New Year Musings and Milestones Worth Celebrating

Let’s face it on a global scale 2017 wasn’t the greatest was it.

Unless you’re a fan of orange-hued ego-maniacs with a bigger love of irrational and grammatically incorrect social media usage (‘Covfefe’ anyone?) than the importance of international diplomacy and the uncomfortable truth that sexism and sexual harassment against women is still a horrific reality in far too many workplaces.

On a personal level many people I know have faced difficult hurdles this year, including bereavement, anxiety attacks, bureaucratic battles that weren’t so much uphill as vertical, serious health worries (both mental and physical) and struggles to cope with difficult news and change.

We’ve had our fair share to deal with as well in the Neat Freak household, and my OH and I have commented infrequently that 2017 has probably been the toughest year of our lives so far – but it’s also been the most rewarding in many ways.

After the initial shock of the A Word diagnosis, now some 18 months ago, we’ve all grown as a family and learned much about what this lifelong condition is, how it’s somehow curiously the same and ever-changing as well as being ever-present, and how it can bring as many joys as it does difficulties.

A lot of what we thought we knew about the future has altered and we’ve had to learn to accept (sometimes grudgingly) that when autism affects a member of your immediate family it’s easier to take things a day at a time and not look too far ahead, even if occasionally that really hurts.

As a mum I’ve always hoped that my children will be able to pursue their chosen path in life, with many doors and possibilities open to them, but with Blue-eyed boy I’ve had to accept that his autism may mean some things are more difficult for him.

As someone who was bullied at school I fiercely vowed a long time ago that no one would ever pick on my kids, but I’ve had to swallow the fact that Blue-eyed boy will probably be an ‘easy target’ for unkind people who prey on the little quirks and differences that others fortunately celebrate. I’ve had to learn to grow a thicker skin.

And hardest of all, we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that Blue-eyed boy may never be able to attend mainstream school and that, even though this was the right  option for us and Mini-me, the best one for him involves a place at the local special school – at least for the next couple of years.

But what we’ve also learned is how the A Word shakes up your view of the world around you in glorious kaleidoscope technicolour, and how things you once took for granted or viewed as ‘little’ can suddenly be the ones that light up your day.

Things such as your child using new words and stringing several of them together, doing a simple jigsaw puzzle by themselves and beaming with pride when you praise them, dividing numbers into odds and evens leading you to wonder if one day they’ll be a ‘maths genius’ and watching your two kids play brilliantly together because as well as being a fan of Barbie’s Dream House the eldest sibling is also a carer at the age of just six and kind and accepting beyond her years.

2017 was a year of many firsts – a new specialist pre-school, many new friends, new understandings and knowledge and a dawning realisation that we’ll never stop having to battle the local council and fight for our child.

2018 will no doubt bring many new challenges, highs and lows for us and others close to us. But with the support of our family and good friends hopefully we’ll all come out smiling the other end.

And if all else fails Trump may get impeached. Fingers crossed on that one.



The Primary School Equation: How do you choose?

Am I the only one who’s ever thought that old saying: ‘Your school days are the best of your life’ is a little bit glib? Or at least too black and white?

I have many very happy memories of my own school days but I was also bullied at various points so making sure mini-me ends up somewhere she feels loved, happy and accepted is hugely important to me.

Plus to be honest I can’t quite believe that we’ve actually got to the stage of picking a primary school for my beautiful baby girl – evidently not so small anymore! It all feels like a huge responsibility.

Where we live there’s one main village school that mini-me should automatically get into, which makes things easier and also harder in equal measure. Less stress over choice but more pressure to like it if you see what I mean.

Well last week hubby and I joined a big group of other potential parents on a tour of the school led by the headmistress about who we’d heard great things. First impressions were that she was quietly assured and trendy and reminded me of a ‘PR type’ who might work in Soho (not that you stereotype when you work in the media!)

Hubby was already stressed as I’d forgotten to book blue-eyed boy in for an earlier start at nursery so he was accompanying us in his sling complete with the hacking cough he has yet to shake off.

‘What if he starts screaming? What am I supposed to do, walk off and do a circuit of the school building? How’s that going to look?’ he asked indignantly.

It got the stock response. ‘Um, it’ll be fine.’

Fortunately I was saved by blue-eyed boy’s famous good nature and a few other parents who’d also accessorised with their under-ones. Plus the youngest was working his cuteness to our advantage – trendy headmistress even commented on how lovely he was!

Also BFF was there and both offspring prefer her to us anyway. Mini-me is frequently asking when she can move in…

Anyway us and the other parents were taken on a loop of the school umming and ahhing over the music room and the new library, trying to filter ‘quietly’ into various classrooms where we were followed by many pairs of small eyes as if animals in the zoo.

Quite freaky to think that hopefully next year mini-me will be one of them.

It also, and hopefully I’m not the only one to admit to this, got my competitive hackles up a bit. I found myself commenting to hubby that mini-me is ‘very musical’ so the school would be perfect for her.

Also I was quite pleased with myself for asking a semi-intelligent question about whether parents can get involved with school life, helping with reading etc.

Silly really, but I suppose as a parent you want to be accepted too just like you did when you were at school.

It’s all coming back to me now. My mum running the book stall every year at my school’s autumn fair and dad helping out with various things.

Waiting nervously for them to return from parents’ evenings to see what my teacher had to say about me.

That’s going to be me and hubby soon. Scarily grown up, for both us and mini-me…