I see you. Enjoying a life I had expected a long time ago. You’re sitting at the edge of the trampoline centre reading a book. You look totally engrossed in it, glancing up occasionally and topping up the tea (maybe coffee) from your flask. Your children have their own water bottles at your feet. I’ve called them Jack and Katie (the children, not the water bottles). Katie pops back from time to time for a slurp of water from her daisy bottle but I never see Jack. I guess he is off enjoying himself.
I am enjoying myself too but in a very different way to you.
You see, I’ve brought my two children to the trampoline park just like you have…but I have to bounce. I wear very sexy lime green socks with rubber grips that make me feel like a cross between Kermit the frog and Spiderman. I bounce with Harry because I can’t leave him on his own like your Jack. He might be twelve but his autism means he functions around 2 and a half years old and with no stranger danger or fear of much at all he can be a danger to himself and others at times. He’s also non verbal so he can’t call me if he needs to or let anyone else know who he is or where I am If he was to get separated from me. So, I stay at his side the entire time. He doesn’t tell me that he’s having a great time like Katie tells you when she dashes back momentarily but I can tell. You read your book, I read my boy. His smile and the ‘happy snuffle’ he does when he’s excited tell me he’s happy. He would bounce forever if he could.
I get tired though. In every sense. My legs ache from the incredible workout that bouncing gives them and my bladder control isn’t what it once was. More than once I find myself wishing for a Tena lady! My head aches because I need a drink but I can’t leave the arena because Harry is loving the bouncing so much and I can’t locate Oliver to let him know we have nipped off. If I leave without telling him, his anxiety levels would be through the roof and he would be distraught. So, I bounce. Sometimes I sit down and Harry sits next to me, snuggled in like they do when they are infants. I love that. I like to stroke his hair and kiss his head. I can feel him smiling. You look up then and see us. You smile at me and its not a pity smile or patronising at all like some people send our way. Just a smile from one mother to another. You look so relaxed. Then you have a drink from your flask and for a moment my heart aches for those moments you take for granted that I will never know.
Then we are bouncing again. Legs and bladder to the test once more.
Katie comes over to you and notices us. She pulls that familiar face of curiosity and grimacing that we are so used to and you distract her quickly. She asks you to watch her for a minute which you do and then she’s off bouncing around and you’re back to your book.
We have a small group of boys come over to point and stare at Harry so I bounce us over to them and introduce my boy. We chat for a few minutes and as soon as the boys realise that Harry is just the same in many ways as they are, they leave us in peace. I see an adult with them stand up and watch what is going on. She sits down once she sees me smiling and carries on the conversation with her friend.
You’re reading quietly.
Meanwhile, Oliver is testing his skill on a new gladiator style activity where he has to jump over and duck under rotating padded arms. It looks like great fun and he shouts me to watch. I shuffle to the edge of the trampoline we are on (I chose the one closest to the activity on purpose as I predicted Oliver would love it) and watch him in between whizzing my head around to keep an eye on Harry. It makes me dizzy and nervous. If God really did choose us as special parents for our special children you would think the least he could do would be to equip us with 360-degree rotating heads like an owl. That would help a lot.
Katie comes over to ask you something and you answer her but you don’t look up from your book. It must be a really good part. I find myself trying to see what its called but I only ever read when I’m on holiday. Day to day life is too hectic. Finding moments to pee alone is a challenge let alone read a book.
Oliver loves the activity and does well. He bounces with Harry at times and gives me five minutes to watch them. He’s an incredible brother and the unsung hero of our story but he wants to be off doing flips and bouncing off the walls (literally) and so it’s not too long before he calls me back, kisses Harry and leaves us again. Bouncing.
You’re really enjoying that hot drink.
I show Harry how to pull his knees up as he bounces and I sing with him to the resident DJ tunes that are played which makes him laugh. My boy loves a good dance so we do some party dance moves and I catch myself wondering if I have sweat stains under my arms and tell myself not to wear grey again.
You’re wrapped up lovely and warm as its cold in the arena if you’re not bouncing. Hence the flask I guess.
The catch-up mums sitting on the floor to your right are laughing their heads off at something or other. I don’t know where their children are. It doesn’t look like they know either but it’s a safe arena so there’s no need to stress at all.
But I stress. I want a wee but I can’t find Oliver to tell him and even if I could, I can’t take Harry off the trampoline without him screaming and shouting at me. Once we come off, we go home. Life on planet Autism is governed by rules. That’s one of them.
To be fair, I don’t see you nipping to the loo either. I’d have toilet break envy if you did so I’m relieved that you stay seated as I bounce in front of you.
The announcement comes that its time for us all to leave the arena. Our time slot is up and Katie makes her way to you. As me and the boys are getting off the trampoline you give me such a lovely smile that I want to hug you. You have given me a glimpse into a world I had imagined before one moment changed our lives forever. Its like looking through a window as you’re passing by and seeing a life you know will never be yours. Sometimes it makes me sad. Today, I’m ok with it. Sure, I’m out of breath and shattered with possibly a couple of very unattractive sweat stains but my boys have loved the hour and I was an active part in it. Don’t get me wrong, If I could have my head in a book and enjoy a hot drink in peace for an hour I would be delighted but that would be a different life for me and although I would never have chosen this one at the start I wouldn’t change it now. Plus, I don’t know what you deal with outside of this hour. Maybe you need that down time as much as I do. I smile back as you close your book and reassemble the flask.
As I put Harrys shoes on and ask him if the day was good or bad he smiles at me in a way that radiates absolute delight and says “goooood” before kissing me at which point my heart bursts. You might have the life I will never know. You might enjoy peace, relaxation and average blood pressure but I have the joy of a life few are ever blessed enough to know, calves of a bison and a lucrative sponsorship deal with Tena Lady (ok that bits not true but the calves are rock hard!)
Have a lovely life.
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Love this post, love the book, so many of your feelings (but of course not all) are similar to those I have experienced over these past 8 years since diagnosis. I judge others a lot less than I used to, too. And I love my life as it is, can’t really imagine it being any different now. No huge plans for the future here though, it’s just all about the making the most of now x
I totally get that. Im much slower to judge now and quicker to smile. How lucky we are to have children that have created that in us C xx
Totally get this. I often wonder what people may think about what I’m doing. Am I just a big kid? Don;t I care that my kids have the iPad at max volume? But then I’ve got it awesome in other ways… that others will struggle to understand too. xxx
I dont care either! Maybe thats another of our childrens super powers – to not care about what others think in the moments we are making those who mean the most to us happy C xx
Yes!! Great post. Sometimes it’s the small things that leave a sting in the tail, and it can get you when you least expect it. Happens to me at the most random times! X
Always the way isnt it! C xx
Beautifully written, beautifully put, beautiful post x
Thanks so much C xx
You know what, I bet part of her wanted to get on a trampoline and bounce too, I mean, who wouldn’t really and she was probably jealous of you for at least a moment. xx
I’ve never really thought very much about how parents feel and deal with a special needs child. But since reading your blogs I’m beginning to understand a little more. Both your boys are very lucky to have you as their mum ! X
Yeay! I really hope to open my heart and others eyes to the challenges and the fun that we face C xx
I so admire you Charlie and also Oliver, but I also envy Harry at times for his innocence and his cheer joy of living expressed in unashamed expressions of emotion. God always gives something special to special children and Harry is definitely one of them. I also have to say that Oliver is also special, you are so blessed Charlie to have two of them in your life, make the most of it while you can. Anne
Thanks so much. Andrew always says that Harry is the lucky one to be free of so many of the constraints of society. I am one very blessed mother C x
Loved this Charlie. Particularly the bit about needing the loo. So many times (including today) when i can’t move him yet neither can I leave him x
Its the little things that so many take for granted that often pose the biggest challenges for us isnt it C xx
What a lovely post, I enjoyed reading about your thoughts. It does sound like a good work out too, all that jumping around!
Its a great workout and good fun too! Thanks for your comment C xx
Beautiful. As always, pertinent, observant and emotionally intelligent. Made me cry! Thank you and happy new year, whatever it holds!
Thanks so much Sally. And to you and yours C xx
I could imagine you’d describe me like the other mother in this post. Superficially my little boy (8) would potter off on his own and look completely independent. I might take some work with me to glance through while he played. But mostly I need to be there. He was estranged from his big sister when he was 3, lost his granny when he was 6. He gets anxious at school, is risk averse, and doesn’t have a huge crowd of mates. It’s a different kind of attention he needs, less obvious maybe, but he needs it all the same. No parent has the life they imagined for themselves. All of us, at some point break our hearts from seeing cruel behaviours or lost opportunities for our kids. So maybe that mum, maybe that was her quiet safe moment when she knew her two were okay just like yr two were. Maybe as she left the arena she got back on the rollercoaster. Question is, can we ever really say ‘I see you’ about someone else?
Totally agree Jane. I mentioned that too. We never know the battles that others are facing so I like to think that I am slow to judge and quick to listen. It makes a big difference C x
I had this same experience at a trampoline park (at first the attendant told me I couldn’t jump with my son)- which led me to tears because it had been one of those days- and then my son was crying again too… Luckily he let us jump in the younger kid area and we ended up having a great time, but it is always an action sport when I am out with my 6 year old. Hugs to you.
Thanks Carole. My Harry needs to burn off some energy too. I do wonder what will happen when im 80 but till then we just keep on bouncing 🙂 C x
I know you know already, but you’re doing a great job <3 what lucky boys to have such a great mum to take them to cool places even though it's exhausting. …and I say, embrace the Tena lady! I did, and it relieves a lot of worry 🙂
And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the #BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your "I've been featured" blog badge 🙂
Ah Ive only just seen this comment! As if I am a blog crush! Thats got me all excited ad super chuffed! Thanks loads and thank for your lovely comment C xx
Loved this Charlie! It made me a bit teary. Those mums will never know our lives, but then, we will never know theirs. I am VERY envious at your ability to bounce for more than 3 seconds – my bladder won’t let me anymore! Going to share this on It’s a Tink Thing x #blogcrush
Thanks so much :-* xxx