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.
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.