I was listening to the radio in the car this morning as I drove home from doing the grocery shopping.
Then when the song finished and they went to an ad break, a lady with a voice that was far too chirpy for my liking came on.
She was advertising a Queensland getaway that is “filled with fun” for the whole family.
The opening statement to the ad went like this:
“All families LOVE going on family holidays together, it’s the highlight of any family’s year……It’s the time of year where you all bond and enjoy common interests and bask in each others company…….”
It was too much for me.
I’m sorry ……WHAT?????
She mustn’t have been including ASD families in that generalisation or at least my family!
Don’t get me wrong…….My mum comes with us each year for our family trip to Queensland as we just did last month and we DID have a wonderful time.
She is not only an extra pair of hands and evens out the parent/child ratio, she understands my children and has a sound knowledge of ASD’s herself. She has friends with ASD children and since my children have been diagnosed, she has taken an active interest in learning more about it all.
But that’s not my point here.
She will attest that in order for us to even have a family holiday where we don’t all end up going clinically insane, there is a heck of a lot of forward planning that goes into these trips.
And that’s for EVERYTHING!
Every. last. detail.
The boys (and Harley in particular) simply cannot cope if they don’t know every single detail before we even leave the house.
For example, he needs to know :
What options are there for breakfast the next morning, what outfit will I be wearing.
Where are we going, what time, how long for, what are we doing there, how far do we have to drive to get there?
Where are we having lunch, what are we eating for lunch, where do we go next, how far, how long, what time …..
And that is for the entire day,
And if you change even one tiny detail – that’s a meltdown right there.
There is absolutely NO room for spontaneity, impulsive ideas or changing your mind.
There’s no strolling along boardwalks, coffee in hand, deciding what to do today.
There’s no waking up and deciding over a leisurely breakfast whether to shop or go to the beach first.
If it’s not drawn on the whiteboard the night before. You CANNOT do it.
And if you go to the supermarket without a list with all the items counted and numbered, you’re asking for trouble.
And don’t even think about buying anything that’s not on the list either…..*gasp*
If things don’t go to plan ie: it’s raining but “you promised” that we could go to Seaworld…..look out , there’s a meltdown approaching.
And that’s not even taking into consideration all the “changes” that have already occurred.
Different bed, different room, smells different, different bath, different lounge , etc etc
So yes, you can still have family holidays and you can still really enjoy them, but we’ve had to resign ourselves to the fact that we can never “make it up as we go along” or take each day as it comes. There simply has to be a plan.
There was one night that we had decided that we were all going out for dinner and pre-warned the kids and talked about it all afternoon but when we got there, the place we’d told them about didn’t have kid’s meals or anything that I thought they’d eat.
So we conferred and decided to try another one nearby.
As we were looking at the menu on the wall, Harley was getting hungry and he started to lose it. (Because an unexpected change had occurred you see). He was laying on the floor kicking the wall, chewing his chewy tube, thrashing , flailing, flapping and screaming.
Mum took him for a walk a few metres away to try and remove him from the situation and therefore calm him and I stayed and continued to look at the menu when I heard the couple beside me tutting.
The man said…“That kid is STILL going off, OUR children would have NEVER been allowed to get away with that!”
And his wife agreed.
They obviously didn’t know I was the mother so I turned to them and simply asked:
“So , how many children with autism did you raise?”
And they predictably said none.
So I then turned back to them and calmly said.
“Well I am raising 2, and THAT child that you are referring to happens to be my son.
He has autism, he is not being naughty, there is a difference.
He is having a very stressful time at the moment dealing with some unpreventabe changes that have been thrown at him and he is unable to communicate with us any other way. So in future, please hold your tongue and your judgements unless you know exactly what you are talking about, you were quite rude”.
They left without ordering.
Despite that night and the other similar occasions, there were times during the holiday where we just decided that we were going to do what we wanted (like shopping etc) and took the attitude that the kids would just have to learn to accept change.
And we did have a lot of great moments amongst the bad – they just seemed a little off balance occasionally!
Even so…..I probably wouldn’t say that family holidays are the “highlight” of our family’s year.
They are great at times but mostly, it’s just plain HARD work and it’s much easier on everybody to just stay home!