Monday 17 October 2011

Everything is different, everything's the same

I spent the first days after the race in a teary, exhausted haze. I wanted to talk about it constantly and relive every moment. Then I would want silence and solitude to rest and consider. As in the days immediately after childbirth, I was worn out and exhilarated and bruised and hyper. A laugh would end in tears. A groaning shuffle to the sofa would transform half-way into a waltz and a whoop.

My husband was very patient.

I had a sense that everything had changed. I was giddy with the promise and potential of what I had found: a role in which I could make money -- in the old-fashioned way, by sweaty toil -- to be spent on improving life for people with autism and Asperger Syndrome. By running the Royal Parks I collected some £1200, which with a charitable donation from my workplace was likely to reach £1800. When I told the staff at the National Autistic Society I could feel my voice tremble with the pleasure and passion of it. I had done a good, good thing. I posted pictures of myself everywhere: captured in a snapshot on the finishing line looking pink and flushed and ecstatic in my NAS running vest. I debated on Twitter whether my finishing time was honourable or not. I wrote Facebook captions full of exclamation marks about how wonderful it had been. I emailed friends and family under the auspices of saying thank you to point out again how much I had raised and how hard I had worked. And, of course, I blogged about it.

I was high on my own success.

Meanwhile, Grace continued to go to school every day. She seemed calm. She was drawing a lot and her mania for Monster High seemed as strong as ever. Most sentences started with a description of a new character she had invented, or a dream that she'd had about them, or a play that she'd written about them. But there were long, lucid-enough periods in between. And our scuffles over homework were muted.

Then one evening when I was putting her light out and tucking her in to bed she started to talk in torrents. A girl at school -- whose behaviour had been making me quietly uneasy since the start of term -- had gone for her. Following weeks of spiteful asides and snidely determined whispers engineered to undermine Grace, this child had fronted her out in the playground and told her to stop making claims on any of her friends. They were, she proclaimed with relish, only being nice to her because she had Asperger's Syndrome.

With her hands over her face, weeping and rocking under her duvet Grace recounted to me her reaction. Spinning with dismay she had shouted back. And, bless them, several of her friends had stoutly declared that this was not true. Later, with the conscientiousness of nine-year-olds, they recounted in detail to Grace everything that this other child had been saying about her over the weeks, all of it pure poison.

Any parent will know the sick, dark feeling that spreads like an inkstain over your heart when your child tells you they are in pain. Mine was extra bitter, with a side order of shame and remorse. All the while I had been congratulating myself on changing the world, Grace was trudging through a parallel universe where everything was just the same.

I have talked to the school. I am watching that child like a hawk. I am listening to my daughter.

And after some time off, I am running again. This time I am training to complete the London Marathon in April next year, hoping that some of the millions of people watching the event -- even more than usual I hope, in an Olympic year -- will see the name of the charity written on my chest and will want to know more and want to help.

I have remembered who and what I am running for.


  1. What a lovely, heart-felt post. It's brought a lump to my throat...

  2. The poor pet. I would rather have anything said to me rather than to one of my children

  3. Bullying is always heart breaking but always strikes me to be crueler when a child has a special need.
    Makes me very cross to be honest.

    I applaud you for having a special relationship with your daughter so she is comfortable enough to confide in you.

    I must also admit that I know nothing about Asperger's Syndrome, and will be reading your blog to educate myself.

    And well done you for doing something positive with your running by raising money for you charity.

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