[02 my children will do it differently]

This year I’m taking part in #reverb11, an online initiative that’s all about reflecting on 2011 and looking ahead to 2012. Each day in December will bring a new prompt to reflect on. You can find out more here.

Day 2 – My Children Will Do it Differently – If you could choose one thing that your children will do or experience in a different way than you have, what would it be and why?

I have one child. He’s nineteen, so barely a child at all, really, and very much a young man. He just passed his driving test, so he’s already managed to do something differently – and I guess when I say differently, what I mean is better – than I have. I’ve had lessons in sporadic bursts since I was seventeen, failed one test and managed to convince myself that I’m a public transport kind of girl.

Over the past nineteen years I’ve tried very hard to manifest the things in his life I wanted to be different from mine. Things like being sure of himself, of knowing who he was and what he thinks. This is the boy who, at the age of five, happily told the head teacher of his Church school that he was an atheist; he became a vegetarian a year later. He’s vociferous about equality – he simply doesn’t get why differences of any kind result in all the –isms that abound. He knows what he thinks, and he’s proud of what he thinks. He’s proud of himself. Not with a sense of assumed privilege or entitlement, but with a fundamental solidity. Of course, that makes him a stubborn pain-in-the-ass sometimes – and please, no comments about apples not falling far from the tree here.

He lives with Asperger syndrome, although you might not notice that at first. He refuses to view himself as having ‘special needs’, referring to them instead as ‘special powers’. He thinks it’s great that he has a cavernous memory, that he knows everything anyone ever needed to know about buses. He loves that he’s super-organised and happily cleans and tidies around the house. Well, mostly – this is a teenage boy we’re talking about here. Life has thrown a vast amount of challenges at him, from teachers who just couldn’t be bothered to educate themselves to situations none of us could foresee would be distressing. When he was finally excluded from mainstream school he sobbed as I led him out of the building, crying that he needed his education. He has reserves of strength and bravery that are quite remarkable.

I have vague memories from when I was pregnant, thinking about the baby inside me, this little person-in-waiting. I had big ideas about what I was going to teach my child, but over the years I’ve come to see that, actually, it’s your children who teach you about life, who make you see things differently, and lead you into doing things you could never imagine, from shouting right back at the woman in the supermarket who complained about their behaviour, to picking up worms and spiders, because you suddenly realised you don’t want them to have silly phobias.

If ever there was a thing that was user-led, it’s parenthood. The manuals and websites and tips from helpful relatives go right out of the window, and you end up making it up as you go along. And then one day you look, and that scrappy, red-faced thing that you could pick up in one hand has turned into a handsome chap with size thirteen feet who’s waving a driving test pass certificate at you. I’m proud of him, and he’s proud of himself. I think I did well there.

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  1. Oh Emma. This is a heartfelt tribute to what sounds like an amazing young man. But then, given that he’s yours, he’s already more than a little special. In the best possible way.

  2. I’m biased, naturally, but thank you!

  3. You did an amazing job, clearly. This is such an adorable blog post! I look forward to reading more from you. 🙂

    • That’s very kind, thank you. I think, like most parents, I just did the best I could with what I had; I’ve always tried to enjoy being a parent, too, I think that helps, too.

  4. *Big happy sigh after reading this post*

    Also, hell yes to special powers!!

  5. I love this post, it may be my favorite of the day. Thank you so much for sharing it. I am glad that reverb11 steered me to you.

    • Oh my goodness, what a lovely thing to say; thank you.
      Making new friends and connections was one of my favourite things about #reverb10 – I’m so pleased it’s happening already this year.

  6. Special powers. I like that. A positive way of being “other” in a world that demands pigeon-holing whilst claiming to detest it.

    • He really does seem to embrace his otherness, and manages to do so in a way that is (mostly!) charming. And he positively rejects peer pressure, so I’ve never been confronted with demands for designer labels, which is another bonus!

  7. What a great post, Emma. Your son sounds like a great guy 🙂

  8. Special powers….love that. You obviously did something (many things) just right. Sounds like we should all grow up to be just like him.

  9. This made me smile. From what you write in other places I know he is a remarkable young man, and you’re a fantastic Mum x

    • That’s very sweet, thank you – you know as well as I do that some bits of parenting are really hard work, and there are some days when I’m very nearly tearing out my hair, but when I step back and look at how far he’s come, I’m very proud of us both.

  10. I agree, our children do teach us much more than we teach them. I tutor a young man the same age as your son who also has Asberger’s, and I’m very aware of the challenges you face as your son’s mother but also the joys and truimphs you experience along the way. Your response to this prompt is a testimony to the relationship you have with your son. I concur with Jason’s comment above – definitely my favorite response to this prompt!

  11. That’s very kind, thank you. I’ve always tried to make sure the lines of communication have been kept open – not always easy, and sometimes communication takes the form of shouting at each other! – and I think that’s helped us have a really honest relationship.


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