Last night's show in Chislehurst was a strange one for lots of reasons. I hadn't performed for a couple of weeks and things felt a bit rusty.
But by far my favourite part of doing the show is meeting people afterwards. And those who know me well will tell you that's very out of character. The conversation so often starts with someone coming up and saying "my son is eleven and he's..." or "my daughter has...".
The sentences don't need to be finished. In most cases, they don't even need to be started. You can see it in people's eyes. It's written all over their faces. That they belong to the My Child Is Different Club. And I hadn't realised just how far reaching membership was. This strange Club none of us signed up to, but we somehow find ourselves lifelong members of. There's no badges, no free gifts, no quarterly magazine. But just knowing that there are other people in the Club too somehow makes things easier.
You see, members of the My Child Is Different Club haven't always had an easy ride. Often feeling ostracised by other parents at the school gates because their child is the one who's disrupting class on a daily basis. Finally receiving a party invite after many years waiting and then wondering if running the gauntlet of the other parents is even worth the risk. When The Boy first went to a special school four years ago, none of the parents in the playground spoke to each other. The years of being shut out by the other mums at the school gates had taken their toll. Everyone put their head down, shuffling out hoping not to be seen, assuming their child was the one being spoken about by everyone else in hushed tones over by the climbing frame.
So, this is an appeal. To all members of the My Child Is Different Club. Do something that I failed to do for so many years. When you go to collect your little one from school, whether it's mainstream or special, hold your head up high. Walk tall. You're doing an amazing job. And your son or daughter? Never, ever forget that they are doing the very best they can with the knowledge they have. We will never know the internal battles and struggles that rage inside them daily. But be proud. Because each and every one of them is incredible. Just. The. Way. They. Are.
There's a new club in town by the way. It's called I Recognise Your Child Is Different And I Stand By You. It costs nothing to join. But it might just make all the difference. You in?
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.