Those with autistic traits can sometimes be mocked for their desire for routine, for consistency, for 'sameness'. But at this time of year I'm reminded that we all have those exact same desires for nothing to change. But if we dress it up as 'tradition' rather than 'obsession' then it becomes far more socially acceptable. "We always have dinner at 2pm"; "we always open our presents first thing"; "we always have a sherry with the Queen's Speech...". Are they really any different?
I remember growing up as a child, and at Christmas I wanted everything to be the same forever. Waking on a Christmas Day morning, my dad would line me and my three brothers on the stairs, oldest first. I was second in line - never before have the five minutes I arrived in this world before my twin brother been so important. Dad would get us to wait in position while he went ahead into the lounge to see if Father Christmas had been. The excitement, the tension... the entire 365 days since we were last stood in this spot had all just been waiting time for this moment. Dad would open the lounge door, just enough for him to step inside but not enough for us to see no matter how hard we strained our necks over the bannister. I'm sure the silence that followed only lasted seconds, but at the time it felt like forever.
"Oh no... No... Please, no...", he'd step back into the hall, disappointment etched on his face. "Mum!", he'd call up the stairs, "You need to come down... I'm sorry boys. He hasn't been. I don't know what we're going to do. There's nothing for you. I'm so sorry, lads. You'd better come and see..."
Every year of my childhood this ritual was performed. Yet every year we believed him. And then we'd file into the lounge and by the light of the Christmas tree we'd discover that He had very much been after all... "Happy Christmas, boys", Dad would say, his grinning face lighting the dark corners of the room that the tree lights didn't reach.
In my lifetime I've now had more Christmas's without Dad around than I spent with him. And he probably never realised it at the time, but those few moments of routine on Christmas Day morning have left an indelible mark on me forever. He constantly worried that he wasn't educated enough, or earned enough, or was good enough. As parents we spend so much time worrying about the big things that sometimes we forget the small ones. I don't even remember the presents I received each year. But if anyone ever asks me to define the true meaning of happiness in my life, it will forever be shaped by the memory of standing on the stairs on a cold December morning, waiting to see if He's been...
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.