It makes the world go around.
It greases the wheels of commerce. It’s what we work to earn, to live. But in The Rose’s world it’s a confusing, bewildering annoyance.
Don’t get me wrong – she understands fully that it can get her stuff. She knows she needs it. She likes having it – and in tightly organised bundles, she adores spending it. But when it stops being manifest as coins or notes – well it doesn’t really exist does it?
The Rose has much about her which isn’t obviously Aspergers. Indeed as she matures it hides even more cleverly – but it’s still there, peeking and sneaking into all aspects of her. Often too subtle to explain and too big to excuse; mixed and marbled. But when it comes to money and maths Aspergers stands tall, proudly pulling itself to its full height and shoving to the front shouting:
“Particle physics and Quantum theory is NOTHING compared to shopping in Sainsbury’s with ME!”
Then her bedroom bin began to rattle.
The Rose throws tons of stuff away. She has little attachment to ‘things’ and when they don’t have a place in her life on that particular day – in the bin they go. I habitually go through each daily load and either rescue or return the good stuff. But when the bin started to ring with the sound of small change, I got scared.
The coins clearly represented mere shrapnel to her, but in the bottom of that bin lay her blatent disregard for our hard earned cash and it floored me. It flattened me. I saw that she must also have thrown cash away in bins where I couldn’t rescue it. She was at college all day; she had cash everyday for food. Every penny added up. One bin full might have represented a trip to Starbucks or a Man United magazine – OMG!
I panicked. But I knew before I confronted her, the reason why she was doing it.
She has no real sense of value only specific, measured amounts. She likes to have the exact price of an item she’s buying but won’t keep any change to add up to equal the price of another future purchase because the jangling change just ‘hanging around’ is irritating and the future? …what’s that?
So she throws it away and uses notes like Monopoly, but without the get out of jail free card!
I wasn’t a fantastic Mum during that coin/bin clash of perspectives. In fact I was a shouty, spitty, angry Mum. The Rose suggested I was a crap Mum too for not having more money and for being greedy because ‘the bin men may like to have it’!
So now we have a system when it comes to cash. She has a purse for coins and a separate purse for notes. She gives me the coin purse at the end of a fiscally challenging spree and if it adds up to a less irritating amount of money – say 50p or £1, I swap it for the larger calming denomination of coin, taking the annoying little ones into my own purse to teach them a lesson in humility. So far so good.
But I pay for her mobile phone.
She has rules on its use and after a few eye wateringly expensive hiccups – keeps to them. Her phone bill is now stable and manageable and she knows what she can and can’t do – but I never reckoned on Comic Relief!
Anyone who shares a life with autism knows that this does NOT mean people with autism have less emotion or feel less. In fact I think they often feel more and perhaps more deeply. But charity nights on TV for the likes of Children In Need, Comic Relief, Save a …whatever… delights and thrills both of my children.
And that is because they get to see me cry.
I have absolutely no trouble with crying you understand. I feel no shame or embarrassment. I encourage both my kids and The Dad to keep in touch with their emotions and display their feelings with gay abandon. Despite the fact they don’t necessarily share my enthusiasm for this outpouring, I nevertheless blub freely and easily and can cry at a newspaper headline from 10 yards way without having the slightest idea what it’s about.
So – I arrive home late on one such charity TV evening. I am stressed having had a rubbish week at work and having guiltily missed the first hour of broadcast. I am 60 mins behind on my snivelling and the kids will be disappointed! In the back of my mind I also have bills to pay which I’m worried about and I believe I am going to lose a big client contract. I know this is a special night however and I need to be at my sobbing best. I gather myself and walk in, anticipating a night of higher emotions and a good bawl for all the best possible reasons.
All eyes are on me. The Rose especially is on tenterhooks for the first sign of a glisten. She offers me a glass of wine and looks in my eyes – unusual but she’s searching for evidence of water, not my soul.
She announces: “I’ve been watching the poor African children on telly and it’s terrible. Because you weren’t there to cry for them so I have cried for you and I have donated some money”
Im filled with pride at my sensitive, caring daughter. My lovely Rose thinking only of others…but wait, how did you donate to them?
“Oh it’s really easy, you just text this number and keep pressing. Each press and they get £1”
With dawning alarm – “ and how many times did you press, The Rose?”
“Don’t look at me like that Mum. I pressed it loads because they need money. It’s easy there’s no change. Don’t be mean Mum the phone pays them”….
…£38 it turned out – when the phone bill eventually arrived. Then we all had a good cry – again !
In the next blog will try to describe the resultant discussion from that evening which became the unbelievably surreal dynamics of a relationship between a phone bill (virtual money), the payer of said phone bill (flesh and blood), the payer of The Rose’s pocket money (cash and real), the receiver of that pocket money (real and cash) and the starving children in Africa (very real, very far away, virtual money, good intentions).
But for now – I’ve got some saving up to do and some bins to trawl.