Ship to Shore

I knew I was having a boy before he was even born. And I don’t mean that in some sort of hippyish, at one with the universe kind of a way, I mean we had the gender scan and saw his willy on a screen. Furthermore, we had already picked out his name, without any question, indecisiveness or alternatives. He was then, and would always be Sawyer. When I think about Sawyer’s autism I draw some comfort in that, although I’m not sure I understand why. I suppose thinking about him already having been Sawyer before he was born makes me feel that his fate was already decided, and helps me to believe that I didn’t do anything wrong. Sawyer was born two weeks past his due date and despite my impressive weight gain, was placed in to my arms at a minute 6lb 5oz. I remember looking down at him with such immense relief that he had finally arrived safely, and counting his fingers and toes in a state of disbelief. He was perfect. Today that tiny, perfect baby turned 6 years old, and I cannot begin to express how lucky I feel to have had the pleasure of spending another milestone with him. I have spoken in the past about how in many ways I feel like Sawyer’s early years were stolen from me, but I recognise that as time passes those memories become clouded, and are softened by the newer ones.

I am writing this blog from a sofa in the corner of one of the quaintest flint cottages I’ve ever clapped eyes on. The room is dimly lit and smells of antiques. To my left is a door to the tree-adorned garden, and to the right, past my glass of bubbly, is the almost hidden doorway to the stairs that lead to the bedrooms. My daughter has been asleep for some time, but I can still hear Sawyer reciting Thomas the Tank Engine stories, and occasionally ricocheting off of the walls. When we arrived 3 nights ago, the children were beyond excited and the energy their excitement exuded gave me a buzz that took me straight back to my own childhood, and the exhilaration that comes with going on holiday as a child. I still remember sitting in the back of the car, singing “Ship to Shark” by Chris de Burgh (yes I know, I know, – it is what is is). We went upstairs to explore the bedrooms and find out where we would be staying, and my heart sank through the original floorboards when I realised the steep, stone staircase was right outside their bedroom door. My mind reacted in the way it knows how, frantically searching for a practical solution, whilst simultaneously questioning myself as to whether or not I am overreacting. I spent approximately 2 hours bleeding inwardly before finally emailing the owner of the cottage and asking if, on the off chance, there might be a stair gate knocking around. She replied almost instantly suggesting a couple of places I could look for one, and also helpfully offering the fact that the latches on these old cottage doors are quite high and so most toddlers can’t actually reach them without help. I didn’t feel the need to explain that it wasn’t the toddler who was likely to come hurtling out of the bedroom pinball style at any given point throughout each evening and night, and luckily I came across the hidden stair gate, so all was well once again. I’m still not sure if toddler-age Sawyer has infected my mind to the point that I’m now over-protective, or whether I’m just making sensible steps to ensure Sawyer – both my children – are always as safe as they can be. My mind is a constant game of tug-of-war, with ‘keep them safe’ on one team, and ‘don’t make them fearful of life’ on the other.

This holiday has already been so much more enjoyable than those of the past few years. And I’m saying that despite my car air-conditioning having broken down at the exact same moment the electric windows gave up the ghost. So that gives you some idea of what holidays have been like! I don’t really know if it’s because Sawyer is getting older and is easier to understand generally these days, or whether he is using the tools I’ve given him along the way, but he has been a star this holiday. Yesterday we went to Wells-Next-the-Sea with the intention of crabbing, like hundreds of other excited holiday-makers (and locals). As we approached the perfect spot, Sawyer simply told us that he didn’t want to go crabbing, and that he would like to read his book instead. With that, he looked across and found a quiet spot away from people, sat down cross-legged on the concrete, and read his book aloud to himself. I had tears in my eyes as I followed him over and sat myself down next to him – not sad that he didn’t want to join in, but elated and proud he had found a way to make himself feel more comfortable. Two people in less than 1 minute commented on him ‘being moody’ and ‘having the hump’ and for those moments I wished they could see life through my eyes, or his. Because it’s okay to need a bit of space, and sitting quietly to improve your own anxiety doesn’t make you moody – it makes you a superhero, whether you’re autistic or not.

Today Sawyer woke us up at 8am, but not in the way you might think. He didn’t come running in to our room and declare it was his birthday – he woke us up by slamming his bedroom door. Bear with me, it’s not like it sounds. We had left their bedroom door open the night before because the warm weather was making their small room too hot. When Sawyer woke up at 8am he obviously didn’t appreciate that the door was not as he had left it, and so up he got, slammed the door shut, climbed back in to bed and went back to sleep. We actually called him in to say happy birthday at about 8.30am. Downstairs was decorated, of course, in Thomas the Tank Engine party paraphernalia, and his gifts were all Thomas-related, much to his joy. We went to the coast again, slid down bumpy slides, played in rock pools, ate ice-cream and watched the ships sail along the horizon. The day wasn’t completely flawless (day out with kids? Are any of them??) and he struggled at some points, but on the whole it was an absolute dream, and to top it off he told us how much he loved all the presents and especially his Thomas cake. Some things change, after all, but some things never will.

I wanted to write this blog post as a sort of reminder to myself and other people about how far Sawyer, and I, have come. Sawyer has so many struggles that he encounters daily, and sometimes I can’t imagine how he manages to be such a pleasant person to be around with all the sensory issues he faces. That said, sometimes I’m not really sure how I’ve done it either, since I still feel like I’m making it up as I go along. Yet there he is – all small and perfect, ten fingers and ten toes, after all these years and all these obstacles. Three years ago my holiday had me crying in to my all-inclusive lager, yet here I am after a full few days, with time to write this blog post, drinking my wine, thinking how lucky I am to have my little family, and everything that comes with it.

Happy birthday, Sawyer. Never, ever stop being you. The world is a much better place for having you in it.

Love, Mummy xxx

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3 thoughts on “Ship to Shore

      • Di Brown says:

        We have had a few issues recently, as N gets older he is analysing situations more resulting in anxiety and panic attacks. Lots of research done and teaching him coping skills. He goes into year 6 in September and he is already stressing about going yo to secondary school. We take each day as it comes, no expectations, whatever happens is good. Sometimes I cope well and sometimes I am the worlds worst Mother. Love and hugs to you all xx

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