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.