“YOU’VE RUINED MY LIFE, MUMMY!”
I didn’t expect to hear those words for at least another few years but my six year old autistic son said them to me the other day.
Because his most treasured friend in all the universe had lost her voice!
Her name is Hedwig and once upon a time she was Harry Potter’s faithful companion. Anybody who’s read the HP books or seen the films will know of Hedwig’s fate but in The Boy’s world, she is very much alive.
She arrived via Father Christmas last year and we thought he would explode with joy. It was THE best present in the entire world!
Autistic people have obsessions. The Boy’s started with numbers when he was three and he wowed his teachers at school by knowing his entire 12 times table at the age of four. His photographic memory means that he only has to see something once to remember it – most helpful when it comes to exams!
This obsession lasted two years and then owls took over after hearing The Owl Babies at school. He was especially taken with ‘Bill’ who always wants his mummy, like he does.
Then we watched Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and he saw the owls, in particular, Harry’s snowy owl – Hedwig.
And it was love at first sight.
It’s the intensity of an interest which makes it an obsession and owls help The Boy cope with the uncertainties of life. They are his constant companions and his bedroom is full of owl paraphernalia. At school they keep one especially for him to cuddle when he feels anxious and as a reward for effort he is allowed to take his special friend into school with him at the end of the week.
Last week was a good week for The Boy. Despite being poorly and missing a day, he was able to do some work in the classroom which is a huge thing for him to cope with. He chose to take Hedwig to school on Friday and went in full of smiles as he was so happy to be spending the day with his special friend.
However, joy turned into distress at home time when he came in crying his heart out.
“You HAVE to make Hedwig talk Mummy, she’s lost her voice!”
Hedwig’s ‘voice’ is a small button located in her wing that produces owl noises and by the sound of it, it had seen some serious action that day because it was barely audible. I knew that there was no way to change the battery as it’s sewn into the toy. Once it’s worn out, that’s it – although I didn’t realise this when I ordered it.
Struggling to find the right words to say to comfort him, I ended up saying entirely the wrong thing..
“I’ll try Sweetheart but I can’t promise you she’ll get her voice back”
He crumbled in front of me and with eyes full of tears he shouted:
“YOU’VE RUINED MY LIFE, MUMMY!”
And at that moment, I felt like I had.
He took her upstairs and wrapped her gently in his Batman blanket, then he tucked her into his bed as I had done with him the day before. For a child who is naturally heavy handed, he was surprisingly gentle with her.
OH e-mailed Warner Bros to ask if there was any way to rectify it and I contacted them via social media. As of yet, neither has responded.
Then something wonderful happened..
An online friend (a person I’ve never met) offered to give The Boy his Hedwig because he is also the parent of an autistic child and he understood my son’s distress. How wonderful is that? Such a beautiful thing to do. It’s too generous an offer for me to be able to accept because I know what they cost but I will never forget his kindness towards a little boy who he doesn’t even know.
I also got a message from one of The Boy’s sister’s who had obviously seen what was going on via social media and found a snowy owl on the internet which made noises and she’s posted it to him. As she says, it’s not Hedwig but a little boy can never have too many owls!
Then a little miracle happened..
Hedwig – after a night of rest and recuperation – got her voice back – ish.
Dear Reader, you and I both know that it will happen again because we know that these toys are not designed for longevity, especially when there is an obsessive autistic child pushing it’s button a zillion times a day. So we are getting a back up toy which will be swapped over when Hedwig’s voice goes for good. At the moment, it’s important to him so it’s important to us.
As I was writing this post I got to thinking about a doll that I had for my fifth birthday. ‘Drowsy’ had a cord which made her talk when you pulled it. She said things like “I’m sleepy” “Kiss me goodnight” and “I want a drink of water” and she giggled. How I loved that giggle and how I loved her. She was my constant companion throughout my childhood. Eventually, the cord snapped off but there was nothing Mum could do. There was no chance of her being swapped because she was uniquely mine, as in, I’d given her a haircut and Mum had covered her original polka dot play-suit with some old curtains. One day the stitching around her neck gave way and her head all but came off. I begged my mother to do something and fair play, Ma sewed her head back on. The stitches weren’t exactly pretty but by that time, neither was the rest of the doll.
To me she was more than a doll – she was my friend who listened to me when no one else would. A loyal friend like that could never end up in landfill which is why I still have her 41 years later and it’s my wish that she’ll go with me when I die as I would chuffing well haunt the bugger who puts her in the bin after I’m gone!
So I understand how much he loves this stuffed owl and thankfully we will be able to swap it without him understanding what we’ve done, unlike my Drowsy doll.
Will The Boy still have Hedwig when he’s my age?
Probably not but who knows..
Autistic children grow and their obsessions change, although some can be life-long.
All I know is how much she matters to him now. He loves her as he would a human being. As I type this I can hear him making his owl noises. When he is anxious he screeches like an owl. When he is happy, he hoots. He nibbles my hand like real owls do. In fact, I think he believes he is part owl and that is perfectly fine by me. Hoot Hoot!
“Harry now carried a large cage that held a beautiful snowy owl, fast asleep with her head under her wing.“ Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone ~ J K Rowling