later, he no longer cries when I drop him off in the mornings. He sometimes eats lunch, sometimes not, but we generally have a banana for him at pickup. He's never unhappy when we pick him up, but happy to see us and eager to go. Learnt some things rather quickly, like putting on/off shoes, pants and what not. Water, or "nu", and Japanese for water "mizu" became "nuzu". You know.. you could just use one of the words that others use. We were quite worried about him not drinking water there, and so were they apparently so he is allowed to bring his water bottle with him.
So here we are. He's not good at speaking still, but he tries to communicate first, which is good. He likes to repeat what you say sometimes which can be indicative of other things, but at least we can work on his pronunciation. We went to the movies, Cars, for the first time. We had already seen it, so we were prepared to leave in the middle if needed, but we watched the whole thing. He seemed quite into it.
We also saw Over The Hedge, been to Disney land twice, and a few other amusement places over the year. He's nearly always in a good mood, and not much difficulty. Only times when he gets frustrated or moody is when he's tired, or hungry. He has got a nickname, his friend at Hoikuen calls him shiro-jira. Shiro means white, and jira is from Godzilla (Gojira as it's in Japanese). He does tower over the other kids somewhat.
He loves to play with older kids more than anything. He does not like younger kids and babies at all. Not too sure what goes on there. He used to go up and put his hand in their face to push them away. We've stopped him doing that, but now he just tries to be sly about it. Goes and stands really really close to them, facing sideways, and slowly edges into them to push them over. Not entirely sure what the purpose of that is. Sometimes he seems to do it when he's ready to go, since we pack everything up and go.
So to sum up. It has gone well and is going well. Time flies faster now. He rarely gets sick, at least compared to other kids, but when he does he always shares it with us, the good boy. The Hoikuen lifted the atmosphere at home, and everyone is well for it.
Now then, the next kid. Talk about completely different attention. With Lokien, I asked for a report from Ushka everyday about the changes going on in her body, and moods and all that. Who has time for that now? Quite sad. But I know the second is coming along well, but definitely not getting the same amount of attention, already. We made going to the hospital for the scans (every 4 weeks in Japan) an us day. The boy is in Hoikuen, so we do the hospital, then lunch, then maybe a movie together. Oh and we booked a 3D scan this year too.
It is amazing how stressful the early times were, when looking back. I remember being ready to just get off the bus or train, if the boy would to go wrong suddenly, or just wolfing down food at a restaurant in case he would, I don't know.. flip out. These days, it is considerably more relaxed. Maybe one just naturally gets more blase with experience...
And the being a parent thing? I still do not know what I am doing. But we seem to have reached an equilibrium of sorts, and we get along as a family and everyone is happy.
Toilet training. I must admit we pushed this off for quite a while. There could be many reasons why, perhaps because Mum said she would do that for us, which did not pan out as planned. Also guides to Hyperlexic children say that it is harder to toilet train them. Ushka had told herself that it had to be done before the second child, because there is no way we were changing nappies on two kids.
As it happened, we went to a Parent-Teacher day with the Hoikuen (Daycare) who said there were only 2 kids in nappies in Lokien's group. So, Lokien and some other kid :) At least there was another kid in nappies. So they asked us to try to get him into underwear over the New Years holidays (4 days off). This was as good a time as any I suppose.
We had both read the book Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day by buying a doll, and teaching the doll first, then the child. We would rather not do any force training at all. We bought a doll, with a potty, which ended up being named "bibi" for some reason. Lokien rather likes Bibi, so that went well.
We started on Saturday the 30th Dec, by putting the boy into gruts (underwear). Started playing with him and Bibi, teaching Bibi how to sit on the potty and/or toilet. Lokien was pretty acceptable about sitting on the potty and toilet (with seat) with clothes on. Mainly because we had a swing game, where if he sat on the potty for 5 seconds (playing right into his love of counting) he would get 5 swings in our blanket (held by me and Ushka at either end).
However, suggesting that he sit without pants, or pants around ankles would result in a strong "NO!". Even if we tried it with Bibi.
Every 20 mins or so we would go into the toilet to practise sitting, watch some of his Shinkansen dvd, or do stickers. But naturally, just waiting for the first accident.
Never would we have guessed that he can go 5 hours without needing to pee!
I think we had about 3 accidents, the first one he just did not care, and maybe even didn't notice. Just lying on the floor playing in his own urine. However, he became upset that he had to change clothes, so at least there was something to aim for. On Sunday, he tried to pull down his pants, just before the accident so it seemed to us that he was at least trying. Although, one accident had him standing on the sofa, pants down, just peeing on the sofa. Great.
That evening he wanted to go to the toilet before an accident, but we aren't allowed to be around him during these times so it was all "BYEBYE!" once he was sitting on the toilet. (This is the case with nappies too, would generally go elsewhere to do his thing, and say byebye if you checked in on him). So we both stood outside, holding our breath waiting for the sound of pee.
At the start, it is fairly hard to be genuine with your praise and keep all sarcasm out of your voice when they manage to do something (or did it again for the 50th time), but I can truely say that when he peed in the toilet for the first time we were both completely honest with our praise. Phew.
Monday had a couple of accidents based on that his junk seems to sometimes stick to tight or similar, so he ends up peeing along his thigh, down the side of the toilet. Teaching him to "hold it down" seemed to have solved that. On Tuesday we went back to the Hoikuen for the first time, and I was planning to unpack the bag, then show him the toilet, before I left. Alas, I should have done it the other way around. In the 30 seconds it takes to unpack, he had the urge and only half ended up in the toilet. He was a little bit upset but mostly about having to change clothes. When I picked him up that afternoon, I saw that he was in nappies, which was a little disappointing. I was expecting more help from Hoikuen. I know it isn't their job to train my kid, but they've had much more experience in it than I! This, so far, was the last time I have had to clean up pee. (touch wood).
Anyway, since he seemed to have some timing issues, I thought I would show him that I can stop/start the flow any time during one of "papa's turn". He liked the idea of shouting "Stop!" "Go!" while I went, but not sure anything came of that.
On Wed he had no accidents at Hoikuen, and the staff reported this to me, clearly expecting a bigger reaction than they got. Perhaps they didn't realise how much time and effort we'd already put in. We didn't leave the apartment for 3 days!
By now he wanted to put the child seat on the toilet himself "'gaki can!" (Lokien can do it) and pull down pants and all that. You still get the "Lokien want to go to toilet?" "no" and he takes you there. Mind you if he doesn't need to go its "NO!" so just have to listen to the tone.
On Thu, while he was peeing I heard him go "stop, go, stop, go" so perhaps he was practising controling the flow.
Friday we learnt that he can hold poo in for 5 days. There you go. He really had to go in the end, pushing and so on but managed to do it just fine. Followed by much praise. He also woke up at 3 am wanting to go to the toilet, and back to bed afterward, even though he wears a nappy at sleeping time. On Saturday he sat on the toilet for about 40 mins, when I also had to go... we need another toilet.
So, we are about 7 days without an accident now. Seems to be ok going to toilets elsewhere. We take the toilet seat with us whenever we go out which has been fine so far. It was nice to somehow skip the potty phase. Not entirely sure how that happened.
In retrospect, it did not seem to be all that hard. The most draining aspect was that you had to watch him continuously, since you'd get about 10 seconds warning before he would wet himself. Perhaps good practise for the next child to get used to that again.