This may well be a long post compared to the others. Apologies. It might not be the funniest one I've written either, but it is an important one.
As the blog has increased in popularity, so too has the amount of criticism levelled at me. Nothing major, but there has been some. Not so much for the blog, but for the show. And not from those who have seen it, I'll hasten to add, although like everything I'm sure it isn't for everyone. But some people have taken offence at the idea of writing a comedy show about life with an autistic child. That I am in some way 'mocking' him, even exploiting him, or making fun of his disability.
I do understand people's concerns, I really do. They are concerns I have levied at myself plenty of times over the last few months, as I've rewritten sections of the show, trying to get the wording and our story just right. And I agree completely with my critics - I would be a hideous father if I felt the show was ridiculing The Boy in any way.
There is joy in our lives, I guess that's the message here. There are jokes and there is laughter. That's what the show is about. I want people to better understand autism, and to understand what it's like raising a child who's different. Our lives didn't become entangled in one huge black cloud when The Boy was diagnosed. There is laughter in our world, sometimes because of, and sometimes in-spite of his autism. Yes, life can be extremely frustrating and challenging at times. But whatever I go through in this journey, it is nothing compared to what he is dealing with daily. But this is the hand we were dealt. And as a parent, and I guess the role-model in this, I can either teach him to succumb to it or together we can stand side by side and laugh in its face.
You see my favourite thing about The Boy is his sense of humour. And I like it because it's the same as mine. And above all I like it because it's the only bit of him I can proudly say, "he gets it from his Dad...". I can make him laugh easier than any audience. And vice-versa. And I know I'm biased but honestly, he's the funniest boy around. But it takes time for people to discover that. And there's only a few people in his life who have taken the time to get to know him. Properly know him. And although the rewards are rich, there are times where you have to see past a whole load of stuff and behaviours to get to that bit of him. The show and the blog enable me to do that. The comments where people write what an amazing son I have, or how brilliant The Boy is, will always be treasured. Because until this point nobody has told him that enough. And a child can never hear too many times just how extraordinary they are.
I think it's the stand-up comedy bit that makes people nervous. If I'd written a piece of theatre people would be far more comfortable with the idea. We've become so used to comedy being a divisive thing, that there must surely be a target - for there to be humour, we must be mocking someone or something in some way. Especially where disability is involved. I don't necessarily agree with that, but if there is a 'target' in the show, then it's other people's perceptions. It will never be autism. And it certainly will never, ever be The Boy.
We all want to do all we can for our children. I gave up work long ago when the idea of The Boy spending a full day at school was a far-off dream. And despite the Daily Mail trying to convince you otherwise, life hasn't always been a bed of roses when you're reliant on disability benefits and carers allowance. But The Boy is finally in a school that understands him, and things are more settled than they have been at any point in his life. And so I will use all my skills to build him as secure a future as possible. If I was a mechanic I'd build the fastest car. If I was an artist I'd paint a thousand pictures. But I'm not. All I can do is write and tell jokes. And there's an old saying that the best comedy comes from what you know. And so I will write and tell jokes about what I know to the best of my ability if it means he has even the slightest chance of a more secure future than I can offer him currently.
For the first time in my life I have a platform to shout to the world what an incredible, amazing boy he is. And knowing people are not just hearing me, but are nodding their heads in agreement is an extraordinary thing. And maybe, just maybe, it means in the future people might give him, and so many others like him, more of a chance. And maybe we might all try that little bit harder to try and understand what it truly means to be different.
That's what I want this to be about. But above all, let's never forget that laughter is a good thing. It may even be the best of things.
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.