Our weekend away in a caravan was a great break for both of us. Sometimes it takes going away for you to recognise the changes that go unnoticed day to day. Like when you you visit your mum who you haven't seen for four months and she points out straightaway that half a stone you thought you'd been quietly getting away with.
And so it was revisiting a caravan park we hadn't been to for a while. I'd forgotten the previous battles getting out of the swimming pool, the altercations in the play area and the screams echoing around the bowling alley. For the most part, this time they were gone. Once again The Boy seemed so much older than he ever has.
Although the change in behaviour is delightful to see, I'm still unsure if the cause of it is a good thing. It was always social interactions with other children that created the problems - on the dancefloor in the evening, across a ballpit... that's where the difficulties came. When this little boy so desperate to make friends and interact didn't have the first clue how to do any of it. While other parents sat chatting and drinking he was the child who you never dared take your eye off. Hearing a scream from the ballpit and seeing a distressed toddler fleeing the scene clutching their wound and then discovering the culprit alone inside... confused, scared and mystified having got it all wrong again.
But this time there were no social interactions to worry about. And that's the bit I'm not sure is a good thing. Yes, it made for a less stressful time. But was the lack of social interaction just his age, or because he's learnt that there's no point trying to get along with people because it's all just too hard and confusing? I'm not sure...
Either way, the two of us still had a great time, revisiting old haunts. We sat in the same seats we always sat in when we went for dinner, The Boy told me which machines were new and which had been moved in the arcades and he pointed out the caravan we stayed in three years ago even though it wasn't in its original spot and in a park of 300 every caravan looked exactly the same to me.
He had jobs to do this holiday too. Chores. He likes the responsibility, the sense of being in charge. "I'm getting a big boy now" became one of his favourite phrases as he turned the lights off or locked the caravan each time we went out (granted, the time we went out all day it might have been more secure if the door had actually been in the frame, but we'll let it go...).
And he's never seemed older than when we went for dinner on the Friday evening. Clutching his Top Trumps he even sat alone while I went to the bar to order. Two adult meals. The kids menu was always going to be out of bounds since my own flashbacks of sitting in a Little Chef with my dad trying to convince a waitress that the 15 year old and two 13 year olds sitting in front of her were 9 years of age. Maybe if my elder brother had shaven that morning we might have got away with it a bit more...
After dinner and Top Trumps (for the record I won), The Boy was ready to head back to the caravan. No bingo, no playing with other children this time. And as we went to leave from out of nowhere came the highlight of the holiday. "Now I'm a big boy", he said as he watched me putting the cards back in their case, "can I have my own packet of mints?"
Oh son, just writing that line makes me smile more than anything. I always carry a packet of mints with me. I'm not even sure why, it occurred to me as The Boy asked that it's something my dad always did too, especially in the latter years when he took to stopping smoking once a fortnight. Other families pass on heirlooms and relics across the generations. Ours pass on mints. And as we walked into the shop to buy the confectionery of choice that evening, it felt like his coming of age ceremony, his very own bar mitzvah.
And if you were there that night, you might well have witnessed the momentous occasion. At 7.23pm on Friday 28th March in a caravan park in South East England, a young man walked out of the Spar corner shop and silently slipped a packet of Trebor Extra Strong Mints into his pocket. Turning towards the setting sun, he headed for home with the caravan key in his hand, and the whole world at his feet.
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.