I was eight months pregnant with Little Bear when a work contact I was having a telephone conversation with said: “Oh, you’re having another boy? You’ll be wanting a third then.” He wasn’t even born yet and someone I barely knew had dismissed him because of his gender.
This is quite common with two of the same, particularly with boys. People tend to make the assumption that a mum won’t be happy unless she has a daughter and a dad desperately wants a son. You get the sympathetic look and head tilt from some of the mums with girls, as if your life is never going to be quite as good as theirs. There’s a phase you go through where everyone seems to be asking whether you’ll have a third.
Fast forward to having two boys with additional needs and the sympathy has gone into overdrive: “Oh that’s a shame”, “I’m so sorry, you don’t deserve this” and “I don’t know how you do it” are the most common responses.
Of course I wouldn’t necessarily choose to have two children with additional needs and yes it is relentless and unbelievably hard some days.
But please don’t feel sorry for me. Your sympathy implies that I don’t get the same rewarding experience out of being a parent that you do and that I’m not happy. That is simply not true and, as it’s World Autism Awareness Day, here’s why:
They are two of the happiest children I know. The fact they have the biggest smiles of any children I know, despite having to overcome so many obstacles that most people take for granted, is inspiring.
They give the best hugs and compliments. If I haven’t had a hug or been told how pretty I am in the last five minutes they are either asleep or eating. Big Bear’s sensory seeking means he needs regular body contact and Little Bear doesn’t like being left out either. If one starts hugging, the other one will soon join in. What can I say? I’m a very lucky mummy.
They’re loyal. They won’t judge you without real reason, and if you’re lucky enough to be their friend they’ll embrace you and love you for being you. They’re forgiving, and they won’t let you down.
They have lots in common. They both love trains and will play/fight over their train table together. They also enjoy ‘pile-on’ and squashing each other and absolutely adore animals and babies. They are both avid readers and now Big Bear is getting more confident with his reading he loves reading books to Little Bear.
Planning days out is simpler than you might think. The fact they are boys who are quite close in age and have similar interests makes planning family days fairly straightforward. Yes there are lots of things to think about: Big Bear’s sensory issues, Little Bear’s mobility, potential triggers for meltdowns etc. But all that aside, we can generally find things that they both enjoy doing. We don’t have to split up and take one child each so we can enjoy days out a as a family of four. This is not to be underestimated.
They amaze me on a daily basis. Yesterday Little Bear managed to peel some stickers off a sheet and stick them to a piece of paper. I’ve never seen him do this before and it was like he’d created a work of art worthy of the Tate Modern. Today, Big Bear swam a few strokes in the pool without his woggle and with just his arm bands. After five years of screaming and being sick at the pool we have finally reached a point where he enjoys swimming, wants to go and is keen to progress. He might as well have qualified for the Olympics as we couldn’t be happier. Every day they achieve something that they couldn’t do previously and the pride on their faces when they do is a joy.
So please don’t feel sorry for me, my boys are amazing and I am lucky to have them.