As parents of children with additional needs we're often accused of not letting our children grow up, of doing too much for them, keeping them forever young. I get that, and I'm certainly guilty of it. Maybe it's because The Boy isn't doing the things that other twelve year olds do that I forget sometimes how old he is. He isn't going out knocking on friends' doors to play or nipping to the shop to grab a pint of milk... apart from Doctor Who he's never sat through anything on TV broadcast after 7pm.
So many of the things I do without even realising. Habits formed over the years - so used to fetching drinks or helping put on shoes that it's become second nature, and it's only now writing it down I even realised I was still doing much of it. For a quarter of my lifetime I've been helping dress The Boy in the mornings - it's as much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth.
I know I'm not doing him any favours by helping too much. In terms of dressing, I've never really known how much he can't physically do because of his cerebral palsy, or how much he can't do because there's-no-need-as-someone-else-will-do-it-for-you. But if he's to have a stab at independent living when he's older then I need to start putting that in place now. It's something I should have done years ago, but his clothes are all labelled now in drawers for him to dress himself. I've agreed to still help with socks. There's a cupboard in the kitchen that has been emptied and labelled so it is now his cupboard, it contains drinks, cups, snacks and stuff for breakfast.
All this has come about because the other morning I asked him for a cuddle when he woke up, and I finally realised just how old he is. He used to always come in my bed in the mornings, and it's something that had stopped without me even realising... Don't get me wrong, his cuddles were never a delicate affair, they always involved just launching your whole bodyweight on the person, but that morning as he lumbered across the bedroom and then threw himself at me, it felt like I'd invited a plasterer called Keith to come and share my bed with me. Then when I couldn't find a matching pair of socks and I realised I could just borrow a pair of his as they're the same size, it was the final straw.
So this is it, day one of the new Independent Living manifesto. So far, The Boy has been up for three hours. I asked him when he was getting dressed, he has stated that he's leaving his onesie on all day. Twice he has asked for a drink, when I reminded him where his cupboard is, he has declared he isn't thirsty. The hunger strike is in full swing. I daren't even ask him when he's going to start on the plastering...
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.