In the spirit of "looking on the bright side", here are a few good things about having a disabled child:
Free Parking Anywhere You Want
...well, anywhere except a taxi rank. I found this out the hard way about a week after getting the "blue badge". I had just popped in to the butchers on the high street for two minutes and left my family in the car, and when I returned there was an ominous sticker on the windscreen. Apparently Meg had wondered why the traffic warden was taking so much interest in the car, but had not considered actually switching to the driver's seat and moving it. After paying the fine I think it took me about six months of not having to pay for pay-and-displays before I was back in credit.
Anyway, apart from that, being able to use the disabled spaces is brilliant. Being allowed to park on double-yellow lines is quite surreal; it seems a bit too good to be true. If there are double yellow lines on the road that means it is not a good idea to park there, doesn't it? So why make exceptions? Every time I do park on double-yellows, whenever I return to the car I expect to find a little sticker on it telling me I have misunderstood the rules, and that another six months of parking charges savings has disappeared. So far so good though.
It seems to me that no matter how badly Jamie behaves, no other adult will ever tell him (or indeed us, his parents) off. I imagine that if, when I was thirteen, I had climbed into the passenger seat of a stranger's car and angrily shouted my demand that he take me to Newcastle, I would have received a stern rebuke, and possibly a cuff around the ear. When Jamie did the same thing last summer though, it was met with an amused chuckle; the driver had a good laugh with me when I arrived, out of breath and a with a look of desperation in my eyes, a few seconds later.
I have been in situations where Jamie's victim has taken a few seconds to realize that he has Down's Syndrome, and in those few seconds I have had a glimpse of what it must be like to be the parent of an ordinary delinquent child. Once, at a car-boot sale, a middle-aged woman started telling Jamie off because of some misdemeanor he had committed, when the younger woman she was with whispered something in her ear, and the telling-off stopped immediately. The older woman then apologized to me and shuffled off. Just the other day in a soft-play area, a parent came to me me to complain, not unreasonably, that Jamie had been spitting at her child at the top of the spiral slide; she only got as far as explaining the facts when two of her friends dragged her away telling her to leave me alone.
You see? It is immunity. It is just as well really, or else we would all be in prison by now.
We have made a few quid over the years from TV shows that buy funny home movie clips. For example I got £250 for the footage the time I sat in a ball pool with Jamie and asked him for a kiss, but instead he attempted to gouge my eyes out while giggling manically.
It's just a shame that we have also missed so many potential £250 incidents. I only wish I could film Jamie every second of every day, I would make a fortune.
The fact that amusement parks like Alton Towers and Disneyland let us go on the rides without queuing is one of the best things ever. The only downside is that we are only allowed to queue-jump if Jamie is actually going on the ride with us. This means that when we went to Disneyland a few years ago, I did not get to go on Space Mountain at all, but I did get to go on "Small World" three times.
Jamie's special needs school does not seem to go in for competitive sports. In fact they appear to be ideologically opposed to them - in a meeting once, Meg suggested that they have a sports day at the school, and everyone looked at her as though she had suggested ethnic cleansing. Anyway, at least this means we don't have to go and pretend to enjoy watching him play football once a week in the wind and rain, like my parents did with me.
This is the best one. How many dads still get long enthusiastic cuddles from their teenage children? I do.