One day, I am not going to be here for my children. One day, they will say goodbye to me and be left to fend for themselves without me there to guide, support or even just hug them. One day, they'll be on their own.
Although we never planned to have five children, I'm glad that we did. They will always have each other, when their father & I have gone they will never be alone in this world and will always have someone who shares their memories, who grew up in the same house and felt the same love and happiness, whose faces are all smiling together in the same family photos. As much as it pains me to know that one day I won't be able to see them any more, it gives me peace knowing that they have each other.
Out of the five of them, I admit I do worry about what life will be like for L as an adult with special needs. The news is full of stories about terrible things that have happened to vulnerable teenagers and adults with disabilities. Being bullied, abused and terrorised and made to feel like prisoners in their own homes, and I can feel the panic rise inside me when the realisation hits and I think "I won't always be able to protect him".
Will he be okay without me?
Right now he has me fighting his corner, being his voice and standing up for him when he can't stand up for himself. But he won't always be a child, and I won't always be able to be there for him, and it terrifies me.
On occasions the thought of him being on his own without me reduces me to tears. I simply do not want to imagine him being hurt, or taken advantage of, or abused - because he is vulnerable, because his difficulties will make him an easy target. I've witnessed the ignorance and contempt that has been levelled at my son now, when he is just a child, and it disgusts me to envisage how much worse it could get as he grows up.
I ask A & J often - please promise me that if you only do one thing for me, you will look after L when we are gone. Please don't leave him on his own. Please speak for him when he needs you to. Maybe these fears are irrational, maybe I am worrying for nothing. But worry I will, because of course I don't know what the future holds for him. Or indeed for any of us for that matter.
Is it just me who worries about this?
If you only do one thing today, learn something about additional needs. Not just about autism, it can be anything at all. Educate your children, your family, your friends. There is no such thing as 'normal', and if we can all learn to embrace each others differences then when our time is up, we know we can leave our children behind in a hopefully more enlightened world, and we can rest in peace.
How long will I love you?
As long as stars are above you
And longer, if I can.
- Ellie Goulding.