Get ready for this.
I’ve been on holiday. Again.
Now sit down, because I what I am about to tell you next will have some people gasping inwardly.
I went away without Joseph. Again.
And not only that, I am about to embark on yet another holiday but this time with our children.
I see the eyebrows being raised, hear the tuts and occasionally for those brave enough, the sly comments. How bloody dare I go on holiday without my child? I bloody dare. That has to be one of the benefits of your child coming from a ‘broken home’ I’m sure the people who have those thoughts are the ones in the happy relationships where everything is just so perfect and makes it so much easier to judge.
Let me tell you about those early days when I split from Joseph’s Dad on the days he had arranged to have him overnight. It was a mixture of sadness because my son wasn’t sleeping in the same house as me and relief that I would get time on my own. Time to collect my own thoughts and wind down from what was a usually busy day. And then I remembered that I wouldn’t actually be getting time on my own, I’d be going to work for my night shift, which was usually a combination of belly laughs and moments of trying to keep my eyes open after being awake usually for 20 hours by the time I finally got to bed. Once I had stopped working night shifts, I lived for those days where I would be Joseph-free. I used to count down the days until I would be able to do 82 things for me on the Wednesday night and sleep in past 5am the Thursday morning. Does that make me a terrible mother or does it make me someone who craves sleep and normality? Of course I miss Joseph incredibly when I’m not with him but I know he is with another parent who loves him just as much as me and wants that time with his son. And that is just fine.
I’m often told (by those who have a good understanding of our situation and not just people who are trying to appease me) that I shouldn’t apologise and especially not for being selfish as they don’t see it that way. Would I consider myself luckier than others that I get this time? No, I wouldn’t describe my situation as lucky but we manage the situation as best as we can and make the most of our time whether it be as a couple, as a family of three or a family of five.
Now I’ve managed to set the record straight, I’ll get back to the first day I saw Joseph after we had been on our respective holidays. He came running up the drive, smiling and laughing and couldn’t wait until he put his arms around me and I was over the bloody moon. Well, that was how it was in my head but the reality was this. He wandered out of the car, walked straight past me and took his shoes off. I asked him if he’d had a nice holiday and his response was “Yep” I think I got a cuddle at some point but it’s fair to say he wasn’t distressed about not being with me for a week and neither was he jumping for the joy at the sight of me.
I wondered how long it would be before he was asking for an apple or the iPad and the answer came quite quickly; close to twenty minutes. I equally wondered as to how long it would be before we’d be winding each other up and that I’d have forgotten that I’d had a week away in the sun. I was already back to living at 100mph and despite getting to bed at 2:30 had been out and done a parkrun. After a week with not as much exercise as usual, I was just hoping to get round but that morning, I had broken my pb that had been hanging around like a bad smell for almost two years. And because of that I felt like the dog’s bollocks and anything was possible that day.
It may have only been a week since I had seen him, but he seemed taller and able to communicate a little more effectively and correctly referring to himself as ‘I’ or ‘me’ rather than Joseph. Was it just in my head or did he seem just generally more able? I asked him whether he still wanted to go for his swimming lesson, secretly hoping the answer would be a ‘no’ so I could just rest my weary legs and tired head. Unfortunately, Joseph was more than up for it. I offered him bribes if he would swim rather than the usual pissing about each time he goes. He said he wanted to go to McDonalds so each time I saw him using the float as a horse, I mouthed ‘No McDonalds’ and watched him quickly get off his horse and frantically kick his arms and legs until he thought I wasn’t watching again. At one point when I wasn’t watching, I felt a sprinkle of water over me. I looked up and Joseph was stood on his horse laughing at me and proceeded to splash more water at me. I’m not sure whether I was meant to tell him off at this point but I sat and laughed because my cheeky son had shown character, spirit and humour and it was directed at me. When I realised it was causing him to splash me more, I mouthed ‘No McDonalds’
After our trip to McDonalds we went to the supermarket to collect a few bits. Shopping trips have always been a challenge and depending on what occurs on the day decides whether we’ll be in tears or laughter. I was happy to go with it though, because I’d got a pb that day, I was the dog’s bollocks and anything was possible. Joseph had been quite upset after I had told him he would need to share some crisps he had chosen. His tearful response was “I’m not gonna share some crisps!” This was followed by some random loud noises and whoops that caused people to turn and look at us.
When I looked to check that Joseph was following me I caught him admiring himself, knocking out his moves to our favourite Just Dance song. This time, I saw people turning to look and smile at my one man flashmob and I couldn’t help but laugh. As soon as the song was finished, we carried on as normal – see the Facebook page for the video https://m.facebook.com/JosephSpectrumCoat.
It was onwards and upwards as far as I was concerned and I opted for a visit to Meadowhall our local shopping centre. On a Saturday. ‘Why?’ you may be wondering. Well because I had run a pb that day, I was the dog’s bollocks and anything was possible.
On many occasions I have had to cut short a visit there with Joseph because it has been difficult to manage him and he’s not walked with me and held my hand. There have only been a handful of times where I have gone on a Saturday as I know it will be busier. I may be brave but I’m certainly not stupid and our visits are as swift as possible. I told him exactly what we needed to buy and was hopeful that he wouldn’t ask to go to Toys R Us or more importantly if he did ask, he wouldn’t kick off when I politely declined.
I needn’t have worried as he was focused on our tasks and went along with everything I asked. I wondered who had swapped my child. Even when we went into LUSH which is basically a sensory overload for anyone without autism, he didn’t freak out. He was actually quite taken with the various ‘cakes’ in the shop and it was me who wanted to get out of the shop at speed rather than him.
I decided to push my luck and went into the sports shop to check out their trainers which was all going pleasantly until I turned to see Joseph with his hand down the mannequin’s leggings. I stopped short of shouting “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING FOR FUCK’S SAKE?” and instead calmly asked him what was going on. He looked at me like I was stupid and said “I’m feeling it” I am certain that there was nothing more to it than him being curious as to what was down there but it didn’t stop me from feeling embarrassed at Joseph touching up the dummy and we hastily left the shop trainer-less.
I was no longer the dog’s bollocks and thinking anything was possible and we left for home.
Today as we prepared for our family holiday, I briefed all family members. No falling out, no getting the lip on if we’re not doing something you like and make sure you keep the accommodation tidy. This was mainly directed at Kev but I was hoping the kids would listen too. As we set off, I reiterated that everyone needed to behave otherwise they would be sent back on the train. Nobody was listening as they all had their headphones on but eventually the middle one said “Who will drive us back though?”
Ironically, the stereotypical autistic child with his headphones on doesn’t play a part in this family. My child is the one who seems to get pissed off with them and every ten minutes takes his off so his crazy tunes are blaring out, much to the annoyance of us all.
I wonder whether my dog’s bollocks will reappear on holiday or whether I will be counting down the time until I holiday as a twosome. Again.