Autism Parenting: The End Of An Era

2012-09-24 23.02.15

Three nights ago, I made the excruciating decision to kick my children out of bed. My bed, that is.

To give a bit of background, my kids have always had full and free access to me, at any time of the day or night. When they have woken up in the middle of the night having had a bad dream, or feeling sick or lonely, they have been allowed to get into bed with me and snuggle up. It’s not always comfortable, being squished on both sides by children, but I have always loved it. Because what is better than hugs from your children?

As much as I love it, though, there are downsides. For one thing, my children take up an inordinate amount of space in the bed for such small people. It’s like they morph into starfish at night, and there are arms and legs everywhere, squashing my face and poking into my spine. For another thing, these little people are getting less little. George, who is ten, has reached the same height as my mother-in-law (OK, so she’s a little old lady, but still), and eight-year-old James is getting there as well.

What this means is that these nocturnal cuddles are costing me an enormous amount of sleep, and that makes it difficult for me to both function and be a human being that other people want to be around. In addition to that, George has started showing signs of puberty, and my husband and I have been feeling the need to carve out more time with each other.

We have reluctantly agreed that it is time for the kids to stay in their own beds at night.

James has accepted this with ease, but for George it is a massive change. Kids with autism do not appreciate it when the boat is rocked, and this particular change represents a tidal wave for him. It has been difficult for him, and by extension, difficult for us.

For the first two nights, James was the only person who got any sleep. My husband and I would lie helplessly in our bed, listening to George’s plaintive pleadings. He kept wandering into our room, and I kept taking him back to his own bed. I would get him settled, tuck him in and give him a kiss, and then go back to bed. And then I would do it again. And again, and again, and again.

While all of this was going on, George was whimpering, “I want Mommy. Lie down with Mommy in the bed.” And then, as he got sadder and sadder, he was simply calling my name.

I so badly wanted to cave. I so badly wanted to go to him, lie down with him and wrap my arms around him. But I knew that I couldn’t. In order to make this change, we would have to be persistent and patient, gentle and firm. We would have to just lie in bed and listen to our child being sad.


Last night – the third night – we caught a break. George went to sleep in his own bed, and he stayed there for the whole night. There was not so much as a whimper, not the slightest bit of movement. As much as I like to think that this represented an acceptance of the changes, I am realistic enough to know that the poor child was probably just too exhausted to protest. We may be in for another few nights of sleeplessness, and we will deal with it for as long as we need to.

As parents, it is our responsibility to guide our children towards independence, and this is an important step in that direction, even if, at the end of the day, it is harder for me than it is for them.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.



Too Much Information?

Today’s prompt in the National Health Blog Post Month challenge invites participants to talk about disclosure. How do we decide what to share and what not to share in our posts?

This is a question I grapple with from time to time, as all bloggers should. As soon as you put any aspect of your life onto the Internet, you can say goodbye to privacy. Sometimes that really doesn’t matter. There’s no danger in me posting my race times and less-than-flattering photographs of myself in motion. Any Joe on the street can go online and look up my race times anyway. Since that information is publicly available, I may as well post it in my blog where I can brag about it a little.

I am equally open about my son’s autism and the challenges it presents to my family. This is where the question of disclosure becomes a little tricky, because I am being open about people other than myself. There are certain things that I will not discuss on the Internet, but in general I talk quite freely about the lives of my kids, and to a lesser extent, my husband. It is one thing for me to talk about myself, but my right to make that decision on behalf of my children is a bit of a gray area.

My blog serves multiple purposes. It’s a form of expression for my socially anxious, bad-at-verbal-conversation self. Writers as a breed tend to be a little neurotic and introverted, and I am no exception. This is how we communicate. Writing gives us a voice that we wouldn’t otherwise have.

Apart from fulfilling my own need for self-expression, my blog gives hope to other parents of special needs children who might be feeling a little lost and alone. From time to time, I get emails from readers telling me how my writing has made them feel less overwhelmed, and more able to cope. Those emails make everything truly worthwhile, because at the end of the day, what I want is to do my small part to make the world a better place for our kids, for the parents and siblings, for everybody.

At the same time, I hope to smash the stigmas surrounding autism, and the way I see it, the best way to do that is to be frank about it all. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, and in talking about autism, I hope to give it a human face, to give people the message that although there are little kids with autism, they are first and foremost little kids.

There are aspects of my kids’ lives that I will never talk about on my blog. My basic rule is this: if I cannot talk about it in public, I cannot talk about it on my blog. I agonize over many of my posts, weighing the benefits of sharing information against the risk of anyone getting hurt. I have written entire posts and then deleted them without publishing them.

It’s a delicate balancing act sometimes, and I find that as long as I listen to my gut instinct, it’s OK.

How do you decide what information to share on your blog? Have you ever shared something and later regretted it?

(Photo credit: John “Pathfinder” Lester. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)


Open Letter to Ann Coulter

Dear Ann Coulter,

Before I get to the point of this letter, I want to get some preliminaries out of the way.

I don’t agree with your political views, and I don’t like the way you present them. I find you to be offensive and abrasive, and generally disrespectful to your fellow man – even those who check the same name you do in the ballot box.

This is not about politics, though. While I have been kind-of following the US presidential campaign, I don’t have a stake in it. I do not live in the United States, and the outcome of the election will not affect me in my day to life. I am just a Canadian mom muddling through life as best I can, striving for the happiness and wellbeing of the two children I have had the honour of bringing into this world.

I have many of the typical modern-day mom challenges. My boys keep me busy, I spend too much time commuting so that I can work full-time to provide for my family, and my husband and I can barely squeak in any time for ourselves.

In some ways, though, I am not really typical, because both of my children need some extra help. My younger son is struggling with reading and writing. My older son has autism. They are both highly intelligent, you understand, but they have their challenges.

Ann, my older son – the one with autism – does not have any friends. He has been invited to exactly one birthday party in his whole life. He does not know how to play with other children, and when he comes home from school, he is not able to tell me what his day was like. He is different from other kids, and it is obvious.

But do you know what? Not once has any child said a mean word to my son. I realize that as he approaches his teenage years things may become more difficult for him, but until now, he has never experienced anything but tolerance, acceptance and kindness from other children.

No, the nastiness – the looks, the snide comments, the sniggers – have come from adults. It has been the so-called grown-ups who have shepherded their children to the other side of the playground. It has been the grown-ups who have smirked in the face of my son’s public meltdowns and told me that my child “needs a good hiding”. The grown-ups have been the ones to stare rudely at my son’s stimming while their own children have acted as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.

Ann, the one time I heard someone refer to my child as a retard, guess who it was?

Yep, you got it in one. It was an ADULT. Someone who really should have known better.

Someone who freely uses words like “retard” without any care for how it might hurt other people.

Someone like you.

Do you know what connotations that word has for a special needs mom like me? Do you realize that you are tossing out a term designed to hurt and ostracize children like my son? Do you have any idea that this word is exactly what is stopping my son and thousands of others like him from being accepted as a valuable part of society?

Do you even care?

I’d like you to take a moment to look at the picture at the top of this letter. Really look at it. Look into the eyes of that sweet, innocent child, and then tell me if you feel good about being so insulting to him and doing your part to damage his chances of acceptance and happiness.

If you must trash-talk the presidential candidates, please do so without using words that are offensive and divisive.

Thank you.
Just another mom


Teen Series Part 1: “We’re Not So Different Than You”

As a parent, I spend a lot of time trying to get inside my kids’ heads. I try to see things from their point of view in order to understand their motivations, and hopefully parent them in a positive manner. As they grow older, though, it becomes more complicated. Kids develop more of a sense of individuality and they strive to find their way in this world. Our children become teens who feel misunderstood and unrecognized. They have a sense that no-one is really listening to them, and hearing what they want and need.

And so I invited teens to send me their thoughts. I am genuinely interested in hearing what they have to say. These people are a crucial element in society. They are our next generation of educators, police officers, medical professionals, tradesmen and government representatives. They are the ones who will be parenting our grandchildren and steering the direction of society. We have to hear what they say. We have to try and understand them so that we can help them reach their greatest potential.

Today, I am thrilled to introduce you to Alex Zeeman, a South African teen. Here are her words, unedited and uncut.

My name is Alex Elizabeth Zeeman I am 15 years old turning 16 in October. I live in Cape Town South Africa. I love to read, I love
animals, school (I know weird right? 😛 ), playing pc games, watching movies, anime, manga and of course hanging out with my friends.

You asked us to write what we as teens feel or fear, basically you asked us to help you as adults to understand us, but in truth we’re
not so different from you. We think worry and fear the future. We get scared, make mistakes and yes sometimes what we do is quite stupid, sometimes what we say is quite stupid and yes sometimes what we think or how we act is quite, well simply, stupid. But we are teens. I know that’s not an excuse, but it’s as close to one as I can give.

Being a teenager, I personally think, is one of the hardest stages in a persons life. Teens get all the reality checks and “hard lessons”
that shape us into the adults that we will become. Teens experience a thousand heartaches and heartbreaks in 7 short years. We cry a lot, we shout a lot, and occasionally we hang out with the wrong crowd.

Teens are basically hormone driven destruction machines. Everywhere we go we bring some sort of grief. It’s not like we try to, it’s just
what happens when you have a hormone filled adolescent in a confined space for an extended period of time. I know what I’m saying may not be all that helpful but I’m not a teen that has experienced even a fraction of the pain that some teens have. I haven’t gotten so low that I’ve given up. I haven’t been given up on. I haven’t been abused or wronged. I haven’t been hurt, well I have, but not irrevocably.

But yes adults sometimes don’t get what teens go through every single day. How hard it is to get up in the morning to go to school.
Sometimes the very thought of looking into the same judging eyes can be quite tiring, quite scary. For me the bravest people on this planet are teens. We face so much, and yet we are treated as children, we’re thought as being children but we’re not. We don’t think like children, we don’t act like children. Teens grow up much, much, much faster than children. And sometimes yes we are a tad immature and sometimes yes we do do incredibly stupid things but more often than not we want some kind of recognition. We want to be seen, we want to be heard. My happiest moments are when my parent say that they are proud of me. I love making people proud of me. But for some teens the only way that they can be seen, or heard is by doing incredibly stupid things, by acting incredibly stupid.

I’m not an expert, I’m not a shrink, I am simply your average teenager.

I cry, I laugh, I get angry and frustrated and stressed. I love and I hate. I’m not a bad person but teens aren’t. More often than not we’re
simply misunderstood.

These aren’t anybody else’s thoughts, these are mine. These are my views and this is what I think, if it helped I’m glad, if it didn’t
well at least I tried.

(Photo credit: Ava Weintraub Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)


Once Upon A Time

This week I am participating in the WEGO Health “Advocating for Another” carnival, in which I write posts in response to prompts. I am having a lot of fun with this!

Today’s prompt: Once upon a time – It’s storytelling day! Write a story about yourself, your loved one, and others as though you’re a children’s book author. Be sure to include a beginning, middle, and end. Extra points for illustrations!

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who didn’t really like dolls, except for the rag doll her granny made her and the child-size walking doll she once got for Christmas. She didn’t really play with dolls, though. She preferred to play “Cops and Robbers” with her brother and his friends, even though her brother always made her be the bad guy who was shot dead.

The little girl thought her brother was bossy and annoying.

Many people thought the little girl would never be a mommy. She didn’t know how to take care of dolls, and she couldn’t sew or cook. Everyone thought that you had to be able to sew and cook in order to be a mommy. The little girl didn’t really care. She wanted to be an astronaut.

The little girl became a teenager and stopped being little. She still couldn’t sew or cook, and she was painfully shy around people she didn’t know. Apart from a couple of short-lived attempts at relationships, she didn’t have boyfriends. People still didn’t think she would ever become a mother. The girl still didn’t care about that, but she was starting to wonder if she would be alone for her whole life.

When she went away to university, the girl – now a young woman – met a man who flattered her and made her feel special. But then he hurt her and made her feel worthless. Now the young woman didn’t want to be a mother. She didn’t want to be a wife. She wanted to be alone, and for a long time, she was.

The woman grew older and moved to another country. One day, when she was sitting in a park, a man sat down beside her and told her she had beautiful eyes. When she looked at him, she felt as if she was looking at her future.

The man and woman moved into a house together. They had a baby, and two years later, they had another one. The woman had become a mother! She loved her children more than anything, and her children loved her.

The woman no longer thought her brother was bossy and annoying. He walked her down the aisle when she got married.

When a doctor told the woman that her older son had autism, she cried. But after a few years, she knew that even though there would be hard times, her child would be OK, because he had a family who loved him.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)


Lego On The Roof

As a person who (a) suffers from social anxiety disorders and (b) is a bit of technogeek, I have very few friends who I have actually met in person, and quite a lot who I have communicated with only through the magic of the Internet. It is always a bit of a thrill when I can actually meet – face to face – one of my online friends.

Yesterday I got that opportunity, when a friend who lives a couple of hours away came to visit with her husband and little boy. We all had a wonderful time. My friend is even more fun in person than she is online, and we already have plans in the works to meet up again.

When this absolutely delightful family left, my husband went off to his factory to admire his latest handiwork, and I settled down in the living room to watch Olympic swimming and weave words into pictures.

The kids wandered onto the deck to play, and I was easily able to keep track of them from where I was sitting. All I had to do was turn my head from time to time to make sure I could still see them, and as long as I heard the thump-thump noise of their feet hitting the wooden deck as they ran around, I knew the status quo was being comfortably maintained.

At one point when I looked around, James seemed to be somewhat taller than usual. Also, he was holding a long stick. I was so comfortable in my seat, though, and since no-one was screaming I decided that it would not be necessary to actually get out of my seat. A verbal reprimand issued at reasonable volume should suffice.

“James, put the stick down!” I called.

“But then George will try to get the Lego off the roof,” he called back.


I went out to the deck, and there was James standing on the table, poking at the roof with the stick. I stepped back a few paces and almost tied my neck in a knot in my efforts to bend it far enough, and sure enough, I just managed to make out the unmistakable bright yellow glint of Lego.

“How did it get there?” I asked, perplexed.

“I threw it there,” said James in a matter-of-fact tone, as if this kind of thing happened every day.

There are times when parenting should operate on a need-to-know basis, and I decided that this was something that I did not need to know. I went into the back yard and lugged the ladder onto the deck. I set it up, and stood there looking at it with growing anxiety.

Here’s the thing. I am absolutely petrified of ladders. I always imagine that something terrible will happen while I’m up on one. The thing will collapse beneath me and I will crack open my skull and break seventeen bones. Or it will fall over and I will be trapped on the roof forever, subsisting on bugs and droplets of water from the rain gutter.

If I didn’t get the Lego, however, George would have a meltdown of epic proportions. The fact that I got up on that ladder and made my shaky way to the top is proof that I love my children more than life itself and would do absolutely anything for them.

At the top of the ladder, I had a bit of a problem. Because of where I had positioned it, I couldn’t see where the Lego was. I had only one shot at this, though. Once I got down from the ladder, there was no way in hell I was getting back up again. So I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and ran my hand along the bit of roof that was within my reach.

My hand made contact with something hard. Hoping to God that it was the Lego, I grabbed it and tossed it down onto the deck. I then made my nervous way down the ladder, only allowing myself to breathe once my feet hit terra firma.

The thing that I had thrown down from the roof was indeed the offending Lego. I breathed a sigh of relief, half-heartedly reprimanded the culprit (James) and in a rare break from the norm, allowed myself a glass of wine before dinner.

My poor shattered nerves deserved it.

 (Photo credit: aloshbennett. This picture  has a creative commons attribution license.)

The Mathematics Of Brotherhood


I am fortunate enough to have two children who travel well, at least by car. We have not yet experimented with air travel, but I have a feeling that once we got past the airport chaos and onto the plane, they would be fine. We are not quite ready for that, so for now we are sticking to the road trips.

Last weekend, we drove to Elkhart, Indiana. It’s a journey of about eight hours, which does not include time spent on the border crossing and any pit stops. We planned as well as we could, given that we only had a day in which to plan. I packed up stuff for an en route picnic, and made sure the boys had their favourite toys in the car with them. I even had my laptop handy in case I had to calm them down by playing DVD’s for them.

The drive down could not have gone better. The guy at the border cheerfully welcomed us into the United States, despite my six-year-old informing him that “Daddy always be’s crazy.” Shortly after crossing the border, we stopped for our picnic. Everyone had fun, and there were no complaints as we piled the kids back into the car for the remainder of the drive.

The drive home was a different story altogether. I wouldn’t say it was disastrous, exactly, but it was a little fraught with stress. It started with lost Lego. I wrote recently about George’s Lego, and how it can never, ever be lost.

Right before leaving the Elkhart city limits, we stopped for a leisurely dinner. We ate our food, paid and left. When we had been driving for about an hour, George suddenly started asking for his Lego. This surprised us, since we had assumed he had it with him. We pulled over and couldn’t find the Lego anywhere in the car. A phonecall to the restaurant confirmed that George had left it on the table.

There was no way we were going to force our child with autism to do without the object that is a big source of comfort to him – I mean, he sleeps with his Lego – so we drove back to Elkhart and got it. Disaster was averted and peace reigned once again.

But only for a little while.

By the time we embarked on our return journey, the kids were tired, cranky and overstimulated from a packed weekend. It is understandable that they didn’t feel like spending eight hours stuck in the car. I didn’t feel like spending eight hours stuck in the car.

With about five hours of the drive left to go, George started saying, “I want to go home. I want to be home in ten minutes.”

Well, in the absence of rocket launchers on the car, that wasn’t going to happen. We tried to talk George through his increasing anxiety. Even James, in his sweet way, was trying to comfort his brother.

“Don’t worry, George. We’ll be home tonight.”

Instead of calming down, George was getting more and more anxious, so we did what we always do when he needs to be distracted: we started throwing out math questions at him.

George loves numbers. He’s been able to count to 100 in a variety of increments since he was three, and he was doing multiplication in his head long before anyone taught it to him at school. When he’s asked a math question, he cannot resist answering it. It’s a marvellous way to reduce his stress.

James started playing along and pretty much took over. He was asking George one math question after another. What’s 8 plus 8? What’s 32 minus 7? What’s 5 times 5?

The math questions eventually morphed into nonsense questions. What’s cow plus water? What’s house plus airplane? What’s paper plus shoes?

Every time James asked one of these questions, he provided an equally nonsense answer. By the time this had been going on for a while, the kids were in fits of giggles. Come to think of it, me and my husband were too. It was hilarious.

Then James asked the following question: What’s James plus George?

We all looked at James, waiting for the answer. When it came, it brought tears to my eyes.

James plus George equals love.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)


2012 Run For Autism: Starting The Journey

Many of you already know the story.

You already know how I was a runner way back when, and then stopped and completely neglected my physical health after the birth of my kids. You know how I always wanted to get back into running, but never found the discipline. You know how I became completely comfortable as a couch potato but never quite got rid of that residue of regret.

You also know how an email landed in my inbox one day that completely changed everything. The email was an invitation for me to join the team being put together by the Geneva Centre for Autism for the forthcoming Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront races. Participants could run the 5K, half-marathon or marathon, and in the process raise funds for services for children and youth with autism.

It turned out to be just the motivation I needed. Within 24 hours I had made the transition from couch potato to speed demon extremely slow runner. Six months later, I had dropped almost sixty pounds and I was standing exhausted but triumphant at a half-marathon finish line, clutching my finishers medal and sobbing with emotion.

Here I sit, three years later, getting ready to embark on training and fundraising for my fourth Run for Autism. Since that first half-marathon in 2009, most of the weight has stayed off, my half-marathon time has improved by almost ten minutes, and I have raised over $2000 for the Geneva Centre for Autism.

This year’s race is on October 14th. My fundraising goal is a cool thousand dollars. This means that for the next four months, I will be shamelessly asking people for money – friends and family, complete strangers, and everyone in between. The money will go towards supplies and services for children and youth with autism. These are services that can provide skills that will last a lifetime, enabling people like my son George to lead happy, productive lives as fully integrated members of their communities.

Some examples of what $1000 can do are as follows:

  • Art supplies for 40 children and young adults
  • Sports equipment for 20 children and young adults
  • Musical instruments for 15 children and young adults
  • Job training for 15 young adults
  • Field trips for 10 children and young adults
  • Summer camp for 4 children and young adults
  • 2 iPads loaded with apps for individuals with autism
  • 1 piece of state-of-the-art sensory equipment

This list goes to show that every single cent really does make a difference. If you have the ability to, please consider sponsoring my Run for Autism and contributing to this incredible cause for my child and for other people with autism.

To donate, please visit my fundraising page.

It takes a very special kind of village to raise a child with special needs. Today, I invite you to be a part of my village.

(Photo credit: Brightroom Professional Event Photographers)



I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

When my kids were little – well, littler than they are now – they went to a great daycare centre a few minutes’ walk away from our house. When the weather was nice, the kids would be allowed to play outside at the end of the day while they were waiting for their parents to pick them up. When I got off the bus from work, I would walk directly to the centre, and as I approached, I would hear the sound of children laughing and playing in the outdoor play area behind the building.

There is no sound in the world that is more magical than the laughter of children. I used to treasure that part of every day – those moments in which the sounds of childhood joy floated through the air and reached my ears.

When my boys reached the age-limit of the daycare and had to leave, I knew that I would miss those precious sounds.

Now that both boys are always home by the time I get off the bus, my homecoming is quite different to what it was back then, but it is no less magical.

My husband and children, alerted to my impending arrival by a text or phone call from me, stand together at the front door, peering out of the frosted glass panels on either side. When I appear at the end of the road, my husband opens the door and releases them into our quiet street. They charge down the road towards me, running in that completely natural, unrestrained way that only children are capable of, and they launch themselves at me, giggling helplessly as I pretend to fall over backwards.

By this time, my husband is usually ambling down the road to meet me. We go for a walk around the block, all four of us holding hands. Then we turn and head back towards the house. When we’re about half a block away, we line the kids up.

On your marks!

The kids look up at us with anticipation.

Get set!

George starts to giggle and looks all around him. James, who has acquired my love of running and actually takes this seriously, looks straight ahead as he braces himself for takeoff.


And they’re off, racing each other to the house. In that moment, we are not looking at a child with autism and a child without autism. We are looking at two typical boys, being brothers.

And this is what life is all about. Love. Togetherness. Family.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)


Taking Off The Parenting Hat To Go On A Date

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

The last time I saw a movie with my husband – a real movie, in a movie theatre, with a giant bucket of popcorn to share – my firstborn son was about a year old. Because we just had the one child back then, and because one-year-olds who aren’t yet fully mobile are easier to manage than hyperactive eight-year-olds, my ageing mother-in-law was able to babysit.

We have gone out on other occasions, of course. We are regular patrons of a nearby dinner theatre that’s run in a barn – if once or twice a year can be considered “regular”. We go to the annual Christmas gala organized by my employers, and on the odd occasion, we’ll go to a party or a wedding.

For the most part, though, our outings include the kids. We frequent parks with slides and swings, and we go to restaurants where the waitstaff bring paper cups filled with crayons along with menus that the kids are allowed to draw on.

I am always hearing and reading about the importance of a couple going out on their own to spend time just with each other. I fully subscribe to that idea, and from time to time my husband and I make a commitment to have a date night once a month. But the logistics are so difficult.

People often assume that living with my mother-in-law gives us a built-in babysitter whenever we need it, and while that may have been true to an extent at one time, it’s not anymore. My mother-in-law is almost eight years older now than she was when we went to the movie that time, and instead of having one one-year-old, we have a six-year-old and an almost nine-year-old.

Finding a trustworthy babysitter is hard enough for any parent. There’s something very frightening about entrusting the most valuable things in our lives to people who usually aren’t old enough to vote. And when one of those valuable things is a vulnerable special needs child, the angst about it increases ten-fold.

Most babysitters do not know how to handle a special needs child. We have to find people who have some understanding of autism, are quick on their feet, and have the physical strength and presence of mind to restrain a child for his own safety. If it’s someone who can take the time to actually get to know the child while I am home, so much the better.

Usually, it’s just easier for us to not go anywhere by ourselves at all. But then our relationship definitely starts to take strain, because we are not paying enough attention to nurturing our relationship. Eventually, because of our increasing levels of stress, it starts to take some kind of toll on our parenting, in spite of all our efforts to the contrary.

Last night, we had the opportunity to go out to a concert – meaning that my husband had free tickets – and we had to scramble for a babysitter. The free tickets had come about unexpectedly, so we hadn’t exactly planned for an evening out. I desperately said to my husband that I didn’t even know who to ask.

My husband came up with the perfect solution. He asked M, one of the guys who works for him, if he would be willing to watch the kids for the evening, and M willingly accepted. M has kind of become a friend of the family. We invite him to the kids’ birthday parties, he came over for Easter dinner, and we eat out with him from time to time.

We completely trust M with the kids. He is so used to George’s autism that he doesn’t bat an eyelid when autism-related things happen. George knows him and likes him. James downright hero-worships him, and when we told him that M was babysitting, he practically pushed us out the door so he could hang out with his idol.

Safe in the knowledge that our kids were safe and happy, and that they might or might not tie M to a totem pole by the end of the evening, my husband and I headed into the city to see a live performance by Paul Weller, former member of The Jam and Style Council.

The music was every bit as good as we had hoped it would be, and my husband and I felt that buzz of happiness that you get simply from being with someone you love. M didn’t get tied to a totem pole. The kids behaved like model children. They were like the kids on those reality TV shows after the Super Nanny has whipped the family into shape. M said he would babysit for us again anytime we needed him to.

Last night, my husband and I renewed our intention to have regular dates nights to connect with one another, enjoy each other’s company, and just be.

How important do you think it is for couples to spend time together away from the kids? Is it something you manage to do regularly?

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)