I never thought I was a particularly jealous person. Jealousy is something we associate with jilted lovers, or with playground spats. We're so often told what a horrible emotion it is. And yet over the years it's one I've experienced time and time again. And even writing it down now, admitting it, seems like some shameful confession... For a long, long time I was jealous of other people's children.
From strangers in the playground to my own beautiful nephews and niece, I became jealous of them all. Every football goal scored, every exam passed, every joke told... they all caused this horrible feeling inside that I tried to push away. Why couldn't my son do that? And why can't any of you see this? Watching some young kid on Britain's Got Talent singing their heart out and then it cuts to the Dad beaming with pride, sandwiched between a grinning Ant and Dec. Why can't that be us?
But we so often focus on the negative of bringing up a child with special needs, yet there are positives in there too. Lots and lots of them. Without doubt, I am an infinitely better person as a result of The Boy. He has taught me qualities that I never even knew existed. I used to think I was a nice person, who enjoyed doing things for others, and I quickly learnt that was just a myth. I enjoyed doing things for others because I liked the praise and attention afterwards. To do something for someone, and expect nothing in return, that's the true test.
So The Boy will never play for the First XI football team, he'll never read History at Cambridge and he'll never run the 100 metres. But each and every day he surprises, delights and fascinates me. As a child all I wanted to do when I grew up was to make people laugh. And now there's no greater thing in this world than seeing him doubled up, giggling and snorting because of something I said.
The jealousy pretty much went a couple of years ago. It still comes back now and then - little pangs when I least expect it. It tends to be over the small things now - I've become used to the bigger picture, the parental dream machine was recalibrated some time ago. Now it could be the sight of a cub scout woggle or a child throwing their arms around their parents in a spontaneous show of affection that reminds me that our lives are different. Not better, or worse. Just different.
So, my magical son may never achieve greatness in the conventional sense. But through all of this if he has taught me one thing, it's what it truly means to love someone... to give everything, and expect nothing. And if at the end of all our lives we felt we'd touched someone enough to teach them the real essence of love, I'd describe that as a life well-lived.
Don't be jealous.
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.