Yesterday my home environment had a rapid change. Two of my kids returned from their travels. One brought a friend with them and another adopted-kid visited too. So there was up to four more people in the house, though to be fair there was only ever three at any one time. The change is difficult for me because the routines I have developed and the assumptions I had made become invalid. For instance, the first two sentences were written whilst I was sitting in my usual spot. Having gone off to make dinner, I returned to the sofa to find a kid sitting there. I don’t really think, “that’s my spot” is a good enough reason to ask my kid to move and so I find myself in a different room unsettled because rather than there being a static scene behind my laptop screen, there is a dynamic one which distracts my gaze.

Now I love my kids. They are after all the only people in the world that accept me as I am and don’t challenge my weird traits because to them, I don’t have weird traits. I guess my dog accepts me too, but I find my kids more supportive. In his favour, the dog is cuddlier and more tactilely comforting. This isn’t a complaint about noisy kids either, it is just a statement that my life is more complex and challenging when they are around, and I notice the demands that makes on me. I think the other thing is that I call them children but the youngest is seventeen so they though they all seem young to me, they are all adults as far as the law is concerned (in Scotland anyway).

I find it important to spend time with my family, and doing things together is an easy way of achieving that goal. So if somebody wants a lift somewhere then in general that is okay with me because it is on those short journeys that one can enter the secret world of the child and find out something about their existence there. Whilst I might be somewhat put out by the standard, “we need to go shopping, there’s no food in the house”, and I might reply by listing off the food that is available in the house; to which I get the “there’s no food I want to eat”, followed up by, “I’m starving, I need snacks,” followed by, “when are we going shopping?”.  I usually take them shopping pretty quick not only to get a chance to chat but also recognising that a grumpy young adult is not conducive to a happy home.

Of course they sometimes need prompting to come shopping which is what happened on Sunday. Tracking wilds beasts on the savannah, or as we tend to call it, going to Tescos was necessary because we were celebrating a 21st birthday by having a BBQ. Times have changed since I was a kid. Your 21st anniversary was considered very special (so special in fact that even I organised going out for a meal with my university friends – home being too far away). Nowadays, I think 18 is seen as more special and in Scotland, some parents go mad when 16 is reached when you legally become an adult. Personally I think 50 years old might be a better waypoint but that is just my own experience.

Normally I am the first to enjoy a BBQ, sitting outside in an informal setting, suits this autistic. But over the years, I have found the shopping, preparation, cooking and socialising all a bit much. I tend to get other people to cook nowadays but, as we say in our family, “because birthday” (meaning this day the celebrant is allowed to trump any other move somebody else makes) I took up the reins once again. And you know, it was all very pleasant. We sat in the sun, slowly eating too much, talking about things that were important at the time. All very nice, but after two hours my social energy is worn down. I couldn’t sit there anymore and moved to tidy up, because let’s face it, cleaning up is a standard strategy for dealing with party anxiety. With everything removed from outside, I headed away to my bed to have a lie-down and snooze.

The demands didn’t end there though. There were more lifts to do resulting in a slightly different group heading off to the cinema to experience “The Incredibles 2” film. I presented my choice of seating which nobody objected to, and made sure I got the chair I had picked out (end of aisle, centre screen, near the back). Despite the distracting eating and drinking going on around me, I found the film entertaining enough though the plot was a bit obvious. My favourite bit was Jack-Jack and the racoon and my least favourite bit of the whole experience were the adverts at the beginning.

In the UK at least, the adverts before the film tend to quite long and cinematic. They can also be really good and inventive in how the theme is developed. One advert though had too much going on in it for me, I think it supposed to be exciting and unexpected, but I just found it confusing and disturbing. I hadn’t experienced that before and it made me wonder if my diagnosis was changing my perception of what I liked or more precisely if I was allowing myself to be more honest in my reactions to the advert rather than ignoring them. I think it helped me understand better why my daughter has always objected to watching adverts before a film, at one period even refusing to go to see a film she really wanted to see.

Back home I am able to appreciate the good things that had come out of the social interaction. I had spoken to two people about my anxiety over the Transplant Games. I had discussed my autism diagnosis and investigated how to go about getting one for somebody else in a different are of Scotland. I had helped celebrate a 21st birthday. I had connected with the next generation and talked about things that were important to them. I had even supported one of my kids who found coming home hard because of the changes that had happened in their absence. It was a tough day in many ways for me, but I thought I had done a pretty good job at being a supportive parent and family member.

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