So. Valentine’s Day is coming up and we are reminded by consumerism that love equals stuff. Stuff bought for each other. Love is measured in currency.
But is it? Perhaps. But there are other ways we show our love.
The Five Love Languages is a book by Gary Chapman that describes the five ways people express their love that Chapman calls “love languages”:
- gift giving
- quality time
- words of affirmation
- acts of service
- physical touch
He goes on to suggests that in order to find out another person’s love language, you need to watch how they express love to others and listen to what they complain about most because people tend to express love in the way prefer to receive love.
But can love be also measured by social media likes? By sweeping Facebook status declarations?
“My husband/lover/partner bought me these massive bunch of flowers and this thing I always wanted and we are going to this amazing place to eat/fuck/pray and here is a picture of him doing these things and isn’t our life just PERFECT. ”
We are conflicted. We want the grand gestures because they make us feel special. Cherished. Chosen. Loved. We compare ourselves to other successful women. We want the magic. The sparkle. The fireworks.
But we don’t want generic. We don’t want contrived. We want special. Special is not buying us blah cliche stuff because you think that’s what we want. We want you to THINK. What do we like to do with you? What shops do we visit most? (Supermarkets don’t count!)
Things we DONT want (unless we say so)
- Perfume. Don’t go into any department stores and ask the assistant what ‘is the most popular perfume’ and then get them to wrap it. It’s BALLACKS. If you think perfume is a good gift, pick 3 bottles. Sniff each one. Pick your favourite. We want to smell nice and it helps if you like the smell too. Extra points for wrapping gift yourself. We can tell. Just shower when you get home. If we can smell another scent on you then you’re rumbled.
- A dozen red roses/flowers. They equal guilt. Guilt blossoms. You’ve done something wrong that you know/don’t know. Flowers. NOPE. The grand gesture is appreciated more. Are they her FAVOURITE flowers? Then she’ll love them. Because you put thought into them. (Do you see a pattern emerging here?)
- Jewellery. A necklace or earrings when she doesn’t usually wear them. Is she a fan of brooches? Then yes. Buy her one. Get one made especially for her. Thought buys you what money cannot.
- Tickets to Paris (actually, yes we totally want that) It tells us you want to spend time with us. Money can’t buy that. Spending time with her. Or not spending time with her if that is preference. We all need a break.
- Lingerie. No. Just. No. This is a present for you. Plus you get the sizes wrong. Too small and she will feel like shit. Too big and she will think she’s fat. Just. Don’t. Ok?
- Chocolates. She can buy her own, thank you. Unless they are a bucket full of her favourite type and then she will gracefully accept under duress.
- Stuffed animals. Because we are not 3. Unless we collect them. Because we didn’t get them when we were 3. HEY YOU MARRIED US.
- Stuff for cleaning/house presents. Why do we like to clean so much? We stress clean. Because our family makes us stressed. By making it messy.
If she says no presents, she means NO GENERIC PRESENTS. It really means yes presents. Buy us a little something that’s says hey babe, I thought of you today and I got you this. Is it Valentine’s Day? I never noticed. I love you everyday. Well, not EVERYDAY but look I bought you those favourite biscuits you always look out for. I noticed you.
Ultimately, Valentine’s Day SHOULD be celebrated with anyone/everyone you love and love knows no boundaries. It’s a day to remind ourselves why we love each other. Just don’t go generic or mainstream.
Go with what your heart tells you to do. ❤️
My child is Autistic.
She has autism.
You know those things she does and finds easy/difficult? That’s her autism. Or is it her personality?
She is so friendly. She speaks to everyone. She is confident in unusual situations and reserved in usual ones. Is this her personality or her autism?
Does her autism define her? Yes. She is moderately to severely autistic. She is not ‘a little bit autistic’ she is a lot. Did it shape her personality or accentuate it? Who knows. Chicken or egg.
There are so many people with different opinions of autism, how to approach the subject, the correct terms to use (she IS autistic or is it she HAS autism? 🤔)
Let’s get something straight here.
- I don’t mind if you say we should take her to Vegas to count cards (she’s not great at maths)
- I don’t mind if you say you know a neighbours daughters friend is autistic and he is so literate (my daughter HATES to read)
- I don’t mind if you say she will grow out of it ( she has in fact grown INTO it as the years went by)
- I don’t mind if you don’t know what to say at all. (It’s ok. Let’s hug.)
- I don’t mind if you’re desperately sad for us. (It is not what you hope for as a diagnosis for your child)
- I don’t mind if you send me links to various articles about autism (knowledge is power and I appreciate your research)
I don’t mind what you’ve heard about autism or what your assumptions are here BUT LETS TALK ABOUT IT. This opens the door for a much needed conversation and debate about the experiences and expectations you hold versus reality. Autistic people are all so very different. Let me tell you about MY autistic child.
She is high functioning. This means she can speak, dress and appear ‘normal’. To a certain degree. Until that inevitable point where you think 🤔and now you’re getting the gist. She will hug police officers in the street. She will scream at any loud noises. She will ask you why your nose is so big/hairy/old. It’s awkward if you don’t know her. She is not socially acceptable. She cannot successfully read your body language. But she is bright and funny. Sassy and cool. Thoughtful and kind. Mostly. When things are too much she is none of these things. She is her autism and it impairs her relationships and how she is perceived. It debilitates and exhausts her and her primary carers. But now we have this label we can access the support she and we all so greatly need and deserve for going without for too long.
Don’t whisper and point. Come and talk to us. We don’t bite! (That’s an inside joke because she totally does) ok so I don’t bite and I don’t let her bite just ANYONE.
Don’t avoid us because that hurts like hell. Understand that usual invitations to social gatherings may not be ideal for us but still invite us. We do not plan too far ahead. She lives in the moment. Planning ahead makes her bitey. But we’ve got this. If you don’t hear from us for a while, understand that we’ve NOT got this. Send food parcels. DVDs. Hugs. Wine. It’s a minefield. Your support means more to us that you realise.
Autism is not a dirty word.
Let’s talk about it.
This may seem controversial but in the ten years since the kids biological dad walked away from his wife, a five year old and an unborn baby to be with another woman and her child, I have never shared the kids on Christmas Day with him. He’s asked. The first year. The answer I gave him was this:
Christmas is one of the special days of the year. One for joy and happiness. One to share opening presents with your loved ones. I work bloody hard all year. I turn up for parents evening. I listen to their heartaches when you don’t call. I support them when they wish you would see them more often. I even make excuses for you by telling them you are just really busy. I read bedtime stories and hug them when they fall over. I take them to school and pick them up. Wash clothes and feed them. I know their favourite colours/stories/tv shows. Memorised character names of Thomas/Thunderbirds/Whatever new show they adore. I’ve earned Christmas Day with my kids.
When you move over 150 miles away from your children to be with someone else and make another blended family of your own, when you choose these people over your children, when you prioritise your time with others but never your children, when you spend zero time calling/texting/visiting your children during the other mundane months of the year; you do not/will not/never ever ever will spend another Christmas Day with them either.
He has them after Christmas Day. They get a second Christmas Day with him and his family. There you go. It’s not all as bad as it sounds. They get 2 Christmas days. It’s just the actual one is spent with the parent who would never walk away, no matter what. Who would drive 3 hours to see them for 3 minutes.
The one who had kids for life, not just for Christmas.
Living on the seas edge
Listening to the crash of waves
The murmur of moans
Where are you?
Sinking like a suitcase full of lead
Cold and dark
Longing for the change in temperature, the warm tides
Floating and sinking in equal measures
The sea bed is uncomfortable and full of darker holes to swallow me up and burp me out.
Close your eyes
Truest voices can still be heard but they’re muffled.
The pounding of waves.
Sing to me the waters splash.
I love you. I’m here for you.
A lot of things bother you. I hope one day you can process them in a safe way but you just can’t at the moment.
I love you. I’m here for you.
You can be intimidating and explosive with your words and actions when you’re frustrated. I know your emotions overwhelm you.
I love you. I’m here for you.
School is a anxiety overload for you with various demands amid expectations. Tests, reading, writing, comparisons to your peers boils your being.
I love you. I’m here for you.
You want so much to be accepted and liked. The world confuses you. You’re like a cat stuck up a tree that desperately wants to come down but you lash out at anyone who tries to help you. It’s frightening up there.
I love you. I’m here for you.
You sabotage all your relationships with friends and family because you think you’re not worthy of love. You constantly challenge their devotion. That must be so exhausting so you so you provoke them to fulfil your prophecy of giving up and leaving. I hope one day you realise you’re cherished and loved for who you are and not for who you think they want you to be.
Some days you’re quite unlikeable. But I always love you and I’m here for you. I hope one day you’ll love you too.
I’m writing this at 5.21am. I woke up early but instead of sleeping, I’m working. Working hard to restore and regain some peace inside my turbulent head. Someone once said to me, the greatest distance was between the head and the heart. Things that in theory should come easy, don’t. Parenting is one of those things. Forgiving yourself is another.
So I sit here, in the undisturbed twilight. I can hear birds singing. In all the hustle bustle you all bring me daily, it drowns out the quiet noises. One day, these quiet noises will drown out my thirst for the pandemonium that once ruled my life.
As I sit here, I ruminate. I plan. I hope. My days are filled with tumultuous love for you all. Getting up early sets my brain to cope with the trials of parenthood. I lick battle wounds of previous days and ponder on scars of years before. I am a human being not just a parent, although that’s all you will see me as for at least a few more decades.
I try to do the very best for you all. My parents did the best job they could with the tools they had as did their parents and theirs before. We are all a product of love through the ages, however that love may be construed. They were human beings too, living their lives in the best way they could. Making sacrifices and tough decisions. Yes, they didn’t always get it right. Neither do I. I really hope you’ll understand someday. I hope I do too.
So with each sip of coffee, I mentally dress for battle. Battle of the breakfasts, the school runs, the housework, the school meetings, the judgey parents in the playground, the running around fitting everything in before the end of the day, the trials you all put me through. One day you’ll understand. One day I will too.
Feelings are sticky and cruel. They are uncomfortable and mortifying.
Now I realise why I don’t feel things. Damnit. To experience joy and happiness, I have to allow the shitty feelings to wash off. I can’t experience happiness if I’ve disconnected the uncomfortable pain. They are the same damn switch.
This revelation tremors my core. I’ve spent years perfecting my mask. Dare I lower it? Do I want people to see what’s underneath? Do I want to see what’s underneath? What if its hideous? What if the pain and sadness have distorted it beyond all recognition? What if people recoil from the horror? I’m more likely to do this last bit. This last thought is frightening. What if I reject my true self? What if my mask represents my distorted reflection and I stare into the horrors of each painful experience?
What if I actually see little doodles of happiness, like a childish scrawl made on a wall and wallpapered over only to discover it by chance decades later when redecorating? What if I’m redecorating and remodelling? People do that all the time. They outgrow their fashions and tastes. They outgrow their surroundings. Interesting. A positive thought. I digress.
What if I take off the mask and it’s the little girl who has been playing with makeup. She’s got so many layers that it takes days, weeks, months, years to expose each layer. How consuming and self absorbing to allow each layer to be lifted. To find out what products tease every colour off. How laborious.
What if there is nothing under the mask. Just a vacuous hole that serves no purpose. A void that allows traffic to flow through each way but never to stop.
I remember a childhood friend telling me this story once we enter adulthood. She was talking to her dad one day about me. We were quite young, 10 maybe. She was saying how funny and jovial I was.
“Sometimes the happiest of people wear a mask.”
Could he SEE? Maybe he caught a glimpse. Maybe he was referring to his own depression. He is a lovely man, always wears a happy mask. I have a lot of time for this man. He KNOWS.
I’ll enter this phase of my life kicking and screaming. It won’t come off gladly. I won’t sit bathed in the glow of the sun with the wind caressing my hair. It’ll be painful and ugly and uncomfortable. The thought of removing the mask terrifies me but the alternative to this is dying slowly each moment instead of living. When it comes down to it, I really do want to live.