Squid collects names

“Hello what is your name?”

It’s such a friendly introduction. Still friendly the second time. The smiles get a little fixed the fifth time. Does she have trouble remembering? Or is it the go to social formula which she doesn’t quite understand the purpose of?

“Hello what is your name?”

In praise of cousins

3 children, growing up, and having their first child within a year of each other.

What used to be a useful source of hand me downs is now a valuable source of life experiences and validation.

My eldest daughter (lets call her ZebraSquid) is so unlike her cousins, I was worried they wouldn’t get on when we met them for Christmas. One cousin had a Facebook page of beautifully curated friend shots. The other one loved to street dance. They both were very skilled at make up, and posted scarily glossy photos of themselves and their equally glossy friends. Basically, on paper, they were girls that she would never normally choose to speak to, let alone to make friends with and hang out with.

We got there for Christmas, ZebraSquid froze in the doorway of the living room: the aunties, the uncles, the snack being passed around, the enforced hugging. When I next looked, she’d melted away. I trusted that as a teenager, she would be safe left to her own devices for a while, but after 3 hours I went hunting for her. I found her curled up in her cousins bed, both of them sureptitiously watching ’13 reasons why’, ignoring the party. Might not have been my choice of viewing matter, but there was a peacefulness about them.

The next day ZebraSquid was again ‘missing’. Appearing for meals under duress, but otherwise claiming asylum under her cousins duvet. I’d check on her occasionally and find her incongruously tucked in between all the girly detritus of straighteners and lipsticks that she’d normally never be seen near.

The third day her cousin had to meet her friends. Two girls appeared in the doorway. One of them with shaped eyebrows, hair blow dried to a soft wave, perfect powdered skin and a cheeky pinch of lipstick. Skinny jeans and a satin bomber jacket. The other had four day greasy hair, a spot on her nose and a thrash metal band T-shirt. They were going out, together, to meet the glossy people. And it was lovely. ZebraSquid didn’t speak the entire afternoon apparently (of course she didn’t), but her cousin made sure that she was made welcome. ZebraSquid saw that under the powder and beeswax, the glossies were also funny and insecure and ambitious and complicated.

I love that the cousin bond built in childhood gives her a pass and a chaperone into a world that she’d otherwise be scared of.

Cultural differences

In Russia, where I grew up, mathematicians were celebrated. Chess was taken seriously. People were uniformly obsessed with the common cultural rituals, like the morning gymnastics, like every meal starting with soup and proceeding to potatoes.

The man-child – overachieving in his field but apparently unable to demonstrate even the most basic self-care competency – was common.

Is there such a thing as an autistic culture – where the neurotypicals feel subfunctional?

Name-calling and sibling alliances

“Idiot”

“Ugly mug “

“Poo poo Troll Face”

“Fatso”

“Skeletor”

I’d been ignoring the rising volume on the back seat while navigating tricky motorway traffic, but it really wasn’t getting better. Time for parenting.

“Don’t call your brother Fatso”

“He called me Troll Face”

“Don’t call your brother Troll Face”

“Trolls are beautiful creatures. What have you got against trolls??”

“That’s not what he meant. Muuuuum. And why is he…”

Not winning really. I turned the music up extremely loud, drove them home in enforced silence and sat them down to write essays.

One was titled: “Calling my brother an Ugly Mug: What did I expect would happen? What did happen. How did he feel? How did you feel?” . It was returned saying “I expected him to stop namecalling. He called me a troll. We are now both angry”.

The other one was titled: “Calling my brother Idiot: What did I expect would happen? What did happen. How did he feel? How did you feel?”. It was returned with two A4 sides of grievances about sibling alliances and lack of appreciation for efforts made for other people.

Wish me luck sorting that out.

Do you say what you see?

When you ‘see’ something on another child – do you mention it? Does it make a difference if the family are struggling or not?

“She won’t speak to anyone … or even make eye contact” my friend confided in me “she behaves well at school – but when she comes home, her rages are unbelievable”.

So what do I say? I take a breath. They are distressed and I should be brave. I tell them my stories. Explain that I have no qualification to armchair-diagnose – but that our story ended up titled ‘autism’.

My friend listened politely. Very politely. Sympathised with the painful parts of our journey. The conversation was never referred to again.

I wanted to reach out to my friend to not withhold information, but in her eyes I saw a flicker of … lost innocence in our friendship. That she felt judged and watched on her kids behaviour, when before she’d been able to believe it didn’t see because there was nothing to see. When she left, I went straight to see my daughter. My own conscience wasn’t easy. I had to ask her if she minded me sharing her story with people who were strangers to her over coffee morning chit chat.

Did I do the right thing to speak?

Speaking parts for non-speaking kids

Sheep 3: “There it is”

That’s just made our Christmas! So chuffed the teachers trusted her to have a speaking part.

(Actually – it was

Sheep 2: “Where is the star”

*pause* *pause* *finger-twist* *pause* *pause*

Sheep 3: “There it is”

Next year’s nativity, I think the lesson learnt is to practice listening to the play and understanding it – not just saying her lines.)

Fussy eater food foto #1


This is what chicken noodle soup looks like here!

The recipe is basically all of the above in a chicken broth. Which I would eat alone.

New plan: they fill their bowls with their choice of trimmings, and then I pour over hot chicken stock (vegetable stock for the veggies).

The carrots are parboiled with a blast in the microwave and I fried the mushrooms. I might sneak a prawn or two from the freezer for my portion!

Funeral Etiquette

Funeral Etiqutte on What to Do:

1. Go. Attend the funeral in person. Miss weddings and baby showers if you must but attend the funerals. People never forget that you attended a funeral and you will bring them comfort and care even if you stay a little while.
2. Wear strictly black
3. Express your sincere condolences directly to the immediate family.
4. Share a story or a memory with the close family. You will be adding to their treasure “box” of memories.
5. Be on your best behavior. Take along your best manners of greeting and conversing.
6. Contribute to the charity or foundation of their wishes or else take flowers. The amount does not matter. It matters that you do not show up empty-handed.
7. Follow the wishes and traditions of the family. I am not religious but for weddings and funerals of those that I care about, I would gladly spend any necessary time in their house of worship.
8. Perform any favors that is asked of you, be it to sing, to read a poem, to fulfill any other action to fulfill their wishes.

Funeral Etiqutte on What Not to Do:

1. Wear flip-flops.
2. Bring up sensitive issues
3. Laugh unnecessarily loud or God forbid, tell jokes.
4. Discuss your body aches and pains
5. Draw attention to yourself. Change the conversation if you must, especially when you don’t want the attention.
6. Say much if you have nothing useful to say. Words, once outside the mouth, cannot be taken back.
Adapted from Prolific Living

This is the list that I edited for my autistic teenager. I find it works best if I explain behaviour expectations very clearly, particularly given that funerals are formal and don't happen very often.

She seemed to appreciate the list and coped well with the day. In hindsight, I would have maybe built in a break and a recap of the rules half way through the day. Right after the service, the body language became more dramatic, and we sat in the car for half an hour so as to not be a distraction while people grieved.

The instruction that she found the hardest was to share a story about the deceased. She just did not feel confident in being able to judge the correct tone. She chose to just be largely silent for the entire afternoon, which was fine.