Our summer holidays just started here in England. Six weeks off for the kids. I envy families that can just enjoy each day as it comes, those that just do whatever they please and whenever they please. For us, yes we generally have a good time off but it comes at a cost – endless work to make sure we get it right.
Choosing what to do, where to go, questioning whether it’s safe, can the kids escape, is there water involved? We risk-assess everything! We have to, or a simple day out can end in disaster. I have friends that sit their kids in the car at a second’s thought and off they go to a theme park, a zoo or the beach.
We do these things too, but they’re rarely spontaneous. Routine is key with Eliza (who has autism) although she can, at times, be flexible if a small change suddenly happens and in particular if it is something that catches her attention and interest.
For a day-out, I have visual planning to do, checking out the locations of toilet facilities, exits and how to get to them, areas where she could bolt and escape. Looking up places where she’ll eat, packing a bag full of essentials – pull ups, wipes, juice cup, iPad, spare clothes. Creating, printing, laminating and sticking up visuals as needed and working on social stories and making sure she fully understands what is happening and when.
Before we even leave the house, I’m sure I’ve worked towards this summer’s day out for at least half a day.
We live a life surrounded by P-words:
- PLANNING (so that all should run smoothly and nothing is missed),
- PREPARATION (visual aids for Eliza, social stories, explanations) and
- PRAYING (that it all goes well and the first two P’s were worth it). Without it, we’d end up with a highly anxious, super-stressed Eliza as well as a miserable Noah who’d be upset because his sister is. We’d also have parents with the headache from h*ll that have most likely wrestled at least one child into the car for their own safety and attempted to calm the situation and stop a child from running in to danger.
It’s bloody hard work! You never get to switch off – you just can’t. You have a child with autism that needs this planning and preparation so her anxiety stays low, stays safe and has a great day. You have a child that has NO DANGER AWARENESS whatsoever, so all this extra work is a must to ensure everyone has a great time and leaves together happy and well.
You have a child that somehow manages to blend in among other children whilst you hold your breath hoping she’s coping because she seems to be smiling and enjoying herself in the situation she hates the most – BEING SOCIAL. The funniest thing is she normally has a blast and loves the day while as a parent you feel you just performed a military-style operation and you are exhausted.
Yes, I envy those who can just do things without a second thought, no care in the world. I know that we can do the same – it just means a little extra work to make sure we all have a great (safe) day out. We just need those P-words. We must plan and prepare and I am pretty sure most of us end up praying.
Perhaps there should be a fourth P-word involved – PROUD (because it’s worth celebrating when all that hard work pays off).