Say what you want about Valentine’s Day and its commercialism, but I like it. What’s not to love about telling your significant other how special they are to you and giving and receiving some nice gifts? I was given my favourite wine and calorific treats by my husband last night, along with a lovely card this morning. However, there won’t be a meal out together or a weekend away for us, as you do not simply ‘get a babysitter’ for a child with severe autism like our son. And this is the case for many couples in our situation. Time out together is extremely hard to come across and therefore very precious. Even things others take totally for granted are virtually impossible for couples like us. Let’s not beat around the bush: having a child with additional needs puts a huge strain on a relationship. There are days when it’s not pretty. I mean it’s really not pretty.
When we were married almost 15 years ago and pregnant 3 weeks later, we didn’t expect to be living the life we are now. I thought we’d be thinking about GCSE options with our son and not still lying with him night after night as he struggles to sleep. Or attending to 100% of his personal care. We hoped our son would be a dentist or in the RAF. But that wasn’t to be. And I do think this has hit my husband harder, just because of the ‘lad and dad’ bond. Personally, I think I would’ve felt more of a sense of loss if one of our girls had been born with the disability. These are emotions we have to carry with us every day of our lives and that have a massive impact on our relationship. But, as us human beings are generally programmed to do, we carry on. We persevere. We love.
Love within the context of a family like ours does not take the shape of a Couples’ Spa Weekend in a boutique hotel. Or a boozy night out together and a Sunday morning lie in. As I watched my husband cleaning our son’s teeth last night, it struck me: that was love, right there, in its purest form. They are both the same height and build now, clones of each other. Our son hates having his teeth cleaned, so plenty of distraction is required. As my husband skilfully recited all the Simpsons characters he could possibly manage to a delighted boy, a fairly decent clean was achieved. Mission accomplished.
So Happy Valentine’s Day to my wonderful boys – you are all the love I’ll ever need.