How an angel helped me to realise that my son's disability is what he's got and not who he is

Birthday boys 

It was my son's birthday yesterday
, he was three. I have to say I'm loving this age, he dances so beautifully between baby and boyhood. I am aware as I do many things - carry him on my hip; spoon the last few mouthfuls of yoghurt into his mouth, that it might be for the last time.

We stayed at my parents house as it was also my brother's 29th birthday. As well as a birthday they share a love of Thomas the Tank Engine and mum had got them two lovely Thomas cakes. When Roscoe and I stay at my mum's she basically takes over and I become relegated to helper. I don't really mind as helpers don't usually have to get up in the morning.  Yesterday, when I did finally surface, my mother told me she had laid out some clothes for Roscoe. I took him upstairs and found the freshly washed and ironed outfit - some stripey leggings and a T shirt with the word 'GENIUS' printed on the front. I immediately felt stung. When you think of a sting you sometimes imagine a short, sharp pain but what actually happens is a moment of bewilderment, before the shock of pain, followed by a nagging throb. At least that was how I was feeling when I confronted my mother, 

'That's very dark humour,' I said. My mum looked at me blankly, 'A T-shirt that says genius for the kid with special needs.' Mum immediately dismissed me, 

'Don't say that. I don't think of him like that, he's just my grandson.' I was undismissable, 

'He is your grandson that has a disability, it's part of his identity. I'm sick of people denying that.' Mum assured me that she wasn't denying anything, she just didn't like to think of him as anything other than Roscoe. She told me she bought the Tshirt ages ago, long before his diagnosis and it hadn't occurred to her he shouldn't wear it. I let it go because, birthday cake, but I was still smarting. 

The train on the way home was very crowded. Roscoe started to become agitated and I did my best to calm him with bread sticks but sometimes your best is not good enough. Waiting for the lift to get out the station a woman said to me, 

'Does he have autism?'

'Yes,' I said, 'what made you ask?' She said she had taught children with special needs for forty years and recognised his vocalisations. As we parted ways outside the station she said, 

'Don't let anyone convince you to hold him back, just because he learns in a different way doesn't mean he can't learn. If he's not ready now try again in six months, it just might not be the time for him.' 

'Okay,' I said. Perhaps sensing I was a little unconvinced she added brightly, 

'Half of NASA have autism!' Before walking away. 

I'm unsure of the accuracy of this statistic but I do know that within NASA is many a genius. 

My Mum watches the unfortunately named show 'Touched by an Angel'. In it a celestial being is sent to earth to convince a mortal to see the error of their ways. My encounter with this woman made me rethink the legitimacy of this concept. Had this woman been sent to Sussex to show me that rather than convincing others to embrace my son's condition, I should stop using it to limit him? I hope so because the alternative is far scarier - my mother is always right. 

Some other Mamas blogging about autism:


Touched by an Angel is currently showing on TrueEntertainment
Mummascribbles

You don't have gender disappointment, you need to get over yourself



Over at Channel Mum we've been talking about gender disappointment. Whilst this is not something I would wish upon anyone, I don't think it's so big a deal. I mean it's gender disappointment, not gender trauma. I felt disappointed on Thursday when I was informed that Starbucks have discontinued their Rise and Shine muffin but I tell you what, that was 48 hours ago and I'm over that shit.*

You too will get over any gender angst you have, primarily because gender is a construct. I appreciate that this is a very casual statement and perhaps an easy one for a cisgendered woman to make but simply for the purpose of discussing this topic I'm trying to make the point that you actually have a sex preference and if you start saying to yourself and others - I really hope my child has a penis, you'll realise how silly it is.

Have a good think about what you're so attached to. Do you want your girl to have long hair and wear cute clothes? My son has a head of bouncing curls, wears leggings everyday and looks like a rock star. You want a boy so he can play sports and rough and tumble? I mean have all those sanitary towel ads taught you nothing?

At the time that gender preference rears it's ugly head, it has nothing to do with your baby, he or she probably hasn't even developed sex organs yet! Of course it's all about you. In what ways did you feel limited by your gender? What negative experiences have you had with your less favoured sex? What messages from the world have you received about men and women? If you get to the root of these questions, you may find your gender goals shift dramatically. Now this is a case of do as I say and not as I do because I openly and ardently wanted a boy and what I got was a....ROSCOE. Or as his father described him recently a 'gorgeous, strange, train obsessed, beautiful, little bag of autistic joy'. And I wouldn't change that for the world.

If you have experienced or are concerned about gender disappointment please watch my video on why it's a good thing - I swear 'tis guvnor!




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*almost

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Why three kids can be easier than one


Almost a decade ago my partner begged me to let us get a cat. I was dead against it. I knew it would be the classic case of him having all the fun and me doing all the work and I wanted to avoid that or at least delay it until parenthood. After a year or so he wore me down and I reluctantly agreed to adopt us a fur baby. At this point my partner informed me that some genius had told him that if you have one cat, you might as well have two - you already have all the paraphernalia, it's just one more fluffy creature to love; so we got the demanding Saffy and her independent sister Rosie and what I discovered was two cats just meant twice as much poop to scoop. I often think of this when people I know have two, three and four children - I've experienced motherhood, it's like a chocolate coated hell, why oh why would one make that more difficult? Eventually we decided that two cats was one cat too many for our small first floor flat and we gave Rosie to our mate's ex-girlfriend, where I'm told she lives a lovely life but it's not really practical to do that with children. Given this I reckon there must be a reason people keep popping out the sprogs, beyond some innate biological need designed to further the existence of humanity and I think this might be it - having more kids makes parenting easier! And here's why...

STUFF JUST HAS TO GET DONE. As I lay with my son for three hours as he sings 'Old McDonald' on repeat until he passes out from exhaustion, I wonder how parents with more than one child do the bedtime thing but the truth is they just do. They don't have a choice. You can't afford to pander to one child when his or her siblings also need your attention, the kid goes to sleep because other people have to go to sleep, that's just the way it is. Less indulgence, more independence can only be a good thing. 

YOU LEARN TO SAY NO. When you have one child you can sometimes get caught up in the belief that you should do everything you did before but with a child in tow. Sure I'll come to your wedding in the Outer Hebrides! Absolutely I have time to listen to you break down your seventy sixth break up from your sociopath boyfriend. When you have several children, the limitations of time and space mean you have to put boundaries in place and this means saying no. Saying no is like a muscle, the more you do it the better you get and soon you're finding yourself saying no on a daily and boy does it feel good. 

YOU LEARN TO PRIORITISE. It's a lot of hassle organising a big family, so it gets to the point where you only do things you only really have to do and by and large those things are the things that really enhance your life and so you find yourself living your best life.

YOU GET ORGANISED. If you want your children to enjoy all the wonderful stuff life has to offer you're gonna need to run a tight ship because play dates and parties and after school activities do not organise themselves. It feels really good for everyone to know what's coming and when but particular for the person that's supposed to make it happen.

YOU DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. Sometimes we get it wrong but when you're a parent of more than one child you don't really have time to dwell on it because there's someone else that needs you, so you learn from your mistakes but there isn't time to dwell on them and this is good because wallowing in mistakes is not a fun time. 


Given the above this is what I plan to do, rather than have another child, I will behaved AS IF I have more than one child and in doing this I hope to beat the system! If you would like to practise your multi-child parenting skills, I have a tot you can borrow.

Cuddle Fairy
Run Jump Scrap!

Diary of an imperfect mum

How do I talk to my 8 yr old boy about private time without embarrassing him?


Here's the thing, I'm not sure what you mean by 'private time'. Do you mean sex? Do you mean masturbation? Do you mean lying in a bathrobe eating family bags of Skittles, cause that's my idea of private time. The fact that you have asked the question in this coy manner suggests it is not your son's embarrassment you need to consider but how to keep your own self consciousness at bay. Children are born pretty much immune to embarrassment, have you seen a toddler? They scratch, fart and pick their bogies with abandon. It is us grown ups that teach them to be ashamed of their thoughts and their bodies; sometimes this is a good thing but not always. 

I have always known about sex or more accurately, I have no memory of learning about sex because there was no fanfare, no sitting down to have THE CONVERSATION. I believe sex and relationships talk should be littered into daily life in the same way one talks about the benefits of eating your greens - not necessarily the most exciting subject and in no way off limits. You want the tone to be honest, frank and really matter of fact; you don't want your child to think this is something to be fearful of overexcited by, the facts of life are indeed just a fact of life. 

You might want to practise this, think about some of the more common questions your child may have and consider an honest but child centred answer you would feel comfortable delivering. Most of the awkwardness is generated by the shocked silence following a child's question about sex, be prepared and you can eliminate this potential pitfall.

A child is usually ready for answers when they start asking questions so in the meantime I think it's best to just show yourself to be an open, approachable parent. Have regular dialogues about friendships and feelings and make it clear that your child can ask you anything. If you are forced to confront an issue before the child is ready (say they walk in on you and a partner) simply stick to the facts necessary to avoid confusion. Again I would try and make it low pressure, you don't want the child to feel that they have done anything wrong. A friend once told me to approach awkward conversations from sideways, in the same way you would approach a horse (not that I ever have or would approach a horse but I can imagine). So activities that create connection without necessarily having to make eye contact - driving, cooking together, taking a walk - these can all be great opportunities to drop some knowledge on your kid, without them really noticing. 

If you find that no matter how casual your approach your son shuts down and as he approaches his tweens relies on counsel from Google, buy a big notebook and tell your son that you want him to be able to come to you with any questions and if there is anything he wants to know to jot it down in the book and leave it in an agreed place. You can then take your time to deliver him a positive, empowering message that he can take in in his own time. He may never use this notebook, and that's okay, the important thing is that he knows that it's there. 

Why I couldn't find the shame in breastfeeding


In the parenting blogging community there is a lot of noise made about the shame breastfeeding women experience. Constant judgement from others forces women to hide in toilets and wrestle with elaborate cover ups to disguise the task. I decided early on that I wanted to breastfeed my son and after a difficult initial month we did so happily for almost a year. I fed him in the bustling crowds of East London, where we lived and in quiet leafy suburbs when visiting his grandparents. I fed him in supermarkets and restaurants in planes, trains and automobiles. In fact I would schedule my feeds to be in public. If we were heading somewhere I would plan my trip to include a feed on the train, this would keep Roscoe quiet throughout the journey and meant he would be content on our arrival. I figured given a choice between a screaming child and a flash of my nipple the latter would win for most commuters. Of course I was aware that I might be offending people but I was ready, I had planned a handful of one liners to rebuff anyone that would dare question my decision to breastfeed my child. I was ready and yet what I experienced was...nothing. 

I'm sure some people did a double take but from my experience British people are very skilled at politely ignoring the obvious. The only stares that I noticed were from children watching in unbridled fascination, which made me very sad - they literally could not comprehend what I was doing. In the many months that I breastfed in public I received two comments:

1) A man in a health centre waiting room asked if I'd like to move to a room with more comfortable seating.
2) A woman in a pub saw me feeding as my chips went cold and when I had finished she smiled and said, 'Now he's eaten, you can.'

So why are so many women expressing that they find the breastfeeding journey so complicated and shameful, when what I found was a whole heap of nothing? These are my thoughts:

They're not ready for it. I was so firm in my belief that I was doing the right thing, that I was completely ready to give what for to anyone that would dare to question me. To be honest, I kinda secretly wanted it. When you're secure in what you are doing, I think people can sense it. Bullies pray on the vulnerable - believe in yourself and your boobs.

They don't love their body. I'm no Kim Kardashian, there's plenty about my body that I'm really not okay with but I accept it as the body I've got to work with. I think I'm lucky that I grew up in a pretty naked household, boobs and bottoms weren't seen as shameful things. If you believe that your boobs are something shameful you will subconsciously seek out confirmations of this from society.

They have experienced too much privilege. Living in this wonderful country many of us live a pretty blessed life. We all have our challenges but for a lot of women breastfeeding is the first time they have experienced negativity from complete strangers and that must feel pretty affronting but to be honest it's not that big a deal. There are idiots everywhere, it's not about you, it's always about them. The other day I was called n*gger in the street (thank you Brexit) and I thought, I'm so happy I live in a place where that numpty is an anomaly. I'm not saying to dismiss the negativity, I'm saying there are women in the world that are worrying about protecting their children from war and famine, not a dodgy look from a lady at the bus stop. We owe it to those women to keep on breastfeeding in public and doing so with pride. 


Did I just get lucky? What were your experiences of breastfeeding in public?

Admissions Of A Working Mother

The Sluttish Girl's Guide to Glamour



I'm a bit of a slut. A lot of a slut actually. Meant in the original sense of a woman with low standards of cleanliness. Actually this is a lie, I have high standards, I just can't be arsed to do what needs to be done to achieve them. If you're someone that feels the same - you would like people to see you as a cool, sexy, accomplished women, without actually putting in any graft, here's my sluttish girl's guide to glamour.

White Sheets. White sheets look divine even on an unmade bed. If you know you're laundry habits can't accommodate white, grey is an acceptable alternative.

Nice underwear. Glamour starts from the bottom up. Even with saggy tracky bottoms on you feel gorgeous if you know you have nice lingerie underneath. Also if anyone is lucky enough to get under those joggers, what a fabulous surprise.

Clothes hamper. A nice wicker clothes hamper hides a multitude of sins. If you have space to go for two, one for dirty clothes and one for clean. We all know 50% of mess is discarded laundry. This system works just as well for clothes, shoes and small children.

Toenail polish. So your friends and family greet you thinking, man is she a hot ol' mess and then you slip off your shoes to reveal perfectly polished toes. Everybody instantly reconsiders the birds nest hair and eyebags, if you've got a good pedi you must have your shit together! This doesn't work with fingernails as they chip too easily and reveal your inner slut.

Mismatched crockey. If like me you break a  piece of kitchenware at least once a week, keeping a full set together can be a hassle. I circumnavigate this problem by buying individual pieces from vintage markets - its not chaos, it's curated clutter.

Great perfume. Apparently smell is the most evocative of all the senses.You might look like trash but if you smell like a goddess that's what people will remember. Go for something really decadent like sandalwood so that people imagine you spend your evenings sipping fine champagne rather than horlicks.

Febreeze. If your hamper is hiding all your clothes you might not get round to washing. You can fix this fast with a spritz of Febreeze. This miracle in a spray will give your skinny jeans an extra day's *cough* week's life.

Soft furnishings. The devil's in the details. Get yourself some gorgeous throws and your living space will always look sumptuous. You can also chuck them over mess and hide stains in emergencies.

Red lips. Is there anything more glamourous than red lips? I don't think so. Spend some time finding a shade that suits you perfectly and you will always have a quick glamour fix right in your handbag. 


Do you have any other tips for keeping your sluttish ways under wraps?


 photo credit: Lipstick via photopin (license)