I have just returned from a family weekend break with my husband Andy, daughter Lily (5), Harry and my ever supportive mother-in-law Al. After a couple of days of reflection I wanted to tell you all about the experience.
The Pack Up
This is it, the day we pack up the van to go to Great Yarmouth. Going away with small children is no mean feat – there is the clothes; summer and winter – it’s that strange time of year.. need to be prepared. Then there are the toys, the pushchair, the car drinks, snacks and entertainment, oh and of course why not throw in the scooter, tantrums would only add to the stress. It’s madness, running around, arguments, questions about who needs a wee. Yes, this experience alone makes you stop and question why you ever booked the bloody ‘break’ in the first place.
Packing up the car for Harry and Lily is similar, we don’t have the bickering, and only one needs to be questioned about using the toilet but the list of things we need to take is ridiculous. It is a military operation- just one slip up could end our weekend. Feeding machine – check! Nasal prongs – check! Suction machine – check! Sats monitor- check! Oxygen concentrator– check!! This goes on for about three pages.. you get the drift.
Anyway after a few hours, we’re ready.. van and roof-box bulging with paraphernalia and five relieved and dishevelled looking people. Here we go.
The family day out
Going away with Harry was always going to be hard, physically and emotionally. If I’m honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. The stark contrast of what should’ve been hits you every where you go and the pressure to brave it out for the sake of the holiday is exhausting. These are a few examples:
-Pettit’s children’s park
On Saturday we decided to go to a petting zoo/ amusement park for children. I had read all about it. Whilst I’m not even sure how much Harry takes in from our trips out I thought that the tactile stimulation of touching some animals could hopefully prize a reaction (hopefully a happy one) from him.
In we go.. Lily, of course, setting the itenary for the day, she is a bossy mare at times haha. First stop petting zoo. Goats – well, you know goats, greedy beasts! And it turns out that Andy isn’t too fussed on them either, “they will chew through his feeding tube” he said (Harry has a feeding tube that feeds him through a pump directly to his stomach). Needless to say Harry had to avoid. So, they had a little nibble on Lily instead. Flowery tops – big mistake.
Walking to the next attraction, a number of mothers looked at Harry and then at me and said “aw bless him”. I know it comes from a good place, a place of recognition, sympathy and some sort of motherhood solidarity but it also really brings home how it all looks to others, we don’t want pity we just want to try and enjoy our new normal day out as best we can.
So finally, we have some cuddly animals to stroke, Harrys sitting on my knee — – god he’s getting long and heavy, how the bloody hell am I going to be able to keep this up I am thinking. We have a guinea pig to hold. I am helping Harry to stroke it… it looks terrified! I would be too if I’m honest. And there it is, a sound of contentment from Harry .. that’s it! A worthwhile day for all. I am so happy, better not spoil it with the huge cockroach!.
Lily holds and strokes everything, she is so brave and fun-loving and her ability to enjoy all that life has to offer makes me feel so happy and sad at the same time- you see this is what it’s like. I spend most of my day telling myself.. Harry’s not even aware he doesn’t know any different, it’s really all about the what if’s?
Ok so, here we go, Harry has dropped a stinker! This I tell you is a friggin logistical nightmare when you have a three stone son who doesn’t fit on a baby changing table anymore. (This is where I contemplate how backwards this country still is, and how Changing Places should be made compulsory in every public place, as surely everyone should have the right to a safe and clean environment to be changed). Anyway for now, the grass will have to do, so off Andy and Harry pop for not the most dignified nappy changes there are.
Finally we end our day, in the circus tent with Andy the clown. Lily loved it, getting involved with all of the singing and dancing, shouting out answers – it was great fun for all of the youngsters. As an icebreaker Andy “the clown” played Vengaboys song “Up and Down” kids were encouraged to lift their arms up and down to the music. Squeels of delight came from the audience. Harry and I of course joined in… Harry smiled and seemed to enjoy a good arm yanking but I did feel heart broken. At that point, I had, had enough. I felt the weight of the whole day and the huge mix of emotions. From Harrys smiles, to his squirming around in his chair, to the stares and then I looked out to what seemed like a sea of able bodied Happy children and looking at Harry with a lump in my throat I felt like I just wanted to disappear. And there it is again – guilt!
I suppose none of it was made easier by the lack of sleep (omg are we greatful to have carers at home to manage Harry’s needs overnight) but this is just a snippet of what family breaks feel like. I am glad we went – it may not sound it. Spending quality time with both Lily and Harry was lovely but it was hard. One day I am sure that we as a family might be stronger, more resilient, even more accepting – I mean, we have came so far already. However with breaks away comes pressure – pressure to enjoy yourself, to smile, to make great memories. To be grateful of what you have and enjoy the ones you love. This weekend was for Lily and Harry and I shall remember our short adventure with mixed emotions.The kids are only young for a short time, they won’t stay like this forever, they will grow up and they won’t want to do these things forever. Heartbreakingly this isnt true for Harry as his development age is that of a three to six month old (which is unlikely to change) and we have been told to expect that Harry won’t have a long life. SO making Harry smile is my number one priority and building memories for Lily is the most important thing to me. So with that in mind.. we have success!