Do you remember the programme ‘Wife Swap’ that was on TV a few years ago?

Two women would swap places and spend two weeks living with another family. For the first week they had to try and fit in with the established family rules, and for the second week they could make changes.  

Admittedly this sounds like pure trash TV, but it was actually compulsive viewing and provided an interesting social insight into family life in Britain. I do sometimes wonder what on earth someone would make of our family life if they parachuted in for a couple of weeks.

Perhaps they'd make the following observations:

  • We squabble a lot (unless we have parents staying with us!).  I like to think this is usually in a fairly healthy way. We don't tend to put up with things or just brush them under the carpet. We do a lot of conflict resolution, often covering the same ground multiple times, but generally making progress, albeit it slowly 
  • We laugh a lot. We have now accrued a lot of shared family experiences, and it's always a comfort to return to them and have a reminiscing chuckle or two - like the time I accidentally poisoned the children, the camping poo tsunami incident or the numerous times Edward has posed awkward questions to visitors like, "What's your favourite bodily fluid?"
  • We try and find systems that work for us. The sticker system has worked wonders for making sure everyone pulls their weight when it comes to doing household chores. The democratic voting system didn't work quite so well. During one particularly excruciating holiday in Barcelona, Nick insisted in getting everyone's opinion on every decision. "Shall we turn left or right?" "Shall we have an ice cream now or later?” "Shall we leave at 10.30 or 11.30?” I really thought I might go mad, because for every decision every family member had to make a case for why we should vote a particular way.
    On reflection, I don't think democracy works at a family level, and I'm all for parents operating a kind of benevolent dictatorship until children have reached adulthood. After that holiday Leila said to me, "Mum do you know what the problem with our family is?” "No" I replied. "Five of us want to be the leader and there's only one minion and he's not even that great a minion, he's just not bothered about being the leader." (She was referring to Seb not Edward) Perceptive as always, she hit the nail on the head!
  • We don't do mornings. 
  • We don't do sport but we do exercise (at least some of us do).
  • We like cooking, we like food and when we can we like eating out.
  • We like having people round to our house. Over the years, we've had an eclectic mix of people visiting us for a few hours to a few days, but rarely any longer, as space is limited with six of us at home. We've had old and young, rich and poor, educated and barely literate, privileged people and asylum seekers, people very like us and people completely different to us. I think this has been good for all our kids, but especially for Edward, as he's had opportunities throughout his life to see us interacting with others and to dip in and out of social conversations while also having the safety net of being able to slop off to his bedroom when he's had enough.
  • We are a neurodiverse family. Although Edward is the only person in the family with a diagnosis of Asperger’s (now diagnosed as ASD), Nick certainly shares quite a few of his traits. 
  • We can all speak asperguese fluently, although it comes more naturally to some of us. 
  • We have a lot of rules that are regularly renegotiated and amended - it's like a mini political system in our house, and it works in the main.

I know I'll have missed a few things, which will be blindingly obvious to someone outside our family looking in, but when you are in your normal situation you can't easily see all the quirks, peculiarities and idiosyncrasies that others can.

What do you think a visitor to your family would notice was unique about your normal family life?

Lynne is a Speech and Language Therapist and a mother to 4 children. Her eldest son is on the Autistic Spectrum. Lynne has a blog full of funny tales of family life dotted with little nuggets of wisdom, that was recently nominated for a Bloody Awesome Parents Award (BAPS). Read more of Lynne's blogs here