Monday, 27 June 2011

The Curse of The Guidebook...

Regular visitors popping down to these pages will know that I do, on occasion, indulge in a little rant about life with my youngest son, who has autism. Indeed, he provides so much material, I could easily fill a blog with autism anecdotes. But like the new mother droning on about nappies, (yep, done that) to those ghastly parents who’ll bore anyone daft enough to listen to how wonderful their child is, I know it’s probably not that interesting to anyone other than a parent in a similar position, whereupon such stories impart a certain amount of both comfort and one-upmanship; you’re either left thinking phew, mine does that too, or phew, thank goodness mine doesn’t. I also think it’s wrong to write about one’s offspring without asking if they mind, but this weekend the boy has exasperated me beyond all normal realms of exasperation, and so here we go…

He isn’t profoundly autistic, but neither is he mildly-so. Somewhere along the line he swallowed the textbook of autistic behavioural traits, because if you can think of something you connect with autism, he either does it, or has done at some point.

This weekend was different from usual with elder son away on scout camp. So to make amends for the brother shaped hole in his universe, I decided we should do something interesting, something I knew the boy would enjoy. So far, so good.

We took a trip to Knowsley safari park, not far from where we live. I know, I know; I don’t like zoos either, but I bet you did when you were ten, and he loves looking at animals. Crossing my fingers the car wouldn’t breakdown in the lion enclosure, I rolled up at the entrance, paid our fee, and took charge of my nemesis: the safari park’s glossy guide. And yes, you’re way ahead of me there… I did hand it to the boy thinking he’d like to read it. He did.

He read it all the way past the assorted antelopes. He was studying it closely when I stopped to show him the tigers sleeping in the grass. He’d started reading it all over again when we paused to let the lioness and her cubs gambol past the car. But he’d finished with it by the time we got to the baboons swinging from people’s cars, and was then asking loudly and repeatedly “can we go now?” Meanwhile, yours truly had plummeted into the depths of major sense-of-humour failure, tired of enthusing “Look at that, darling. Look at the baby lions. Look at the funny monkey. Darling? Darling, please look.”

He didn’t care if I had sold a kidney to get in. Actually, it’s not that expensive, but it would have been all the same if I had. He had his guidebook, and he was happy with that. Of course, when his Papa dropped round to see him the next day and asked which was his favourite animal, he wouldn’t answer. That’s because you didn’t actually look at the animals, I wanted to say. But then , in the cutest voice he can muster, he said “the lions.” He must have based that upon just how much I was trying to get his attention as the lions strolled by.

I managed not to say “but you didn’t look at the lions,” and I guess he enjoyed it in his own way. But there is one thing for sure, he is on a mission to propel me into stark, raving insanity. I’m not sure it qualifies as ordinary madness, but life with my smaller boy is madness nonetheless.


  1. I didn't know whether I should smile or rush around and give you a hug! Wonderfully written piece - truly, you should write pieces like this for magazines or similar and definitely share. You have an easy way with wit and successfully convey emotion in a way that a reader can empathise with the character/subject. This is something I feel about both your fiction and non-fiction pieces I've read.
    Kat X

  2. Kat, laugh or cry is a regular dilemma of mine, but it does help to share!! I'd love to write for magazines, but I'm too afraid to make enquiries...which sounds pathetic even as I type it. My dream job would be one of those funny 'opinion' type columns you see in glossy magazines. One day maybe....


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