Living Happy. One Family’s Way…

MY LIFE, transformed by four other little lives, brought into the world, now ages 11, 9, 7 and (almost) 1!

As a parent, what should I want most for my children, if not HAPPINESS?

And yet my Awesomely Aspergers boy, in particular, can have the BEST DAY [with a lot of effort, from others, to this end], and STILL his thoughts refill with broader, perceived challenges in his life 😬 

So how do we equip ourselves, as a family, to be truly happy and fulfilled?

Certainly, it is not to say that life needs to be without challenge, effort, or even failure. I’m definitely NOT saying that. Finding purpose and stepping towards our dreams, through the challenges, surely makes good outcomes most special; ownership, a building block to self esteem. Action becomes committed and motivated. AND ‘the learns’ keep the door open to change and new possibilities!

IN A NUTSHELL, our family outlook has somehow developed three pursuits: 

  1. COURAGE, in the face of the tough stuff
  2. to keep OPTIMISTIC about the future
  3. to be GRATEFUL in the day to day 

Not that I find any of that easy myself, ha! I naturally focus on the bad moments, dwell on them, over analyse them. I usually search for a way I could have done things better. Feel guilt. Pointless stuff.

It’s not about pretending it’s all a breeze though, is it? Learning to mask reality with surface glossiness? Sometimes, life, work, health and relationships ARE tough. I’m blessed with a husband who is masterfully calming when my hysterical waterworks switch on! And he’s very good at caring deeply, and showing it.

Yet there’s a few practical things we have introduced, daily, to help MODEL AND BUILD these traits within family life, especially for Caleb, whose inner voice remains very challenge-focused.

For example, as the children go to sleep every night, we talk to each, in turn, about what they are going to dream about. There is a rule; it has to be forward thinking and positive. Whether that be a birthday party next week, or a future dream career, we encourage the children to end the bedtime conversation by naming a positive thing they are looking ahead to.

On the fridge we often use a visual countdown for bigger, exciting events, which everyone gets involved in updating. We sometimes add pictures, linked to the EXCITING THING, a talking point that keeps the positive anticipation at the forefront. 

Equally, we enjoy looking back on photos of past adventures too.


En route in the car, day-to-day, we regularly list and reflect back upon the highlights of our weekend, week, month, year… We name the good times and get to know each other’s preferences while we’re at it. WE LAUGH TOGETHER! It reminds us that even if this week is tough, there have been plenty of happy times recently, and there will be more to come. 

Similarly, at the end of the school day, we each share two positives, no matter how small, before we launch into any difficulties about our day.

For my son Caleb, I liken troubleshooting any perceived challenge, to feeling travel sick and being unable to get off a merry-go-round! No progress, no agreed solutions, and stubborn pessimism! But if there is a shift of focus, from extinguishing the negative, to looking instead to his character strengths, perceived skills and reflecting upon attractive end goals; this positivity counteracts the pessimistic thoughts, and helps us to move forwards!

When it comes to courage, we tell each other it’s NOT about being fearless. Nor is it about avoidance! Perhaps instead, the first step to courage is self awareness? Knowing what makes us each anxious or uncomfortable, and naming it! And then asking ourselves if it’s important? Is our fear restricting our happiness? If so, let’s find strategies and incentives to face into it, and cheerlead one another, instead of labelling each other negatively, or humiliating one another. Supporting one another is key. In our house we try to promote lovingness, above being right! A work in progress !!

You see, it may be our journey to seek out courage, optimism and thankfulness. BUT, what I want MOST OF ALL, even above these traits, is for the children to GROW TO BE KIND; In my mind, this is the heart of happiness. What’s life without kindness? Without relationship? If the pursuit of happiness is me-first motivated, with jealousy and bitter gossip snapping at its heel, and the pain of unresolved past hurts lurking under the surface, then fun-times or success surely cannot sooth, for long, a deeper brokenness.

Not that I’m in the unbroken camp! Far from it…But I CHOOSE gratitude, and loving deeply goes a long way to helping me feel very fulfilled. It also acts as a balm to the sometimes sharp slap of bad bits, hurtful things, outside of my control.

Yes, I’ll own up now, the Cinderella story ‘The Slipper and The Rose’ was my all time favourite movie as a child; and when the latest ‘Cinderella’ film came out, whilst others found the phrase “Have Courage, and be kind” utterly nauseating, I was (internally) shouting a massive, emotional, ‘AMEN!’ in the aisle…!

Which takes me to my final thought.

I talk to God. I believe in a relational God. I find just TALKING, out loud, to a greater power, liberating.

In all my efforts to be the best Mum I can be, I am reminded…

I’m human.

Aspergers AND Empathetic ?!!

It’s been a winding road to diagnosis! One big thing at the beginning that used to REALLY confuse me, and fuelled a no-way-is-Caleb-autistic belief – was that I had somehow taken on board, at some point in my life, the assumption that autism equated to a lack of emotional connection and empathy. People on this spectrum would struggle to show affection physically, to develop emotional attachments …and with a lack of eye contact too, would even be described by some experts as ‘distant loners’ or ‘head over heart decision makers’.

With this in mind, CALEB simply could NOT be autistic. NO WAY JOSE! This little boy is the MOST affectionate child on earth!

I remember on the first day of his school life, how Caleb hugged a (slightly taken aback) boy from his class at the end of the day, and called out cheerfully “I love you!” to another.


Full to bursting with a hunger to ‘connect’ with people, Caleb remains super tactile and ready to engage with anyone identified to him as a friend. There are no social nerves.

Yes, at the back of my mind grew a nagging inkling that this innocent affection was being outgrown by Caleb’s peers, that his energy was sometimes received as overbearing; Caleb wasn’t picking up on any ‘invasion’ of peoples’ personal space. Gender or age didn’t come into it either. Every friendship was special. Everyone was a potential best friend.

Well, so long as you didn’t do something unfair or unkind! Caleb’s desire to protect people and stand up for justice, was – and still is – VAST. As such, I have found his perspectives and decision making to be enormously emotionally charged too. 

For a long time I felt nothing but pride for Caleb for all of the above – for not being socially conditioned. For being a wonderful role model to us all! How on earth could love, affection, integrity and enthusiasm be red-flag signs of a developmental problem?

When it comes to family, Caleb has always loved his younger brother and sisters VERY deeply too, showing extreme devotion. He welcomed each into the world with blatant adoration, and without a whiff of jealousy. If anything, it was as though he OVERLY empathised with their feelings. If I was to withhold a treat from Caleb’s younger brother because of naughty behaviour, for example, it could be Caleb’s favourite treat in the world but he would stubbornly refuse it too. It would upset him just as much as the tantruming toddler, but tears of solidarity would fall. Trying to get Caleb to understand that this was in fact a loving act on my part, and a consequence of a bad choice of behaviour, was overridden by his pain at seeing them upset. And his feelings would long continue after his toddler brother had forgotten about it and moved on happily with his day! When Caleb thinks you’ve been unfair, it’s a BIG DEAL. 

Today, with a 10 month old baby sister well loved by ALL the family, it is still most often Caleb who is first to visit her when she calls out from the cot in a morning, to rush to her at the first sound of tears. And his URGENCY to safeguard her during the day to day seems as great as a true emergency would feel to me.  


He will play for hours without tiring, at her level, mirroring my common words and interactions, delighting in her giggles. He never shows anger towards her. Ever.

And yet, as his 7 year old sister and 9 year old brother have grown and developed into independent thinkers, with their own game plans, ideas, hobbies and shared opinions… So it has become harder for Caleb to find common ground in every day play. Should you wish to take play in a different direction, Caleb is quick to conclude that you are deliberately trying to sabotage the ‘good time’ you have been having together, otherwise SURELY you’d  be able to see that his idea is far superior! “Mum! They are spoiling it on purpose !!”

Yes! … Playful, emotionally connected, loyal, protective, physically affectionate, cheerful , energetic… ABSOLUTELY.

BUT patient? A team player? A good listener? The ability to understand another’s differing point of view during shared activity, or to follow an agenda that doesn’t interest him?… Not so much!

Caleb takes things very personally. If you disagree, debate usually leads him to suspect you are trying to upset him on purpose! That by extension you are belittling him and forcing your ideas on him. He feels frustration keenly, but struggles to recognise the signs of these same feelings in OTHERS.

I am very proud, as Caleb has matured in recent years, to see him work hard to be a member of a team, to wait his turn and to participate in activities he wouldn’t have chosen, to accept differing opinions. His mantra is “Let’s agree to disagree!”. I only hope this learned behaviour, heavily supported by some fantastic teacher role models in key stage 2 – and of course family input – will allow another side of empathy to develop.

In the meantime – Caleb feels he has failed his 9 and 7 year old siblings, for not convincing them of the merits of his No1 interests!!! 😆😜 …But God has given him a NEW BABY SISTER!! 😍 So! Poppy may have rejected Mercedes cars for Beyoncé and street dance, and Josh may not support Manchester United, or display his Lego in the way his big bro chooses to…

But Caleb has HIGH HOPES that this time, with baby Matilda, he might just be able to make a disciple of her!

About our Blog

My 11 year old (Awesomely Aspergers) son has a ‘cunning plan’, as he would call it! He’s going to become a famous You-Tuber, just as soon as he’s let loose by me! Share his awesome mind with the …

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A Mum Finds her Voice

In honour of Light It Up Blue, Autism Awareness Month 2016…

I’m WINGING IT again. I’ve given it thought and I think now I’ll say: My oldest son has an Aspergers brain.

There. *Long exhale of breath*

He knows it. Frankly, he tells everyone he meets.

He ‘gets’ it; His brain is wired a unique way and it makes him awesome. Simple, right?

But, actually, no. Not simple.

He is beginning to discover everyone else doesn’t get it, this simple fact. Even me, at times (*gulp*). Yes! EVEN I cringe sometimes when he announces it.

More and more he is understanding it’s more COMPLEX than just his personality makeup, the way I explained it to him back when he was aged 8. He’s different. And it often hurts.

He’s kind and people are mean back.

He’s honest and passionate about being fair and just, but others come out on top by lying and tricking the people in charge in his life.

He knows TONS about some topics and is so enthusiastic to make you an expert too, for FREE, but you’re not interested. In fact, his energy makes you frustrated. It feels like he’s sharing his most exciting news and all we want to do is argue or rubbish it.

He sits down at the school canteen table with a smile on his face, and you all get up and leave?! – and the world says HE’S the one with social interaction difficulties?

High school is hurtling towards my son like an oncoming high speed train and there’s a blunt challenge in his outlook – I’m Aspergers. How will this high school business cope with me?

I admit it, I’m as nervous as him. More so. I’m not ready for a big wide world!

I want acceptance for him. I want inclusion. I want happiness SO much.

But actually I want more than that. I want people to say ‘lucky you!’ to me… And see what I see, and believe I am blessed.

WTF, a syndrome?!!

Without Aspergers brains we wouldn’t have Microsoft, Lego, NASA, Apple and Facebook … To name but a few CORE aspects of life as we know it! Is this amazing brain REALLY a disability?

So socially he’s a bit, well – “blunt in conversations, justice oriented, black and white in his thinking, awkward in eye-contact, overly-focused on a few subjects, has odd speech at times, misreads some social cues and can be clumsy”….

But I say… So? Are we each perfect, us Non-Aspies?

He’s BRILLIANT.

Beyond tender and concerned when you’re sad.

He’ll never try to belittle you.

Be your friend regardless of how you look or sound.

Soooooo demonstrative of his affection. Big HUGS!

A deep thinker, passionate to make a difference in this lifetime he’s been given … An unquenchable energy and drive.

Honest. ALWAYS.

And yet…a Comic! A bubbling up longing to see you abandon whatever is holding you back – and join him in LAUGHTER. He can be hilarious!

My son definitely makes the world brighter. I wouldn’t have him any other way. Yes, there’s challenges for him and by extension, me and us, his family… But I would be lost without his amazingly wired mind. He brings me soooo much love and happiness and his vulnerability is precious.

He’s a gift, and I hope by raising awareness people like my son won’t feel alone , misunderstood , sad, angry or frustrated that they can’t find their place.

DIVERSITY SHOULD BE CELEBRATED.