Sometimes I forget about how hard it all was
Every time I give a presentation about my book Love Tears & Autism and talk about how life was around the time of my son's diagnosis, I have to go back and remind myself: Yes, it was really *that hard*. Yes, I really did cry *that much*.
Because, you see, life just isn't that hard any more.
In the last fortnight Bright Eyes represented his school in the Regional finals of the Premiers Spelling Bee. This meant he had to travel with me to another town, go into another school, sit on a stage in their hall for a long time, listen to rules and instructions and then, when they said his name, walk forward to the microphone, listen to the word, spell the word and then walk back to his seat.
All of which would have been pretty impossible even two years ago.
The next thing he had to achieve was to not win.
Not winning is probably one of the hardest things in Bright Eyes' life. He loves to win. He lives to win. Winning proves his worth. Winning makes him feel special.
But with 45 children in the competition and not a few who appeared to be rabidly over-confident, I knew that he would have to cope if and when he was eliminated.
"Do you think you'll manage if you get out?" I asked him. the night before.
"Yes, I can manage it," he assured me.
He got to the second round before he met the word 'fathom'. I listened to him spell F-A-T-H- and then heard -E-M and my face instinctively went into worried mode.
"Incorrect," said the adjudicator, and Bright Eyes did nothing except nod, turn and then walk back to his seat. He waited patiently until the round was over, then went with the other eliminated children to collect his certificate and left the stage.
When he found me, he wasn't upset. "I made it to the second round," he said. He wasn't even upset when his classmate, also in the competition, made it to the fourth round before he was out.
There were no tears, no protests, no 'it's not fair'. He just participated, coped and managed the day.
Even last year, he couldn't have done this. He got out on the school version of the competition with the word alfalfa and was pretty upset. So this is huge.
Our gains are made, tiny step by tiny step, but they are made, and they make me forget how hard it all used to be.