No Tragedies Here

I don’t know how to write about my children here anymore.

I don’t know how to write about being their mum.

And it shouldn’t be this way, because of course I could wax lyrical about their sweet natures, the funny dances in the living room, the look on Tristan’s face when we took him to CBeebies Land, the way Leo presses his face against ours and closes his eyes to say “I love you” in a language that’s only his. I could write, talk and sing about my children.

What I mean is that I don’t know how to write about autism.

And that’s not my fault. It’s because I love my children that I don’t write about autism. It’s because I love three autistic people more than anyone else I’ve ever known that I don’t write about autism.

The internet is brimming with blogs written by parents of autistic children sharing details of the tragedy of their lives, the hardships, the ‘victories’, the regrets, the vaccines (or not), the meltdowns, the poo smearing, the anger, the pain, the BEWARENESS. That isn’t me. Those people make me angry and sad, and angry some more.

Because autism isn’t a tragedy.

My husband is autistic. He is the most beautiful, kind soul. He is fiercely intelligent and lacking in all common sense. He can be selfish and stubborn and silly, and looks amazing without a shirt on.

My eldest son is autistic. He is a star, as close to an actual embodiment of a twinkling celestial ball as is possible. I don’t know what universe he’s from but it must be a magical, enchanting place. He’s funny and creative and so innocently charming that it makes my heart flutter. He can be feisty and bossy too, but so, so sweet. He sees the world through his own kaleidoscope and it is simply beautiful.

My youngest son is probably autistic too. He hasn’t been diagnosed yet as he’s still so young and the process is more complicated, but we believe he is, as does his speech therapist, and we’re waiting to hear on his referral. He is my baby, my two-year-old-but-more-like-a-one-year-old. His favourite place to be is in my lap, whether he’s happy or hurt. He doesn’t speak at all, but his eyes sparkle with mischief and his smiles take over his whole body. He hiccups when he laughs too much. He feels with every inch of his body.

There are no tragedies here.

What I wish is that I could be an antidote to the vast wealth of negativity out there. A parent writing as an ally to my autistic family and the community as a whole, not as a victim.

Because I’m not a fucking victim. My children aren’t victims. My husband is not a victim.

(…Well they might be victims of an ignorant society, but certainly not of their neurotype.)

I hope to be that blogger, that ally. I want to throw my hat into the ring and use my privilege as an allistic adult to advocate for my children and fight for autistic rights and the recognition of neurodiversity. I care more about this than almost anything else in my life.

But right now there are other things waging war in my head. Some tangible, real life monsters – most not. I am tired, worn, drained. And everything I feel I want and need to say for the benefit of my family and to show my pride in them for being exactly everything they are gets lost on the journey between my brain and my fingers, and I no longer outwardly have the fluency to say everything the way it deserves to be said.

You might suppose I could write about my family without mentioning autism, but you’d be wrong because to understand autism as a concept you must first understand that it isn’t something that’s separate from my children. They don’t have autism. They don’t suffer from autism. They don’t live with autism. They are autistic. It is who they are. To write about our latest trip away or the loss of our dear pet or why Thom created a YouTube playlist for Tristan of themed hotel rooms would mean writing about them, and they are autistic. I can no more remove autism from my family than I can change the colour of their eyes. And I would never want to.

I want to write about my family more freely and confidently, knowing I won’t hurt them or their community with my tired words. I want to stand up and say, “I’m not a victim.”

I’m not a “warrior parent.”

I’m not an “autism mom.”

I’m Lindy, and I’m the luckiest wife and mummy in all the universe (and wherever Tristan’s from).

I just need a little time to do this right.

Two

Two years ago today I woke up at an ungodly hour in an unfamiliar bed, butterflies in my stomach and my hair a medusa-style mess. I opened a letter from my best friend and lover and read it under the covers, using my phone as a torch. The words in that letter soothed my heart and reassured me more than anything else could that day. It told me that all the choices I’d made up to that point had been the right ones, and I didn’t feel nervous any more. I got up, had my breakfast, and changed my life forever.

Our relationship was difficult then. We didn’t talk to anyone about it because what right minded couple gets married when their relationship is on the rocks? We didn’t need the criticism. We’d just bought our first home, decorated and furnished it on a shoestring, while simultaneously planning a wedding that truthfully only Big T was keen on (I wanted to elope because agoraphobia + a room full of people = freak out). It was a stressful time, even objectively. But on top of that, we were both going through personal transformations away from one another. For my part, I’d just finished therapy and my outlook was new, and my feelings were fresh and raw. I felt anger that had previously been dormant – suddenly chair covers and centrepieces seemed utterly trivial. As for Big T, well, that’s his story and I can’t speak for him, but he was wrestling with his own issues. We weren’t part of each other’s problems, but we couldn’t help each other either because what we needed more than anything then was tonnes of chocolate and some serious self-care, which meant that just before we got married we seemed separate and far away, like we were circling the earth on different moons.

But I’m grateful for that – because it meant we married out of sheer love. Nothing at that point really aligned apart from how fiercely we loved one another. Through the personal battles, frustrated arguments, and tears at midnight in our freezing Hyundai in the supermarket car park, there was never a question of love. We looked at each other, open and vulnerable, metaphorically bedraggled, and said, “I want you more than ever.”
So two years ago we got dressed up, stood in front of our families and friends, and committed ourselves to the unknown. And what an unknown it turned out to be!

Just four months into our marriage we began trying to conceive. We unexpectedly succeeded first time, and so began the crazy, beautiful, sometimes tragic journey that has brought us to this place now, with the amazing little person we created. It feels as though we haven’t stopped since we said “I will.”

So what of our relationship now, amidst the chaos of real life, PND and our whirlwind baby?
It was rough for a while. But adversity has a clever way of bringing together or pulling apart, and in our case we’re lucky enough to be stronger than ever for everything that’s happened. I would never claim that Big T and I are the ‘perfect’ couple, but by my own grossly lopsided definition of perfection we’re pretty darn close. Perhaps we cuddle and kiss a little less now, and we never have the chance to curl up with popcorn and a dvd (that’s our ‘refuses to sleep alone’ baby for you), but we communicate well and often. We really talk, the kind of talking that film characters do from rooftops and laid out in wheat fields under the stars, except we do it in bed with cats on our bellies and our baby’s white noise track playing in the background. We are real with one another, down to our bare bones. We’re vulnerable, and we trust each other with our insecurities and fears. We always apologise. We are trying constantly to better ourselves, for each other, for our relationship and for our son.

I’m not trying to brag. Like I said, we’re not perfect. Big T is stubborn and reluctant to admit fault and I have a cruel tongue and a tendency to lash out with it when I’m upset. What I’m proud of is that we work hard every day to be the best we can be, and in the poopy, dribbly storm that is parenting we haven’t forgotten one another. More than that, we see each other more clearly and with more depth. I adore my husband not just for how he loves me, but for how he loves my child.

Becoming a parent has been the making of Big T in many ways and I’m so proud of him. He is never stronger than when he’s holding our son, never more gorgeous than when he’s elbows deep in a dirty nappy, never more talented than when he’s crooning yet another rendition of L-O-V-E over a tiny stirring face, and never sweeter than when he’s sleeping with one hand resting gently on our boy’s chest.

I’m so very, very lucky. ❤