How do you feel about your kids drinking alcohol?

My older boys are now 20, 20 and 17. While I don’t want to encourage them to become heavy drinkers, alcohol is part of most young people and indeed many adults’ social lives. They want to try it out.
They need to experiment with it, see what they like the taste of, see what their individual tolerance levels are. But in a safe environment.
The boys have been going to a local pub quiz on a Tuesday evening. It’s a week night and they have school and college the next day, so they only drink soft drinks or water. For one of the boys, sugar causes him to become hyper excitable and giggly and act in a very immature way. We have agreed with him that it’s best if he only has one sugary drink when he is out. Some alcoholic drinks have the same effect on him we have discovered. One prosecco for him is one prosecco too many! Sugar again perhaps? Yeast has the same effect on him so that rules out beer too.
I know we are supposed to ‘celebrate’ autism and not try to inhibit any of our young people’s behaviours but he desperately wants friends and wants to be accepted. Appearing very drunk after a fizzy drink or one prosecco is not seen as cool.
So we have been ‘practising’ to find which drinks don’t react so badly with him.  A glass of wine with dinner seems to be fine. Half a bottle with dinner, which he tried on holiday last year, had us all laughing as he couldn’t stop himself smiling and laughing. In other words, he is a ‘cheap date’. He and we now know this so he can keep a check on how much he drinks.
His twin is a runner and an athlete. While his tolerance for alchohol appears fine, he has never drunk enough to feel drunk. His body is his temple and he doesn’t want to pollute it with alcohol. On holiday, he does like a few drinks and will also join the other runners in having a beer after a race well run. I have no worries about him.
Our 17 yr old has a high tolerance level for alcohol. He and his mates all want to experiment with having a few drinks at a party or at the weekends. I am happy for them to do that in our house. Far safer that they are in our house than for them to feel the need to go out in the dark to find somewhere to illegally drink. My teenage years were spent drinking cider in the park with some very ill effects! I don’t want my vulnerable boys having to do that.
I am also relieved to know that none of them react badly to alcohol. They smile more, laugh and are silly. None of them get aggressive in any way.  That is a hugely reassuring fact to know.  It’s another reason for letting them practise while with us in a safe environment. We can witness any negative reactions.
Everyone parents their children differently. My way is not necessarily the best way or the only way but for our family, it works. I think that if something is witheld, it will become even more desired. We have a stash of chocolate. My boys can help themselves. None of them are overweight, they don’t crave chocolate because they don’t see it as forbidden fruit. I want them to feel the same way about alcohol. It doesn’t need to be abused. It’s there if they want it and we don’t make a big deal about it.

It probably helps that I only have a drink maybe once a week.  I drink water with dinner, so all the boys do too. I am known for my love of cocktails though, but as a treat , not as a regular activity. On holiday, we take the boys out for a pre dinner cocktail which they love. It’s as much about the ritual and being treated as adults and equals as it is about the alcohol itself.

Will our boys ever have children of their own?

I took my three kittens to the vets on Thursday to be neutered. They are nearly six months old and were starting to get frisky! Hard to imagine my hand reared babies now ready to procreate already.  My one and only attempt at breeding kittens was more than enough but I did get to keep three kittens for my pain.  It led me to thoughts of fertility and of course made me think about my boys.

I don’t care anymore about the likelihood of never being a Grandma.

Fertility is a difficult concept for me to think about.  On two levels. I suffered from recurrent miscarriages and lost so many precious babies trying to have my own children. My boys were very much wanted. Having four was no ‘oops, mistake’ like some people thought and voiced hurtfully to me. My fourth son must have been unplanned as I already had three boys with severe autism? Why would I risk a fourth? And then there was the six year gap too.  In fact, he was so longed for that it took me six long years and five more miscarriages before he was born.

Fertility is precious. I know what it is like to really want a child but be unable to have one. Just taking the cats on Thursday to the vets made my heart bleed a little for the kittens that could have been.

On the other level, I think about my boys and the likelihood that they will never have children of their own.  I don’t mind at all about not being a Grandma. My youngest son was born to me miraculously at an age when many women are becoming Grandmothers, not mothers. My nest is full.

Do my boys mind though? Do they think about having children of their own? Benjamin has always wanted to get married and have children. Currently, he has yet to even find his first girlfriend.  Does he still want children? And if he does, how hard would that be? For him? For those children?

Thomas would be a fantastic father. He loves children and is so good with them but he cannot yet look after himself independently. I think he knows that having children of his own would be too difficult for him to cope with.

For my boys, perhaps choosing not to have children will be a hard decision. One that we will be there to support them through hopefully.

Another loss for them that they are aware of.

I think that is what I find so hard for my boys. Their awareness of life around them means they know that people have relationships, have children. There are some things we as parents cannot make happen for them and have to accept as part of their lives with severe autism.

I feel their potential loss though.





‘I want to break free…’

An earworm to accompany you as you do your daily tasks!
I have been ‘at home’ for 20 years. I don’t want to say I gave up work 20 years ago or I haven’t worked for 20 years because I have worked so hard.  I haven’t earned any money though or barely any.
I am a housewife, a carer, a mother.  What does that mean? That I spend my days dusting? That I spend my days watching daytime TV? Meeting friends for coffee? 
None of those and certainly not the dusting. Life is too short to dust but I do have a lot of tidying up after four large boys. So many enormous pairs of trainers in the hall, not helped by the fact that Thomas, 20 is a runner and requires a different pair of trainers for each type of race or training session.  But now, I am wavering off topic which is how I seem to spend my days.
I start with good intentions. Six months of direct returns paperwork took me nearly as long to finally complete as I managed to find so many other things more needy of my attention.
I am bored. I am bored of endless forms. Endless benefit interviews for the boys. Having been deemed eligible for ESA last year, I then had repeat forms to fill in a few weeks ago and now more interviews next week. Why can’t they read the EHCPs? or the PIP assesments?  Now I sound like an episode of Line of Duty, how many acronyms can I fit into one paragraph?
I am bored of finding carers for my boys. I spent 16 years trying to recruit, train and retain ABA tutors.  It was one of the positives of no longer running ABA programmes that I didn’t have to continually search for tutors. Now, it’s carers I need. Not so desperate. If we don’t have any, it means we can’t go out or the boys can’t do so many activities but it’s not like when they needed tutors or they couldn’t go to school.
A recent advert produced some not very excellent applications. One from a 16 year old. Points for trying but how can I employ a 16 yr old to talk about dating girls and take my 20 yr old boys to the gym?
The boys are all in great educational placements. I am very relieved and very grateful that they all have an excellent school (the two youngest boys) and a great college placement (the two older boys) so I should be sitting back and patting myself on the back and reading a book in the garden.
After 20 years, I can’t do that. I can’t stop and smell the flowers. I am driven to keep busy.
I want to break free.
I don’t want to be just a mother, a carer. I want to be Sarah. The author. The champion of ABA. Someone who has an opinion.
Currently, I am thwarted. My new book has been with an agent for 18 months. The feedback from editors every time is that ‘it is well written’, ‘they can’t put it down’, ‘it’s a good book’. They want to publish it but the sales departments are wary of another memoir, another autism book and will it sell enough copies?

I will break free. I will be the author of that new book. Somehow. I owe it to my boys. I owe it to ABA. I owe it to myself for the past 20 years of fighting for my boys, of transforming their lives and I want to tell everyone about it.