Monday 6 January 2014

Happy New Year

It is the middle of the night. I was fast asleep and now I am wide awake. I lie motionless for a moment and try to figure out what has woken me.

It only takes a moment before I hear it: Drip. Drip. Drip. A pause. And then another. A pause. And then another. Drip.

There is water coming into the bedroom. Now that I can hear it, I can hear too the rain and wind whipping at the windows and battering the house. I reach over to check the time: it's four o'clock in the morning. In three hours the holiday is over and everyone has to get up and go to work and to school.

Correction - the holiday is over right now.

I lean over and nudge my husband awake.

"We've got a leak," I whisper to him. He's awake instantly. Then there are lights on and moving and checking the attic and the windows and tip-toeing not to wake the children and whispering and putting down something to catch the water. My eyes feel scoured out and my head thumps with tiredness.

After a while, we put the lights out and get back into bed and try to sleep.

I can't sleep.

I am worried about going back to work and leaving my lovely girls. In particular I am worried about how Grace will cope with going back to school. Her school experience has improved vastly, almost beyond measure, at her new secondary. But still, it is often overwhelming for her and she gets very tired. The last two weeks of the last term were a maelstrom of tears and scenes and upset and forgetting and losing and needing to sleep and needing to be quiet, while routines moved and excitement built and lights blazed and daylight diminished and the world seemed to be tipped off-kilter.

I lie awake and listen to the drip and I worry.

After half an hour of this I am even more awake. I need to go to sleep, I tell myself, so I can be on good form to help Grace start term in - I check - two and a half hours. I need to go to sleep, I tell myself, so I can stay calm and happy and optimistic if she wakes to be none of those things herself. I check the time again. Five minutes later I check it again. My headache tightens.

At this point, out of nowhere, I remember the run I did on Sunday morning. It pops into my head unbidden and makes me smile into the darkness.

What a lovely, lovely run that was. New shoes, ready legs, starbursts in icy puddles. The air smelled of iron and the tang of forest mulch. The sun came out, like a reward. And then there was that wonderful moment, about three-quarters of the way through, when I realised that it was easy, so easy, and that I was flying, and I was smiling so widely that a passing car beeped at me, like it was saying hello to the local loony, and I didn't care because I loved my legs and my body and whoever was in that car and really, everyone in the world in fact, because I knew that everything, all of it, was just fine.

I lie in the darkness and laugh gently to myself at what I must have looked like and how great it felt, and I remember again why I run and I remember again that everything will be fine and that I can do this. Finally, sleep comes.

Just less than two hours later, the door flings open and Betty marches in, nightdress swinging, clutching a soft toy and what looks like a collection of her clothing, already mid-sentence: " Mummy, I thought... would you...? Teddy needs..." and she's climbing in, pressing her little toes into my side and elbowing space between my husband and me and there goes that last bit of sleep. I pull her to me briefly and squeeze her and kiss her soft cheek and re-direct her queries to my husband. I sit up and move my leaden legs out of bed. I pause, and think again of that run, and then I square my shoulders and go to Grace's bedroom.

My big girl is fast asleep. I get in beside her and put my arms around her and I hug her awake. For a brief moment she protests and then she smiles, eyes still closed, and hugs me back. She smells of vanilla and the soft stuff of dreams. I tell her I love her. She murmurs that she loves me. We count to three together, gently in the darkness, and then we both get up.

A short while later I wave her off at the front door. She steps outside into the dark and the rain and for a moment shudders. Then she pulls her hood over her head and turns to me and pulls a mock-groaning face and smiles and says 'Bye' and I say 'Bye, darling'. And both of us know that it's going to be alright.

If you liked this, or recognised some of it, or would like to know more, please consider supporting me in my London Marathon attempt this year. Click here to find out how I'm aiming, via running, to help children with autism and Asperger's Syndrome learn, thrive and achieve.


  1. Isn't it funny how our Graces both do so much better if they're cuddled awake?
    If my lovely girl has a bad awakening she is grumpy and growly all day.

    We're now starting to choose a High School for our Grace - she's currently in Year 5, but we've been advised to get the school organised well before the end of this year, so that we can work on the transitions next year.

    Frankly, the idea of my sweet little girl with the attention span of a kitten being in High School and expected to sit through hour-long lessons and navigate her way around buildings and timetables is too horrible to think about properly. I get sick with worry every time I contemplate it.

    It's good to know that it's possible for one of our lovely Aspie girls to make the transition, even though it's tiring. Gives me hope for my own Grace. Give yours a hug from mine. x

  2. Hello dear Birdie. Grace sends hugs back and says to your Grace and you: don't worry. And I say: you'll find the right school, and it will look after her. And she's growing and learning, and there's a huge difference between where my G was in Year 5 and where she is now, in terms of her organisational and coping skills. So don't panic! And we're always here x

  3. I sooooo know the feelings of every bit of this post and the treasure that is the wake-up hug before the unknown of the day for someone else begins. I enjoy your writing and can so relate. I have a 10 year old aspie boy.

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