For me, it’s like balancing on a tight rope.

I must attend.

I want to attend; I don’t want to attend.

My little family are different. And boy, is it evident at family gatherings.

My little sister L came home from Australia, she and her fiancé M had been gone for three years and in any family that’s a long time but in an Irish family of 9, it’s huge. 

A family gathering was organised as soon as she informed us of her four week holiday home.

Both sides of the families were called to attend to keep that date free and to bring all the grandchildren.

Like good Irish children, we obeyed our mammy’s orders.

If you’re not familiar with Irish mammys – they are handy with a wooden spoon (I’m not referring to baking or cooking!) regardless of your age and a dab hand at emotional blackmail all while cutting delicious brown bread, hot from the range!

You won’t find a better mammy but you’ll do what you’re told to do!

We arrived 20 minutes before little sister L arrived.

The family home was freshly painted (that would be the proud Irish daddy!) freshly baked goods lay on the kitchen table, balloons framed every door while ‘Welcome Home’ signs draped the windows.

Instantly Ethan knew something was happening.

He screamed with delight as soon as we opened the car door.

He bolted passed me and ran straight into the kitchen.

My mother tried to hug him, she was swiftly told to ‘fug off’, which experience has taught her to do just that.

She handed him an ice-pop in the hopes he’d regulate himself. He did not.

He took the ice-pop but was now screaming with it dripping all over her freshly scrubbed kitchen floor. 

I took his hand and brought him out to the back garden, where two of his uncles and one of his aunts were quietly having a drink.

D was currently chasing baby D who was chasing the dogs around the garden trying his best to “hug it daddy, hug it”.

J, our middle son was having a nice chat with my sister’s step-children, who are similar ages to J.

It’s always nice when J has a friend out in my parents’ house.

Ethan ran to my older brother and punched him.

“He’s just over excited” I half apologised.

Not wanting to leave my younger brother out, Ethan gave him a kick.

They both laughed, “Calm down Ethie man, calm down”. 

I don’t know why anybody says this, Ethan does not understand this sentence but I figure they say it for themselves and that’s understandable.

Ethan took no heed of either of my brothers; and ran off to the front of the house.

I now had to give chase. In heels! 

Tightrope eh?! 

I wanted to look nice but I knew I’d pay the price.

It wasn’t long before my siblings took to playing with baby D, so D and I could both chase Ethan.

Ethan tried to take a balloon but they were stuck so he decided he’d punch the next person that passed through the back door.

The next people to come through that door at that time were M’s family.

Most of them have never met Ethan.

Their children, I am sure, were a little shocked. 

I wanted to leave.

But the baby of the family still wasn’t home yet.

By now, I had easily lost half a stone chasing Ethan, holding him and trying to calm him…I had had enough.

The cars pulled up around the house; and there she was.

My baby sister. 

All grown up.

Ethan bolted as soon as our attention was taken away from him.

D gave chase.

I hugged L and M tightly.

I knew I’d be going home in the next 30 minutes or so.

Ethan could not handle anymore.

There were 23 people standing outside the house. 

For Ethan, that was 23 people too many.

Special Needs Questions

He had such a sensory overload that he could not sit still. 

His little hips are not able to move like that, at that speed around the country home…but he HAD to.

He simply could not help it.

I pulled away, took a few photographs and found D and Ethan. 

We went into the quiet kitchen and tried to feed him some dinner.

My brother came in and offered to walk Ethan around so D and I could eat.

He did not have to ask twice!

“When I’m finished eating, I’m bringing Ethan and the baby home.

You stay and have time with L."

D rubbed my hand as I took a deep breath in between bites of homemade lasagne.

“Thank you” I felt my lip wobbly as my eyes dampened.

We loaded Ethan and baby D into the car to a chorus of “Ahh, don’t go. Sure he’s grand. Are you sure? Ahh you’re very good”.

I wanted to say D or I don’t find it relaxing chasing him while he is so high that he can’t even regulate himself; which by the way, he is pretty good at; it was just too much today for him.

L came and kissed them both and thanked D for taking them so she and I could chat for a while.

He winked and drove off.

I watched as the remaining children relaxed more and ran freely about my parent’s garden. 

That always makes me sad. 

I want to be that family, I want to have those kids, just average kids doing average things.

I do get jealous.

I try not to sound bitter; but sometimes it sneaks up on me. 

I have to let myself feel it, that’s the only way I can process those feelings and…move on.   

I drank from my coffee cup and smiled as I watched my J, my little guy kick a football around the field with his uncles, uncle-in-law and soon to be uncle-in-law.  

I turned my thoughts to my husband who happily took the boys home so I could catch up with L. 

I had my very own average family, and I am lucky to have them. 

All of them.

I turned my chair, “So L, can we have vintage bridesmaid dresses?”     

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