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Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy Families




Sweet Sam was very muted on our trip away.


It’s quite a conundrum finding a holiday to suit all our family’s needs. The girls wanted a sun, sea and sand get-away, a place where they might mix and mingle, make new friends, and generally spend a lively time.


I had doubts. Sam doesn’t take too well to change at the best of times. The way he is wired, he doesn’t filter out the noise of crowds in the way most of us do, he is easily overwhelmed, and most often unable to cope outside of his safe and familiar comfort zone.


Plus these days, looking far, far better with my clothes on rather than off, the thought of strutting my stuff by the pool side, measured against lithe, nubile 20-something-or-other bodies, well, it hardly appeals, y'know?


We are blessed to live in a house large enough to be surrounded within our own grounds, where Sam and I are mostly shielded from the outside world. Aside from school and his occasional social outlet, (his special needs clubs where he feels safe and accepted) he is perfectly content and happy to contain himself to walking in the garden, perhaps so far as to the glen, and even to sit by the river to watch the fish swim by. If not doing that, he is in his element simply closeting himself to his room, where he either listens to his beloved Manx radio, or watches various points of the island via web cam from his laptop. He also enjoys his Play Station 2, (so long as it involves cars or motorbikes), or watching (part of) a Man United footie match on the telly, 'though if the opposition scores, he fast loses all interest and switches off.


It can be quite a challenge to persuade him to vary this routine.


Holidays are rarely easy.


Yet.


I so wanted to have a “normal”, enjoyable week, one where we all could look back on as a happy, bonding vacation together. My first preference would have been a villa, one with a private pool, but alas, outside of Sam, no one else voted my way.


Understandably, the girls are weary of always stepping down for Sam’s needs. I understand that. They are mostly gracious, and usually look out for their big bruv’, they do love him dearly and tolerate much in his name. Something I am acutely aware of.


This is the first year my eldest elected to vacation away from us, and having already spent a week abroad with friends, he was happy to stay home alone and without us (to doubtlessly continue on with the party) whilst we were away. And yeah, you betcha’, passing my home over to an 18yr old to sit certainly made me nervous!


Anyhows, long story short, I caved, taking the cheap and cheerful, most popular option of us booking ourselves off on an all-inclusive family package holiday to Spain. The girls were in seventh heaven.


And poor Sam landed in hell.


Abby, the kindest of my lot, had already volunteered to share a room with her 17yr old brother. Not many 13yr old girls would be so sweet, but she knew how it would be either that or he’d be sharing a room with us – and having the insight to know her parents would already have spent most of the day sitting with and keeping him happy, she claimed she'd be fine in accompanying him overnight. Besides, as she said, she could always directly phone us if there was a problem.


And there was of course, but not too often. She only had to share my room once, with hubby sleeping in with him.


Below is a very amateur video of our first two days out there. You might note Sam is very withdrawn. It was a battle to even have him wear a daily change of clothes (he clings to the familiar, and much more so when he feels under pressure). He refused point blank to wear swimming trunks, the pool (although he swims like a dolphin) was far too scary for him to contemplate joining in. On the second day, and despite his protests, we somehow coerced him into wearing his trunks - but not without him loudly declaring, and repeatedly, how "uncomfortable" they were.


It paid off.


No amount of coaxing from either hubby or me could tempt him into the water. It was Beccy who miraculously convinced him to join both her and Abby for a float around, for with her standing guard, and Abby checking below for sharks, feeling safe he wouldn't be either ambushed, drowned or eaten, he actually managed to relax for a bit and allow himself some fun.


See his happy face?


I told you our girls are amazing. However, one excursion into the pool proved enough, he dug his heels in thereafter, not feeling the need to repeat it.


With us continually “jollying” him along, he occasionally sat outdoors with us, but he rarely spoke unless spoken to, and when he did, he hung his head down low, answering in barely a whisper. He decided he wanted me to watch TV in his room with him. Sam NEVER follows a TV programme, it’s not something he focuses on, but it was a way for him to be excused from what had became, increasingly to him, an intolerable situation.


So it was, a great deal of my week was spent in a room that had no Internet connection, only one English speaking channel on TV, and with a balcony that never caught the sun. And heart-wrenchingly, with a monosyllabic, traumatised son, staring blankly at the wall for hours.


It was a whole lot easier at mealtimes if we spent them outside of the noisy, all-inclusive hotel dining room buffet. We mainly ate out.


By the third day, both Abby and Beccy had made their own set of friends by the pool, and outside of meal-times, from there on out we barely saw them at all. Those two truly had the time of their lives, and didn’t want the holiday to end. It felt wonderful seeing them having a “normal” time with their peer-group, laughing and carefree. Beccy, true to form, attracted a bunch of adoring admirer's to vie for her attention. Fifteen year old boys have a crappy way of showing devotion, when they weren't either running off with one of her sandals, they were taking it in turns to chuck her in the pool - not that she seemed to mind. I was at least thankful she had one French, and another Spanish lad in tow - she has her GCSE exams coming up soon, and can use all the practise she can get. As for Abby, ever the clown, she also had no trouble in finding her own set of friends.


Unsurprisingly, around the same time (I had felt it building), Sam succumbed to a total melt-down in the crowded foyer of the hotel. By now he had already started to display facial tic’s, which people had begun to stare at. He is self-aware enough to realise he is different, and he hates it, his tic’s were the final straw, well, that and me. Actually, (hands raised up) it could easily have been prevented, I triggered it, well knowing the result, if only I had taken the trouble to think it through beforehand.


Except you don't, do you?


Not when you are mad.


I had one Gin and Tonic too many, actually one Gin and Tonic is too many for me, ordinarily I never drink hard liquor, I'm strictly a wine girl, meself (did I mention it was a free bar?).


Having arranged to meet up with him in ten mins, hubby, having seemingly forgot, ran off to do his own thing for the best part of over an hour, and without first having had the consideration to leave me with the key to our room.


This caused me several trips to the reception desk, then on up to our room, and all the way back down again, before finally gaining a successful entry there - and our room was three long flights up and back down again to, with a lift (elevator?) that was virtually useless waiting for. (Reception desk took three tries before coming up with the correct key for me.) It’s what I’m sure all married couples do, get annoyed with each other from time to time.. but Sam is far too fragile to ever hear a cross word between us, and he simply disintegrated when I sniped at him. I didn't raise my voice, it was far from a row, more of a hiss if anything. But I know far better than to do that in Sam's presence.


Howling, wailing and screaming at the top of his voice, whilst holding me in a vice-like grip, he demanded I, “Hug dad, be nice to dad!”


Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do was to hug (his insensitive, idiot of a) dad right then, especially considering the audience we’d drawn.
Hey ho.


Soooooooooooooo, all things considered, gee, it’s good to at last be finally back home again (inserting a shaky smile)..


Feel free to skip the video if you want - I'd quit trying to tape "happy families" by day three, anyway. 

49 comments:

Shrinky said...

Grrrrrr! To get the video to work, I've had to re-do this entire post. Seven of you were kind of enough to leave a comment, so I'm going to copy and paste what was written back in here, so it doesn't look like I've gone and deleted them on purpose (eyes skywards).

Shrinky said...

Ami said...
So did you hug dad anyway?

I love the way you explain your son. I have an inkling of what it must be like... and I'm guessing the good stuff is really, really wonderful.

:)

I also really understand getting BACK HOME after being away... hope your house was still standing!!

Shrinky said...

Kate said...
Sounds like you need a holiday after your vacation. Spain, huh? Looks delightful and glad your children had fun. The phrase 'happy families' is an oxymoron.....kinda like 'jumbo shrimp'. Thanks for sharing.

Shrinky said...

~Babs said...
Such a bitter/sweet time,,,I can feel that. Not easy.
Bless those girls for loving that brother as they do.
That's what I mean,,,,that's some of the sweet part, as is his smile.

Shrinky said...

Danyelle said...
*hugs*

One of my little guys has autism. He has a hard time with change and crowds. It's rough sometimes.

Shrinky said...

Robyn said...
I couldn't get the video to play for me.

Well done for the family holiday... it is worth the effort.

Shrinky said...

The Blue Zoo said...
The video wont play for me.

Sounds like you need a vacation to recover from that vacation. =)

August 30, 2010 7:25 AM

Shrinky said...

mrsnesbitt said...
Oh dear, I really felt for you and Sam and sighed relief when I knew you were all back home.If Sam ever wants a chat hun, just ring my number - the weather has been naff here of late but one thing I think I will do in the future is to take a pack of stamps in my bike bag and send sam a postcard when we are out n about!
September this week - 9 months till his ride to the paddock!
(((HUGS)))

Joe Cap said...

I did not know that Sam was your special man, I will have to read your past posts. He really does look very happy in that pic.
I was not able to view the video, but that is because I am at work at it is blocked, but I will check it out when I get home.
Happy homecoming!

Anonymous said...

Ah, the pool area is rather noisy. I think I'd go back to my room, too. "the girls are weary of always stepping down for Sam’s needs" Now I understand why the girls want to go for another vaca like this next year, it is a "happening" & fun place for younger people to meet... but, alas, not such a great time for Sam.

So... what was that alcohol your darling young daughters were drinking? Underage drinking is not allowed here. And... curious minds want to know... who is Jake?

Shrinky said...

No Ami (blush), I didn't! If I did everything Sam demands me to do when he has a melt-down, I fear he would have far more of them than he currently does. I did reassure him though that his dad and me were fine (as I quickly spirited him away from the scene).

You are so right Kate, what is "normal", anyway? (Smile)

Oh yes Babs, there were plenty of sweet moments wrapped up in last week, too - definitley!

You understand all to well, Danyelle (hugs), and I'm guessing you also understand all the joy Sam also brings to us, too.

It WAS Robyn, though I am glad we have another year to recover before the next one (wink)!

Ah Blue Zoo, truth is my vacation lasts all year, right here, firmly at home (grin)..

Oh Denise, what a sweet, touching thing to do - that would be sure to plaster a grin all over his face - you really are something else, you know that? (x)

Hi Joe, I forget sometimes not everyone is aware of our family structure - it's not something I write often about, in truth, it gets up my nose a bit when other bloggers can write of little else than being the parent of a disabled child.. I don't pin my own identity on that, there's a whole lot else to who I am. I do write if it's relevent to the moment, such as now. If you click on the side bar "cloud" on "Sweet Sam", it'll link you to any other posts concerning Sam (some are actually very funny)!!

Oooooh, hang on Chewy - I can see how it might LOOK as though the girls were drinking alcohol, but they most definitely were NOT! The waiter brought two bottles to the table, one for kids, one for the growdi-up's, as a complimentary drink when he brought the bill (if you listen, Abby teasingly threatened to sample from our bottle, which prompted me to say, "Certainly NOT, you little Toe-rag!" I am glad you brought it up though, 'cos I can see how easy it would be to assume they were drinking the hard stuff. As I am also glad you brought up the question of Jake (Abby does push her luck at times), I'm glad to make it loud and clear - as you know, but others may not - Jake is my beloved Golden Retriever, and most-favoured child (grin)..

Jinksy said...

I think planned holidays are questionable things at the best of times. I prefer the odd 'let's do (insert surprise here) today!'... Guess short and sweet is my idea of fun! :)

Suldog said...

You're really quite blessed, but you know that, eh? And, although I suppose they know it - and let you know it occasionally, too - so is your family, with you.

And (I couldn't let this pass) I think you'd give some of those "nubile 20-somethings" a fair run for the money.

Shrinky said...

Mine too, Jinksy, but with teenagers..? Guess I just want to lay down some happy family memories for them to look back on, Lord knows, they are growing up fast enough, these times are slipping through my fingers.. I so want to make the most of them.

Shrinky said...

Jim, I love you (hugging myself), you ALWAYS say exactly the right thing to light up my day! x

SJ said...

Am very impressed at how your other children help take care of Sam. You've been a good mum.

mrsnesbitt said...

Have come back to watch the video- do tell Sam I was impressed with his TT T-shirt!

Dxxx

mythopolis said...

This has been such a wonderful glimpse into your life and family. Thank you for sharing it. I was quite moved by it. The girls were so amusing in the video. Great stuff, really.

Kit Courteney said...

You have a beautiful family! :0)

Anna said...

Shrinky, lol, that was one big bowl of pasta. You know are a good mother, all I can say.

BTW no worries about the comment, sorry you couldn't read it. And I probably don't remember what I wrote lol, it was late, but all I know it is always fun to read your posts. Google gives me all kinds of hiccups all the time.

I really like the photo! Full of joy!

Anna :)

Akelamalu said...

What a great family you have. Your girls obviously love Sam to bits. Loved the video.

Parabolic Muse said...

Thank you for all your hard work on this. It means a lot.

My sister is special needs.

Thank heavens for you, mom.

laughingwolf said...

at least no one got injured, even if a few egos were bruised a bit :)

Brian Miller said...

glad your girls tried and even succeeded in giving him a bit of fun that one day...it is not easy...don't beat on yourself over setting him off...hope you got to enjoy some of it..

Mushy said...

Cheers! My favorite part!

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

you have a wonderful family and I can see the love..

Leslie: said...

Looks like a pretty good time, overall. But sometimes it's good to just get home! Where in Spain were you? My parents used to go to Malaga.

Shrinky said...

SJ, I'm blessed with a great bunch of kids (smile).

Shrinky said...

Denise (laughing), I will! Sweet you would spot it - he doesn't wear the one you gave him, it's too precious with that autograph to wash!

Shrinky said...

Aw Dan, what a lovely thing to say, and yes, the girls often make quite a double-act together (smile).

Shrinky said...

Kit, I my be biased, but I tend to think so too!

Shrinky said...

Oh Anna, how lovely of you to pop by again! Blogger is often a pain, I have no idea why it chose to swallow your last comment up.

Shrinky said...

Hi Ake, yup, like most families, the sibs may argue, but mostly they all look out for each other.

Shrinky said...

Ah Chris, I knew there was something special about you!

Shrinky said...

Hi Laughingwolf, yeah, we all made it back with no real lasting damage done.

Shrinky said...

Brian, Sam is already fretting over us going away, next year! I've calculated we have only five more annual family trips to make, before the youngest leaves for University (grin).. then I think we'll hang up our passports.

Shrinky said...

Mushy, well it WAS a very heartfelt "cheers", I'll grant you (grin)!

Shrinky said...

Thanks Jackie-Sue, I certainly wouldn't swap them over for a bag of crackers (wink)..

Shrinky said...

Hi Leslie, we went to Mayorca, a little island off the Spanish mainland.

deb said...

I guess it was an adventure, not really rest and relaxation,
but you are all seriously beautiful and a family in ways that most can only dream of...

Chantel said...

Ah, my love--vacations always teach us more about our own coping skills and boundaries than anything else. Dear God, artificial environments without any privacy topped off with stressful situations and lets add in crappy sleep and VOILA! Happy vacation! (chuckle) It looked smashing--honestly. Sometimes I wonder if we all go away for a bit...just to rediscover the joy of coming home?

G-Man said...

Happy Family sounds like the special at a Chinese restaurant.

Loved the video....G

Maddy said...

Oh dear. Spontaneity, new, different etc. are all challenges around here too. We go to the same place, same house, same two weeks every year and we still have those screaming meltdowns.

That said, there were a lot of smiles in that video - all over until next year.

Hilary said...

Ahhh Shrinky, you have a beautiful family. I'm sorry the holiday was so rough for Sam and you, ultimately but your crew are precious. You're truly blessed. Thank you for sharing.

simon said...

sounds familiar. though my sons is less... but asbergers runs along similar lines

Shrinky said...

Hi Deb, there is a lot for me to be thankful for, I'm very lucky (touch wood) at how my babes are turning out!

In truth Chantel, I much prefer not to go away at all (smile).

Ha, now you come to mention it, G-Man..!

Oh Maddy, seems it comes with the territory, doesn't it? (Hugs) But yes, there are always plenty of smiles mixed in there too.

Yes Simon, I am sure you know only too well this type of situation. I tend to see Sam as living with Asberger's, simply with the addition of severe learning difficulties thrown in.

Hi Hilary, for sure, I am more blessed than many (grin).

Alexis Hallum said...

I read your post and watched your video! I think you have a lovely family...

Joanna Jenkins said...

Yep, Sam looks really happy in the top photo! Glad he got in the pool even if it was the only time.

You're doing a great job and so is your entire family. Special needs can be so challenging at times but you take it all in stride and stick by your Sam. I take my hat off to you.

xo jj

Shrinky said...

Hey Alexis, thanks for that, and how lovely to see you in here!

Hi JJ, welcome back hon, how was the trip? Hope it was (nervous giggle) a bit better than ours?