A couple of weeks ago we drove across London to visit a friend. There's often a sense of occasion driving over the River Thames, passing the Houses of Parliament and London Eye. Not so for The Boy. It's barely worth looking up for, he's seen all these things on Doctor Who, if anything there's just a sense of disappointment that a spaceship full of Slitheens isn't careering into the side of Big Ben as we pass.
We then drove on towards Buckingham Palace. The Boy likes the Queen. I'm not sure why she holds his interest - it could be the impersonal name, the lack of facial expressions from her or just the big house that does it, I don't know. All I know is that if the Queen is mentioned it's worth looking up from the iPad.
I told him to look out for the flag on top of the palace, and if it was flying it meant she was at home. He spotted it, fluttering away. "The Queen's at home", I said. "Yeh", he replied, "she's probably selling stuff on eBay..."
We both laughed for far longer than we should have. Just the absurdity of it. I didn't even know The Boy knew what eBay was. And rather than just enjoy the moment for what it was, Stupid Dad lets all his doubts creep in again. None of the books, manuals and websites mention jokes, let alone imagination. And once again that same question pops up. Is he really autistic?
Maybe it's the fear of going back to that time when he was a toddler when seemingly everyone had an opinion. "There's nothing wrong with him, he'll grow out of it, it's just you"... "Bite him back, that'll stop it"... "he's just naughty...". I'm not sure as a parent those times ever really leave you. His cerebral palsy is so much easier for everyone to accept. It's tangible, it's horrible effects are there for all to see, visible in his gait, in the pains in his legs at night. But the autism? That one's such a confusing, contradictory mess. And often it means that instead of seeing events like this as progress, as a sign of just how much The Boy has achieved over the years, instead they often make me feel like all those people years ago were right, we've just been playing a brilliant game of munchausen-by-proxy all this time and we're going to get caught out at any point.
And then a few days later something else will happen and I'll feel guilty for ever doubting him. The Boy takes a packed lunch to school and he never eats his banana, although it's always sent with him for fear that I'm a bad parent if I don't. And each day I make the same joke. "I've put your banana in your lunchbox, will you take it to school for a walk and bring it back home later?" Each day The Boy laughs and I think I'm hilarious.
And then one day last week something dawned on me, far slower than it's probably dawned on you reading this. I asked The Boy to eat his banana that day.
"Why?", he asked, puzzled.
"Because it's healthy" I said.
"Okay", he replied.
Since then the banana has been eaten each and every day and I'm left with yet another reminder just how crap I am at this sometimes.
By the way, just to make sure he really did know, I asked The Boy what eBay was. He didn't even have to think about it. He says it's where people go to sell rubbish...
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.