On Friday night we had three friends round for a sleepover. The three friends are all brothers, ranging in age from eight to thirteen. Thirteen... a teenager... that terrifying vision of the future.
Within forty minutes of arriving half the fridge was gone and outside the flat the brickwork glowed orange with the surge of electricity as devices were plugged in across every room. The Boy loved it. I hid in my bedroom. Every now and then I would be summoned by a deep, bellowing teenage voice from the ringleader shouting "Joooohhhhhhnnnnnn!!!!" when they wanted feeding or watering. They all 'slept' in the lounge with a pile of pillows, cushions, duvets, sleeping bags and bourbon biscuits.
No-one had a wash.
It shouldn't really have worked for The Boy, a sleepover. It should have been a nightmare. Social interactions, close proximity, the change to routine, sharing his precious belongings with others, the lack of sleep the next day. But he loved it. The success of the night wasn't really down to him though.
You see, one of the three brothers who stayed is also autistic. I won't reveal which one to save his blushes. I'll just tell you he's a right laugh and brilliant to have around the place. But the two people who really made the night a success were his brothers.
Because The Boy is an only child, I'd never noticed the impact on siblings before. And I'd never really considered how difficult it must be for them growing up sometimes. Trying to understand why there's one rule for one and not for others, and trying to understand your brother's behaviour when you're still trying to come to terms with your own place in this world.
It was the little compromises that the brothers made almost without even realising they were doing it. Sharing a go on the computer often meant a rushed four and a half minutes for them... twenty five minutes for the other two. Who wants the last biscuit... oh, it's already gone. And it was all dealt with by a shrug of the shoulders and just wandering off to find something else to do.
We so often talk of the impact of raising a child with special needs on the parents, or on the child themselves. And sometimes their brothers and sisters get forgotten in it all. Yet their lives will forever be different because of it. Not necessarily better or worse, but different all the same.
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.