It's the first anniversary of Strange & Beautiful and I find myself in Butlins, Bognor Regis, attending The MAD Awards ceremony.
I caught myself swallowing back the odd tear when I saw little kids with their parents, and I don't think it was just because I was missing mine. But more of that later.
On a whim, I decided to stay and spend the day on my own.
I used to love my own company but it's very rare that I get to do my own thing for an entire day now. When I do manage to keep the odd moment back for myself, it takes so much planning that it feels like I have to DO as much as possible to get the most out of it.
So, after delaying getting dressed until 1 in the afternoon, I strolled off to indulge my twin passions- taking photographs and mooching around seaside charity shops. I can't help but love a bargain (netting a Nina Simone biography & a (new) book of old Polaroids!) Top that off with a dinner of Pot Noodles and I was on a total nostalgia trip back to my 1980's student days.
It has felt like the first totally relaxing day I've had since forever.
So back to the tears. I think it's because I feel cheated out of the early years with Lyla and Mya- it should have been a happy, fun time. And it wasn't.
Life was difficult before Lyla's diagnosis as her behaviour was so unpredictable and she tantrumed violently and constantly. She spent most of the time going on the naughty step. I feel bad about this as it was the complete opposite of what we should have been doing.
If we'd had an earlier diagnosis, things could have been really different- for all of us. I kept believing people who told me that all kids tantrummed. Yes, they DO, but not like THIS. Funnily enough some of the same people told me after the diagnosis that they always knew something was wrong...
When Lyla was eventually diagnosed, I was devastated it meant this wasn't just toddler tantrums, this might be forever: Lyla couldn't go to sleep as her brain doesn't produce the sleep hormone Melatonin. Every night, from 7-11pm, she would get hyperactive and attack me and our home. I dealt with all this on my own and it took a lot from me, both physically (broken teeth, black eyes, bruises and more) and mentally.
Things have changed and improved, but being the parent of an autistic child can feel like a constant, daily assault on you as a person.
So I'm very pleased to announce that I've won The MAD Award for Most Inspiring Blog 2010! I really wasn't expecting to win as the other blogs are really good- Baby Baby, Battling On & Everyday Parent. Winning the award means a lot to me because it shows there is support out there for a blog about autism. Because it's a hidden condition, there is still so much more work to be done to raise awareness so that families can get the help they need and people with autism can be more understood by others and treated with respect.
Thankyou to all of you who voted, Sally Whittle who organised and Butlins who sponsored The MADS. And, if Lyla and Mya ever read this, they will know I lied about where I was going- if I'd said Butlins, they'd have stowed away in the boot of the car- sorry gals, but I've come clean now! And thankyou to Plum Baby who sponsored the award. The prize is a selection from their range and a break at a Luxury Family Hotel- which frankly couldn't have been a more welcome prize!!
Finally, this blog would not have been born if it hadn't been for the persistance of my wonderful friend Amelia Critchlow. She sat me down with a coffee and a computer one morning last September after we'd dropped the kids off and made me write my first post.
So that's what blog means to me. And you reading it and commenting on it are what makes it worth writing.