The Day I Became Royalty
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s Christmas. Time to be grateful and acknowledge the gifts we already have in our lives and all that jazz. Some gifts in the parental life, you’ll agree, just keep on giving. Like getting kids dressed in the morning. “The Suckometer is strong with this one,” I hear you say and I’m nodding deeper than a GIF on steroids. Now, let me tell you, getting a little boy with autism to put on anything resembling an outfit kicks things up a notch to Olympic status. Every. Single. Morning. Aversion to textures, lengths, colours, necklines, joins forces with demand avoidance to create a vortex of endurance testing that eats through your patience faster than you can say Pac Man (showing my age here…). It also eats up whatever little time you, yourself have to get ready. Having trousers on and a top is a MASSIVE achievement. Putting something on your face to ensure people don’t mistake you for the Ghost of Christmas Past is next level business.
Over the recent years I pared down my morning makeup routine to just a few products and I used to think I was pretty nifty with it. Until a couple of weeks ago, in the midst of the endurance vortex my boy stopped his bed hopping and t-shirt removal for the 10th time and focused intently on my face. “Princess,” he whispered softly. The world stopped. My verbally delayed child had just looked at me and called me Princess. My heart swelled… for about 5 seconds, until I realised who Princess was; a picture on a notebook of a fairy with really, REALLY rosy cheeks. I dashed to the bathroom and checked my reflection in the mirror. Mother of all blusher blunders, I looked like Dame Edna. “Thanks, son,” I thought. My Princess dreams may have been dashed but he saved me from ridicule.
A few days later this pair of exhausted parents had a rare outing. Everything was prepped for the sitter _ she could do the pyjama dressing part (GO ME!) _ and I was now trying to manage his anxiety over our impending absence while attempting a smoky eye… But suddenly he sat on the bathroom floor looking at me as I slapped on the makeup, a smile plastered on his face. Anxiously I looked in the mirror. Had I done again?? No, it seemed fine, even by my low standards. This time he was just mesmerized, grinning, taking it all in, every detail, every swipe of a brush. “Does mummy look pretty?” I chanced, not expecting an answer. “Pretty,” he repeated. I left the house floating on clouds of achievement. Moments like these, when social interaction and reciprocity rise to surface, pierce rigidity and defy expectations are like gold dust in our house. “He just sat there smiling and replied to me when I asked him if I was pretty,” I told his Dad in the back of a cab, smiling like a Cheshire cat.
The party was a lavish affair and buoyed by this breakthrough I allowed myself a few too many glasses of Prosecco on a nearly empty stomach. We were home by 1am, our son started his normal nightly wake ups by 2, every hour on the hour, and was up for the day at 6am. Sunday was a rainy mixture of softplay handling with a hangover, meltdowns and the sentence “no, don’t do that” repeated often enough to merit its own Christmas Number 1. The tree, surprisingly, was still standing but baubles were thrown and broken, the three wise men now had their arms torn off and scattered grotesquely around the house and Baby Jesus was awol. It wasn’t a pretty day. But as autism parents we roller coast through the day, swiftly moving from basement level lows to exhilarating highs so we hunkered down and waited for the silver lining.
It was nearing bedtime when he came up to me and said inquisitively, “Princess Mummy?” I wasn’t wearing any makeup. What could he possibly want? “Upstairs, Princess Mummy, upstairs!” He was getting impatient. I followed him up the stairs as he ran into the bathroom. “Princess Mummy, eyes!” he cried, pointing to my makeup brushes. I obliged, smudging my eyes in black eyeshadow. Princess Mummy, face!” he instructed next, and after that “Princess Mummy, mouth!” until at 7pm on a Sunday I was now sporting a full face of makeup. “Princess Mummy, let it go!” The detective in me chanced I was to channel my inner Elsa from Frozen so I dashed down the stairs belting “Let it Go” with my smoky eyes and red lipstick. He giggled with glee as he followed me and we did a few laps around the couch singing the song. I wasn’t tired anymore. I wasn’t just a woman with extremely rosy cheeks, I was now royalty, I looked damned good in my red lipstick and I had my silver lining.
Every day now I come home from work, he greets me at the door and soon after “Princess Mummy” and Thomas run up the stairs to put on makeup and come down the stairs singing “Let It Go” and do some laps around the couch. Repetition can sometimes be one of the testing bits of autism. But it’s also the gift that keeps on giving and where you often find the magic to spur you on. Now, if he would only put on his jumper…
One wishes you all a very Merry Christmas,