This year we have had to have a couple of horses gelded and we decided that Tristram could watch the operation. You cannot be squeamish when you observe a horse having it's testes removed or you are just in the way while the vet needs to get on with the job.
We explained to Tristram what was going to happen and that there would be some blood - well quite a lot, actually!
Tristram stepped up to the plate and was really good once he knew what to expect and our vet, Bruce, understands Tristram's difficulties and includes him in the process where he can. Tristram was asked to hold the sterilised emasculators which were still in the bag until Bruce needed them. He was warned not to touch them but just hold the plastic. Tristram took his responsibility very seriously and when the vet applied them Tristram had the job of counting to 180 before the emasculators had done the job. (I won't go into detail!)
Afterwards Bruce showed Tristram how a horse is aged from it's teeth. Bruce explained carefully what teeth were what in a young horse and asked Tristram a couple of questions which he got right. This is a real achievement because firstly, Tristram was clearly listening and concentrating on what Bruce was saying. And secondly he learnt something! Just because he has left full time education it would be tempting to think that's it - but why should it be? We are just as proud of Tristram's achievements now as the ones he obtained when he was younger because each one is a real milestone.
But then it got me thinking - what exactly are 'achievements'?
Tristram has severe communication difficulties but he managed to read a poem out loud at our wedding with the help of his older brother when he was just 12 and took a bow afterwards! That has to be an achievement.
He came home from his special school with a rosette after a day out to show his participation in horse riding. That's another achievement.
He also got to spend a night away in Glasgow after qualifying for county finals in swimming and came 4th. That's another achievement!
He learnt how to use a vacuum cleaner and does a really good job too - another achievement!
And he was super proud of this T-Shirt he made when he went to club one night. Another achievement!
If I asked Tristram what he has achieved he would give me a blank look and not have a clue what I'm on about. He didn't even tell us he could swim so to qualify to go to Glasgow for the finals was a wonderful surprise for us! We learnt he could swim when he was invited to a swimming party and I asked him if he needed some arm bands... On seeing him in the deep end later ducking and diving I realised I was a bit behind his ability in that area!
But does he see his ability to swim well as being an achievement or is our perception of what constitutes an achievement different to what Tristram would think of an achievement?
Well I just asked Tristram what an achievement is and he said feeding the horses and cleaning out the puppy pen. Maybe his understanding of the word is different to ours. But when I asked him what the best thing he had ever done was he told me it was getting up early to feed the horses. So really I can feel proud as a parent for all the thngs he does but the real achievements are the things that make him feel proud.