Do your teenagers help clear the table and load the dishwasher?
Do they play video games and watch TV, while you
Do you collapse on the couch with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, feet up, deep sigh and relax?
Probably with a few interruptions. The doorbell maybe. The phone. A teenager needing to talk if you're lucky, or row if you're not.
That could've been me this evening.
For the first time ever, Smiley left the house after dinner. Without me.
She's gone out for the evening with the group of young adults on her post school programme. They've gone somewhere really posh. A special dinner has been organised, plus a chocolate dessert (of course) and lots of time to dance it off. Her key worker is with her.
I am home on call for five hours. Five unstructured hours. I've pottered around doing this and that, written a few things, watched a bit of TV, did a few jobs around the house, talked to the other two. I even tried lying on the sofa.
It felt very odd. You see my evenings are not normally like this.
When you care for someone like my daughter, you can never completely relax when she's with you. You're either giving attention to her or keeping half an eye or an ear on her to see what she needs. Between the regular scheduled activities like teeth cleaning and toiletting and the fun stuff like watching the X Factor together or dancing to Little Mix, it's constant, for good and for bad. With Smiley, her needs could involve a change of DVD, a drink, a chat, the toilet, bed, dinner, a change of sleeping position, or Nurofen. And that's the short list. Fifteen uninterrupted minutes is the most I would normally manage of an evening, between Smiley and her siblings.
But of course the five hours flew by, and I finally heard the bus arrive outside, the clank as the lift was put in position, and I ran out to see my princess. She's tired but seems content. I ask her a few leading questions: she's no interest in telling me about the food, but babbles happily about the chocolate and the dancing. Her big sister helps me to change her clothes and put her into bed in her favourite position. She's asleep within seconds. I think I will be too.
And tomorrow the after dinner routine will be back to normal.