As we enter the theatre for the event of the year – Horrible Histories live on stage, DS1 becomes agitated, dithering over the best place to sit (I’ve never been to a Ryanair version of a theatre before).

Eventually we take our seats, DS1 seemingly happy with our vantage point. He sits hunched up in his chair. Any attempt to speak to him is met with a “shut up” and a flick of his hand. Even his friend Joanne is rebuffed. He refuses to go and look at the merchandise on sale, but does find his mojo when the wife returns with some goodies.

Once the show starts, he’s back to his lively self – joining in with the singing, shouting out in the appropriate places (and some inappropriate ones as well) and generally enjoying himself. He doesn’t clap, though. The etiquette of saying ‘thanks’ for the entertainment lost on him.

On the way home, he resumes his subdued, non-speaking persona, drained by the over-stimulation of the day.

We suggest stopping to get a drink and a snack, and rather surprisingly he agrees. “Er, OK” comes his stock reply when he wants to do something. As we pull up in the car park of a dining facility, he remains rooted in his seat, refusing to undo his seatbelt.

“But I thought you wanted to stop for a snack,” I say.
“I never said that.”

We abort and head for home.

Once back in the safety of his own territory, he flops on the sofa, complaining of feeling unwell. But an hour later he has perked up, any thoughts of illness forgotten.

I think it was just the effort of holding himself together in a place that was unfamiliar to him, despite the fact he was surrounded by family and friends and was watching something he absolutely loves.

But we have to remember he has the lights, the noise, the people to contend with, which he just can’t process in the same way we do. He sees things in a different way.

I’d love to get inside his head and see and hear how he views the world. It would certainly help me understand him better.

Insult to injury

There are so many good times with DS1 – and these are beginning to outweigh the difficult moments, especially in my mind. Before I headed off to the football a couple of days later, we were trading good-natured insults, because he had decided it was ‘Insult Dad Day’. Mostly it involved calling me fat, smelly and old.

As I sat on the train heading for that London my phone beeped. The wife had texted: “He’s gone downstairs armed with chocolate, pens and paper, the remote control and a duvet. ‘Come on Mum, let’s have the perfect day – watching a movie, eating chocolate and writing hundreds of insults’.”

He was certainly on top form that day.

This was soon followed by another update: “Bit just came on the film when a fish asked, ‘Do you know where my Dad is?’. [DS1’s] response: ‘Well, I know where mine is – drinking alcohol probably’.”

Very perceptive our boy.

As if the day hadn’t been bad enough (result-wise), I arrived home to a spreadsheet stuck to the hall wall. It took the form of a calendar, indicating which days over the next two months were ‘Insult Dad Days’ – pretty much all of them by the looks. I only seem to have been let off in the last week in April when I’m away anyway. Although, there was a bit of an overlap.

“Don’t worry Dad, we can insult you when you call us,” he told me gleefully.

I went into the lounge to find four pieces of A4 on the floor full of insults he had written. My favourite was: “Your [sic] so fat that a cat would think you were the moon not a spoon.”

Rules and rulers

His latest project is finding images on the internet of kings and queens and related people (brothers, sisters, parents, children, random Roundheads and Cavaliers, members of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, Prince Rupert’s dog and even three men who had the unenviable task of being Henry VIII’s ‘groom of the stool’ – his bottom wiper).

I was then tasked with removing unnecessary backgrounds from the pictures and printing them out for him. Oh, what fun we have.

We went to my parents for Monday tea (it was Easter bank holiday) and he filled his bag with these printouts to take round to their house. He then spent a merry hour producing them one at a time and challenging us to name the person depicted. Not the easiest of tasks – and I’d helped him print them out.

As Odo (one of William the Conqueror’s half-brothers, apparently) was shown around his audience, it, unsurprisingly, drew a blank.

He looked at me to fill the void. I was clueless. “I can’t remember who that is,” I said.
“I remember you know,” he insisted.
“But I don’t remember I know,” I countered.
“But everyone knows it’s Odo.”

It would appear not.

The next one also drew a blank.
“Come on it’s the brother of the father-in-law of [whoever].”

“It’s the half-sister of William the Conqueror.”
You’ve got us there.

He was flabbergasted at our lack of knowledge of random royals.
“It’s Hervala, you lemon,” he shouted.

Events at my parents demonstrated his lack of filter or, put another way, his ability to tell things how they are without thinking, or realising, how that would make the other person feel. And also his inability to be flexible with rules.

He started being rude to my parents. After I had told him off, he replied: “I’m not being rude, it’s you who was being rude by saying ‘yes’ to coming round here.”

It was clear that he wanted to go home. We needed to find a way to depart pronto with out upsetting my parents further.

The wife tried a cunning tactic. “Is it bath time?” she asked.
“OK, well we don’t leave until it’s bath time. So I’ll ask you again, is it bath time?”

Strictly speaking he was correct. It was 6.30 and his self-appointed bath time is 7.10.

“So, you don’t want to go yet?”
“Yes, but I’m not lying.”

The art of the white lie is lost on him. It’s weird because in other circumstances he’s very good at making stuff up.

On the way home, having left once it was bath time, I tried to explain to him about the fact that what you say can make other people sad and that even if you don’t want to go to their house for tea that sometimes you have to do things for other people to make them happy.

“You were being really obnoxious today,” I told him.
“I didn’t want to go to the house of the father fossils, that’s why I was being obnoxious,” he retorted.


  • Clive

    Little by little things are looking up with DS1. I sometimes wish I could dump the norms of social etiquette and be honest with my feelings the way he does.
    Have a great working holiday in Malawi.

    • Phil Clisby

      Me too!


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