My husband Gary and I have been together for longer than I care to remember, and those who know us well know that romance comes way down in our list of priorities. He’s busy with his full time job, and his fitness regime and I’m busy holding the fort at home and – well being a full time mum and carer! And sometimes we really are like ships that pass in the night most days, as I am so shattered by the time he gets home from work that I can’t even be bothered to talk to him some days.
Usually when he arrives home at teatime I give him a quick grunt and head off upstairs to collapse on the bed, catch up on an episode of Downton Abbey or have a dip in the bath before someone knocks on the bathroom door shouting “Mum, what’s wrong with the Wi-Fi?”
However, at this time of year the commercial pressure of romance starts to ramp up as all the shops flood with love hearts and roses — Valentine’s Day is fast approaching.
Now this day of romance is something we have always struggled with as we have a young family, and having a child with autism means that finding a babysitter we can leave our kids with is actually like mission impossible — so nights out are a real rarity.
But this year I feel that maybe we have been lacking a bit in the romance department for just too long now, and would like to rectify this somehow.
So I feel like I should embrace sentiment of Valentine’s Day this year if not the love hearts and rose’s bit.
And, to be honest, when we only get one night out a year (if we’re lucky) I’m not about to waste it in a packed out noisy bar with a sticky floor, getting stale beer knocked down my dress as some drunkard falls off his barstool and knocks his drink flying in my direction. And neither do I really fancy paying over the odds for a special set menu in my local Chinese restaurant when I could go the following night and pay half the price for food I actually want. Who said romance was dead, eh?
So what does that leave us with -?
- A night in on the sofa watching Netflix
- Just give up and accept romance is never gonna happen for us
- Or use my imagination and think outside the box a little!
So let’s consider my options…
Option a) – A night in on the sofa actually sounds quite appealing to me as normally watching TV together isn’t something that happens a lot. Our son, like many other kids with autism, just doesn’t sleep well at all. So for us evenings usually involve lots of running up and down the stairs, making snacks and telling the kids to get back in bed whilst wearing out the pause button on the remote control. So nights are a ‘no go’ really. But maybe the Hubby could book a few hours off work while the kids are at school? Yeah that could work. Then we could put on our comfy pants and watch a rom-com on the sofa. Maybe even pushing the boat out and ordering a Hawaiian pizza and a bottle of pop to share — in the daytime I hear you cry, now that’s what I call living on the edge.
Option b)-Just give up and accept romance is never gonna happen for us? Well as busy as I am and as much as I grunt and moan at him for him leaving his socks on the bathroom floor, I really do love him you know. We were teenage sweethearts in the ‘olden days’ and I couldn’t get through the day without him. He is my rock and I know I don’t always show it but he is the love of my life.
So I reckon I have to fight to keep the romance alive. Being a parent is incredibly hard work and can test us in ways we never could have imagined. And the only way we can be strong and keep fighting for our kids is by working together as a team. So I refuse to roll over and admit defeat. I will keep the flickering candle of romance alive in our marriage. (It may be more of a scented tea-light kinda flame rather than a red hot roaring log fire- but a flame none the less it will be!) So how am I gonna do this I hear you ask?
Option c) By thinking outside of the box a little. Our son thinks outside the box everyday of his life and he has taught us to view the world in a unique way, and he doesn’t always accept things at face value. So I am going to learn from him and rethink my notion of romance. The commercial side of Valentines can really put pressure on couples to do the whole flowers and chocolates thing, and makes us feel bad when we just can’t.
Sometimes the reality is that we are just too busy or too knackered as parents, and the more pressure we put on ourselves to conform to the giant fluffy teddy’s and singing love heart cards, well the more it actually starts to feel like a chore. Something that we have to do because society tells us to.
So this year I am going to try and remember the real meaning behind the celebrations. And it’s not necessarily all about romance but something a whole lot deeper than that:
Love can be shown felt in so many ways. I don’t need a shop bought card from my husband to know that he loves me. But when he leaves me a post-it note on the fridge in the morning before he goes to work, well that’s him showing his love for me isn’t it? And when he sends me a cheeky little text on his lunch break at work, I feel his love for me right there and then. When he says to me “You look tired go and have a lie down I’ll watch the kids,” that’s love.
It’s our kind of love; a love that’s there day in day out, just because.
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And the simple truth is that we aren’t going to face the day child free so why not embrace that and celebrate the day of love with our children. They are the center of our universe so I suppose why not include them?
We could cook their favorite dinner (even if that means we end up eating bangers and mash or fish finger sarnies). We could send them to school with a little handwritten message on their banana, get up extra early to make them eggs for brekkie, or spend an extra 5 minutes doing the funny voices to their favourite bed time story that they love so much.
Or stop the press – maybe we could just try and sit around the dinner table without it descending into an argument and listen to how each other’s day went. All these little things show my kids how much we love them, and that’s what it’s all about really.
Maybe on the day Gary and I could start a new Valentines tradition? It could be as simple as sitting outside on the patio under a blanket with a mug of steaming hot chocolate stargazing, or sitting together and looking through some of our old photo albums. Just being together in the moment — that’s all it takes to show our love sometimes.
I do have to count myself very lucky as my husband brings me a cup of tea every morning 365 days a year. And I know he does because he loves me. He doesn’t have to say anything he just plonks it next to my bed as I wake up. He does this everyday not just on Valentine’s Day. And maybe in my quest for romance I am missing the importance of that daily cup of tea Gary makes me every day.
Yes, the world around us may be caught up in romance, I may wish we had more romance in our lives and fleetingly want to buy into the love hearts and gifts thing. But the real gift of Valentines is what I already have. My family, my kids and my husband. So I’m not going to wait until Valentines to show Gary or my kids that I love them, I’m going to do it now, today.
So let the big day pass by if that’s what works for your family, or celebrate it if you want. Consider making your own traditions and memories, but most importantly don’t compare yourself to others because what we have as mums to a child with autism is so special and unique. It’s worth far more than love hearts and flowers once a year.
You see my son may not be able to tell me he loves me, but I feel it deep down in my soul. With each smile, each achievement and each text he sends me, I feel it. My son doesn’t like to say, ‘I love you.’ And I completely respect that, I never force him despite me telling him every day that I love him. But then one day he sent me a message that said “Harry Potter mum.”
It took a while to figure it out, but when I realised what had happened — well it took my breath away. He LOVES Harry Potter you see, and to him that’s how he can compare his feelings logically. That’s what love feels like to him. There and then in that text he showed me his real love. A real love that inspires me to try to love others in the same way, just like my husband does with me every day with his simple cup of tea.
It’s a true, honest and accepting love. And if truth be told I think that beats romance any day of the year!
This article was featured in Issue 44 – Strategies for Daily Life with Autism