To Mum: surprise!

You know that awkward moment when you’re struggling to write a surprise blog post, but the person you usually ask for advice is the central character of said post? Yeah. It’s hard, isn’t it? So without further ado, let me introduce…you guessed it, my mother!

For starters, my mum has many names to choose from, the most common ones being Helen, Hez, Hezza, and, according to her Sainsbury’s reward cards, Melen* (my personal favourite). She spent her teen years at ballet school, then worked for several more years in Taiwan, where she met my father. Now back in England and married to my stepdad, she teaches Pilates and is training to be a counsellor. Long story short.

One of Mum’s many achievements in life is to produce two children who look nothing like her. Given this fact, and my father’s shenanigans with other women, I have asked her if she’s sure I’m not some other woman’s child. For some reason, she keeps insisting I’m hers, and refuses to believe otherwise. Almost as if my logic is flawed…

She also never tires of talking about what a huge baby I was, often completely at random. Having recently had my 24th birthday, this subject has been particularly high on the agenda. But given that I’d forget if it was mentioned on anything less than a daily basis, this is probably character building for me.

To this day, Mum still has a collection of letters I posted under her door as a small child. Such as “Dear Mummy, are you sorry that I hurt my knee?” And “Dear Mummy, I am sorry that the book got broken. Maybe we can fix it somehow.” And this classic from Year 1 at school: “My mummy is nice and kind and pretty and firm when me and my sister are bad. Sometimes my sister is bad, but I am good most of the time.” I always was destined to be a writer…

Apparently one of the perks of being a mother is the thrill of embarrassing your children. Personally I don’t buy the excuse that it’s revenge for every time your kids publicly embarrass you. But then her favourite weapon is stories of all those times. She also likes trying to be cool with words like “lol”, “lmao”, “grooveh” and “in with da kids”. Which she does to drive my sister crazy “just for the lolz.”

But for all her eccentricities, my mum fits all the important mum criteria. Throughout divorce, living on benefits, school struggles, Grannie dying, and the trials and tribulations of growing up, she has been there. Loved me and my sister. Fed us properly. Given us a good life. And never let us down. Well, unless you count the time she wasn’t sorry I hurt my knee.

Melen Mum, I will just say this for you. I love you. Oh, and happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

*Whoever created those cards must have looked at her signature, wondered to themselves whether the first letter was an H or an M, and decided that “Melen” was the most likely option.

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Parents and the dreaded A word

Hello again, blog and readers. You’re probably not wondering why I’ve barely made an appearance lately. If you are, blame it on third year group projects (!!!). If not, why not? I’ve been struggling to keep to my principle of ‘one blog post on autism, one on something different’ but starting today, I am not wavering.

I’m also taking the liberty of actually writing about something that’s currently trending. Readers who know me well, no, my blog isn’t being hacked. Anyone else here been watching ‘The A Word’ on BBC1? It’s a six episode drama about a family getting their small son diagnosed with Asperger’s, it’s on every Tuesday at 9 starting last week, and it inspired me to write this post.

More specifically, it got me thinking about the parents’ reactions to the whole idea. Denial. Offence. Anger. Hopelessness. Because my mum had been only too relieved to have me diagnosed, all of the above reactions were somewhat hard for me to relate to. Yet for many people – particularly adults, who were born in a time where few things were diagnosed – the thought that an unfamiliar condition may be affecting a young person they are responsible for, can be too much to process.

But a diagnosis isn’t bad news. It’s an opportunity to understand what your child might be going through everyday, and how you can help them deal with it.

But they don’t act “autistic”

Firstly, autism is a word that refers to a range of conditions commonly known as the autistic spectrum. Someone might have severe learning difficulties with little to no use of language. Or they might be precocious in some areas, worryingly naive in others and generally a little odd. Maybe they make eye contact. Or show affection. Or have a sense of humour. Is this because they have learnt these behaviours or because they don’t fit every last stereotype? Either way, what you see may only be a tip of the iceberg that says little about their inner world.

How could you suggest such a thing?

If someone, particularly an expert, suggests that your child may need help, it is unlikely to be a jibe at you or the child. If anything, this is the first stage to paving a way forward. The staff at my first primary school insisted I was just “odd”, “slow” and “strange” from being in a single parent family. I was first diagnosed when a member of Autism Outreach had come to my second school to help another child and immediately noticed me!

I’m not labelling them!

I think these things are only as much of a label as people make them out to be. Naming the condition does not mean that your child will become a caricature of a stereotype. Not doing so doesn’t make it any less real. I spent my secondary school years trying to deny I was any different, and much of the time, I was miserable. Yet now, having Asperger’s is no more of a label than being a brunette with glasses. It doesn’t define me, but you can’t deny it’s true!

What sort of a life will they have?

You could ask this about anyone. One with trials and tribulations, and just enough fun times to make it worthwhile. And it will be a challenge, particularly as they grow older and start to care more. Some people will understand. Some might not. But the more your child and the people around them understand their condition, the better equipped they will be to handle it. And it’s never too early, or late, to start.