Is It Okay to Admit to Hating Autism?

Last week Blue-eyed boy started school. It’s not the school we had thought he would go to but it’s a lovely school with caring staff and he seems to be settling in already.

In his typical laid-back style he mastered getting on the minibus that now picks him up from home and drops him off in the afternoon in about two days, without shedding even one proper tear (unlike me) and according to his teachers is enjoying lessons, playing with other children in his class and adapting to his new surroundings like a pro.

I’d been planning to write a blog post about all this, about how proud he was in his uniform on that first day, smiling at the camera much more than he normally does, aware that this was some kind of special milestone that we, and hopefully he, would always remember.

But it’s been a strange few days so I’m shelving that particular spiel for now.

As a parent it’s always a tricky transitional period when your child starts school, especially when it’s your youngest I think, as the totally carefree part of your and their life is in some ways gone forever, partly to be replaced with reading charts, spelling tests and maths homework – alongside a load of wonderful new opportunities of course.

But with Blue-eyed boy, since his A-word diagnosis there’s been a lot of worry along with carefree bits, and in some ways him starting school threw up lots of feelings that I wasn’t expecting.

It reminded me that in many ways life has changed forever, and the future we thought would be his may now never be. You almost feel guilty saying that when your child is doing so well and carving their own path, but of course it’s natural sometimes to almost yearn for what you’d planned for and expected.

I never thought I’d be sending my son to school still wearing pull ups despite 18 months of hard work trying to toilet train him on and off.

I didn’t think that he’d struggle so much with eating school dinners – unless it’s the days when his beloved pasta is on the menu.

After more than two years since being told Blue-eyed boy has ASD I didn’t think I’d feel a pang that he wasn’t in reception class in the same village school as Mini-me. But I did, briefly.

Now all of this doesn’t mean that I’m not hugely proud of my son, who in many ways has to fight harder to achieve things that other children might find easy. But this morning after witnessing a huge sensory meltdown over a bloody cottage pie of all things I woke up to the dark feeling that I sometimes have that on occasion I really hate autism.

I know this might offend some parents of children with additional needs, because often autism is talked about in terms of ‘embracing’ it. And that if you say you’d like to push a button to take it all away it’s somehow saying you don’t accept your child.

I love my little boy too much to put it into actual words. And I say that as a writer – and I’m definitely a better wordsmith than I am a parent. I’ve never had any illusions about that.

I’ve witnessed first-hand his struggles, his many victories, how hard he tries and how much he loves it when we cheer him on for the next word or phrase mastered, the next food stuff he samples, the activity he unexpectedly enjoys.

But that’s why on some days I hate autism. Why I wish it would bloody do one. Why I’d love to make life just a little easier for my beautiful boy.

And why I messaged my friend earlier, who is in this additional needs parenting boat with me, to ask if she felt the same.

And why I felt relieved when she said she hates it sometimes too.

So there we go autism. We’re doomed to have a lifelong love hate relationship you and me. Sometimes I might ‘embrace’ you, many other times I’ll tolerate you, but for today you can just f*** off! And that’s okay too.

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The Primary School, Parental Exploding Brain Equation

I’m supposed to be working, but I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes frantically googling ‘neon children’s outer-wear’…

No Mini-me isn’t off to an ‘80s themed birthday party (although it would make a change from Frozen come to think about it, and involve better music), no this is just one of the new daily challenges my parental friends and I are facing. Those of us with reception class age children, I should say.

The second half of Mini-me’s first term at primary school kicked off this week, and I’m still not used to the rapidly expanding pile of paperwork, various important diary dates (non uniform, slight variation on uniform, fund-raising, special events etc.) and homework and project related stuff I need to be on top off.

Yes apparently I am now Mini-me’s PA – on top of being her personal chef (yes fish fingers and baked beans count), social secretary, style advisor, washer-woman and maid. And as it turns out I’m not very good at the job.

So far today I have forgotten that tomorrow is her class group’s show and tell day and that it is ‘Be Bright Day’. Namely where she needs to be decked out in some kind of luminous coat, scarf and hat combo that drivers and cyclists can see should she be walking to or from school with me in the dark.

Yes I know it’s a very worthy idea, I just wish I’d remembered so I didn’t have to spend time locating day-glo ear muffs at a shop that’s convenient for hubby to ‘swing by’ on the way to Euston Station. Because no one in their right mind would go late-night shopping with a knackered four and one-year-old in tow.

Hopefully Mini-me’s resident pink hat will do the job. I could ‘customise’ it with a bit of silver foil I suppose.

Yes we’re all still adapting to the ‘primary school chapter’, but the good thing is I know we’re not alone. My brilliant school mum friends are keeping me sane and laughing and long may this last.

So two months along here’s a few new things I’ve learned. Maybe some of them will sound familiar.

  1. You used to think you were late for school in the first couple of weeks, but now you know the real meaning of ‘cutting it fine.’ It involves bringing the car to a screeching halt most mornings, sprinting down the road towing poor offspring behind you and other (more well prepared) parents quickly getting out of your way in the playground as they register the panic in your eyes.
  1. You know NEVER to turn up to school pick-up without a snack of some kind for your child about your person. And if you forget, prepare for whinging, crying and them trying to grab a biscuit out of their best friend’s hand.
  1. You are pathetically grateful to your child’s class parents Facebook group. Without kind reminders from your peers you would be DOOMED!
  1. Your child’s ‘hair repertoire’ is now limited to bunches because they are easy. If Mini-me ever requests a French plait I may have a breakdown.
  1. Forget skinny jeans or heels, the best clothing purchase you have ever made is a decidedly untrendy but useful rain jacket with hood. Looking stylish is now even lower on the list of daily priorities than it used to be.
  1. A good ‘morning routine’ is a day which doesn’t involve shouting from you, shouting from offspring and hubby shouting down the stairs about all the shouting.
  1. That the fact that Mini-me can now read books to Blue-eyed boy is AMAZING. Admittedly the plots are a bit limited so far, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
  1. That you now do more washing than a small hotel. And if the machine packs up you cannot be held responsible for your actions.
  1. That when Mini-me says innocently that she’s ‘looking forward to homework’ it fills your heart with joy. And wonder over how long this is likely to last.
  1. That no matter how soon after lunch you ask, your child will NEVER be able to remember what they ate that day. But they will always remember if they got a sticker for eating it all.

Starting School (For The Second Time)

So you know the time trick of not fully realising you’ve entered a ‘New Family Phase’ until you’re actually immersed in one?

I’m not explaining it very well (blame the frazzled brain matter) but those of you with kids will hopefully know what I mean.

It happens when your beloved offspring start consuming actual food and not just milk, when they begin taking tentative steps and before you know it are running amok and when you head back to work and start putting them in childcare on a regular basis.

All things that you can prepare for as much as you like, but don’t really get in the swing of until you’re doling out pureed carrot, sprinting after escaping children and struggling with the ‘guilt’ of having to hand them over so you can earn money to feed, clothe and provide them with plastic tat.

Well so far it’s only been 10 days of real time and seven actual ‘school days’ but, as it turns out, starting school is the biggest parental culture shock so far.

The Neat Freak household, like so many up and down the country, has gone through what feels like a tidal wave of change in a really short space of time, and personally I feel like I’m just about treading water but still gasping for air.

So while Mini-me takes it all in her tiny stride, here’s just a few of the things I’m still trying to adjust to. Maybe some will strike a chord with the rest of you.

  1. How proud I feel seeing Mini-me all shiny and smart in her new uniform, carrying her book bag. How did she get to be so grown up?
  1. How amazing children are to just adapting to a new situation. Every morning we’re barely through the classroom door before Mini-me has put her book bag in the right box, got out her water bottle, said good morning to her teacher and is off to play like she owns the joint.
  1. How brilliant they also are at socialising with friends old and new. As it turns out I could learn a lot about ‘productive networking’ from my four-year-old.
  1. How, try as I might, I will always be the parent making her poor child jog along the pavement to get to school on time. Hopefully school will teach her better time management than I can.
  1. That some serious hair envy goes on at school, at least on my part. Every morning I marvel at the mothers who have managed to tease their child’s hair into a sleek French plait, while carrying their baby around in a sling, while I can barely get Mini-me to stand still long enough to manage a lumpy ponytail.
  1. How quickly you forget how blimmin’ tricky ties can be. Good job I also bought one of the ones on a string.
  1. That Mini-me will soon have actual homework that hopefully I won’t have to nag her to do. Is this the start of officially turning into my mother?
  1. That I’m really excited about becoming a reading helper and joining the PTA. Once a geek and all that…
  1. How I’m loving that Mini-me starting school is also a great excuse for me to meet new friends, and spend more time with old ones.
  1. That I’m also already excited about my little girl being in the school nativity, assuming they have one, and other productions.

(Ah the memories, of my sister being cast as a snow fairy – while I was a plain old boring snowflake – and then, to my horror, as the wicked witch in Gobbolino. It’s all coming back to me now…)

Boddlers, and other news

It’s been quite an emotional time in the Neat Freak household lately, mainly because a lot of things are changing.

Mini-me is starting ‘big school’ in a matter of weeks and boy is she excited!

Last week we were one of a large collection of local families walking their offspring into an induction morning at the village school, and from the torrential downpour to browsing the second-hand PTA uniform sale to watching Mini-me playing happily in what will be her reception classroom, it was one of those surreal occasions you’ll know you’ll never forget.

A few days ago Mini-me brought home her ‘graduation’ photo from nursery (yes, they really did put them in caps and gowns!) and this week we’ll be attending her ‘leaver’s assembly.’ Something which I thought wouldn’t come up until much later.

Although I doubt she’ll be singing a selection of nursery rhymes for the viewing parents when she reaches 11!

It’s all a lot to take in during what seems like a very short space of time, and before we know it we’ll probably be watching her in the school nativity play.

If this wasn’t enough ‘parental processing’ to deal with, Blue-eyed boy has recently decided that, yes, he does have the ability to walk. Better late than never!

His current favourite pastime is to stagger in highly comedic fashion, while pushing his colourful plastic walker, up and down the lounge chuckling with glee. He’s really chuffed with himself and it’s lovely to see. Especially as the lazy little bugger is way behind many of his friends.

Blue-eyed boy is yet to really take off, but it’s hopefully just a matter of days or weeks now, and a whole new chapter in his life is about to start too.

All this has made me rather nostalgic for his and Mini-me’s early days and I’ve found myself poring over old photos and videos.

I’m not sure if I’m even ready for him to become a toddler, but then he’ll probably always be my blue-eyed miracle baby.

Hubby came up with a great name for it all. ‘He’s neither one thing or the other at the moment is he…’ he pondered. ‘It should be called the boddler stage!’

So before Mini-me dons her uniform and heads off into the big wide world of school, I hope Blue-eyed boy will remain my little boddler. At least for a while…