The Boy is struggling again at the moment. I'll save his blushes by not giving too much away, but something isn't right in his world. The frustrating thing is trying to figure out what.
Sometimes it feels like we're playing the most painstaking game of 'Guess Who', trying to eliminate options and rule out anything that might have changed. Combing the crime scene that is his life to see if there's any clues, anything that might give the slightest hint at what is distressing him.
It's this not knowing that makes helping so difficult. For someone who's so eloquent much of the time, when it comes down to the stuff that matters, the words just aren't there. All that exists is anger and frustration and fear. I'll ask him what's wrong, and I'll just get a shrug of the shoulders as if to say 'nothing'. But those big blue eyes don't lie, and underneath the surface his whole mind is screaming back out at me, 'everything'.
It will pass, I'm sure, as it always does. And in weeks, months, even years down the line he'll eventually find the words to say what was wrong. It could be the most trivial of things, it could be of mindblowing importance, there's no way of knowing. It'll just be another lesson we'll both have learnt, something else we can chalk down to experience... another page we can add to the manual called 'Life'.
The Boy has been travelling independently to school for a few weeks now. I was going to tell you about it earlier, but once again the fear I might jinx something that seemed to be going so well meant I left it for a little while, just to be certain.
I say travelling independently, he goes in a taxi. With an escort. But it's as independent as life will be for the moment, and he seems to love it. Mainly because apparently the car is better than mine. And although I miss our chats on the drive to school, I love this new found independence too. It's another opportunity for him to break away and be his own person without awkward, stupid Dad always stepping in and controlling things, even if it is with the best of intentions.
He travels each day with another lad from school, TheBoyWhoAlwaysCarriesHisTeddy, the taxi driver and the escort (in keeping with the rest of this blog I was going to call her Mrs Escort, but that just seems wrong on so many levels... we'll settle for Mrs T.). Each Monday follows the same routine, the week starts with The Boy and TheBoyWhoAlwaysCarriesHisTeddy sitting together on the back seat, with Mrs T and the driver in the front. By Tuesday morning they've been separated and The Boy sits in the front seat. I don't ask the reason why anymore, I've decided I'm better off not knowing some things).
Each afternoon when the taxi pulls up at the door to drop him off I hear The Boy and Mrs T chatting away together on the doorstep. Laughing. I know he likes her, and the bit that makes me happiest, it's very obvious that she likes him. As I open the door I'll interrupt their conversation mid-flow. The Boy will stop talking instantly, and I'm left feeling like I've gatecrashed the world's greatest party. Whatever they were talking about is of no concern to my prying ears. They can pick up where they left off again tomorrow. He'll say goodbye to Mrs T and step inside.
Her name will pop up now and then, but The Boy keeps their conversations to himself. And although it's taken some getting used to, I like it. I like that he's taking more and more steps towards a life outside me. I like that there are things going on in his world that I know nothing about. Like the time last year he came home from school and suddenly declared he liked football and supported Arsenal, despite showing no interest whatsoever at home. Sometimes as parents I suppose letting go can be as important as holding on.
I did get one little glimpse into his new life. At Christmas, he got out of the taxi with a present from Mrs T. I could tell by the shape it was an annual. I guessed at Doctor Who or Minecraft, thinking that I'd suddenly discovered the topic of their conversations all this time.
Of course I was wrong. He opened it, it was a football annual. Manchester United.
"Yessss!!!!", The Boy shouted.
"I thought you supported Arsenal?", I said confused.
"I do", he replied with a heavy sigh, feeling the burden at having to once more explain everything to someone so stupid. "I support Arsenal at school... I support Man United on the way to school".
Well, it's been a while, I think I've now pushed the definition of 'Christmas break' to its absolute limits. I hate it when I don't blog for a bit, I start feeling the pressure of making sure it's a good one and then I don't write anything!
The holiday period has been a really lovely time. The Boy coped with the change and upheaval better than he's ever managed before. We spent Christmas Day at his mum's house as we always do, together with his Grandma and Grandad. Unconventional, as so many aspects of our life seem to be, but most importantly it works for him.
Christmas Dinner has traditionally been the main battleground of the day. The heat, the noise, the close proximity of others, the never-ending-ness of it all. But we've done this twelve times now, we've all had time to adapt. Lessons learned and remembered, not least by him. Oven off, hob off, window open, same seats, same food, same, same, same... For years I saw it as pandering, but I've been on a steep learning curve with this one too. Finally there's the realisation that I don't want him just to be able to tolerate events that we all take for granted, I desperately want to help shape memories that he will love and cherish forever.
And so as each cracker was pulled in turn and their contents had been assembled in a pile in front of him (I told you lessons have been learnt... who can forget the great toe-clipper battle of 2010?), we had a competition to see who could tell the best Christmas cracker jokes. I would read the joke first to absolute silence, then he'd read the same joke and the table would roar with laughter. He loved it. I thought it was a rubbish game. By the time the main course arrived the iPad and headphones were out, but being able to eat while watching his grinning face stuff chipolatas down one after the other was just perfect.
And so, to 2014... the final year of life as The Boy before he becomes The Teen. New Year Resolutions abound. I explained them to The Boy, about how we might try really hard to do something different this year. I only hope his own 'revolution' to "not swear as much" proves a bit more successful for the rest of the year than it has so far. Still, it's early days, and on a positive note, in the eye of the storm his creative use of the English language will never cease to amaze me...
As for Dad's dreams for the year ahead, well as always so many of them are for him. That he continues to thrive, grow, laugh, love, and baffle me each and every day. But of far more importance than all that, I truly hope that eventually he will come to like the new Doctor. I hear you son, I know he's old, and I know he will never be Matt Smith, but give it time. Inside he has the same two hearts, never forget that.
Thank you as always for dropping by. On behalf of the two of us, I wish you and your loved ones much luck and happiness for 2014.
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.