It’s the half term holiday and Tink, H and I went out for the day. A fun, family trip down to London to have lunch and see a kids’ show at the theatre. No biggie. Just a fairly ‘normal’ day out for many families during the school holidays.
Only, for us, it’s far from ‘normal’. For us, trying to do ‘normal’ can leave us all in a state of utter exhaustion.
For me, the anxiety of doing things like this begins way before the event. When I found out we had been chosen to receive a family ticket to review the show, my initial reaction was, “Oh, cool!” You see, in odd moments, I forget that we’re not a ‘normal’ family. My joy quickly began to wear off when I realised that Dave would be working on the date, meaning that unless I could find another adult to come with us, I’d be flying solo.
Of course, I could have just passed on the opportunity, but that’s something I do all too often and goes against my new ethos of pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
“It’s fine!” I thought to myself. “I can do this, it’s not that hard!”
We do train travel fairly often thanks to our free passes, so I knew that part would go pretty smoothly. I was a little concerned (and maybe some would say irresponsible?) to take the kids to London after the recent terrorist attacks there, but I am one for believing that we must not let the terrorists win. A general risk assessment tells me that the chance of anything happening are pretty small, and our lives are already dictated by autism, so I aint got no time for terror! Carpe Diem and all that.
Next, I began planning.
Working back from showtime, I work out exactly where we need to be and when. I work out what time we need to leave home for the station, where I know there won’t be a parking space, so I have to work out where else to park and how long that might take us. On arrival at the station we’ll need to buy tickets to get into town for the train to London. Make sure we arrive at Birmingham New Street with enough time to catch the London train, but not so much that the kids start getting restless.
I need to work out which train to catch to London so that we arrive with enough time for lunch, but, again, not too much before the show.
I plan entertainment for the train (tablets, really) to keep the kids quiet so as not to disturb the other (paying) customers who want to work or travel in peace. Standard class is not an option; it’s too busy/noisy and we have First Class passes so we’ll damn well use them! Oh, and don’t forget the chargers and spare battery packs.
I plan snacks in case the on-board food isn’t suitable, and also because my kids do not stop eating.
I work out the route from Euston to Leicester Square via the Underground. Fortunately, it’s only one line, four stops and should be straightforward. I double check the fares and how to pay, plus check if there’s any potential engineering work or strikes taking place.
I have to plan safety; I pack a wrist strap for Tink so she can’t run off or get swept away by crowds of rushing Londoners (I swear everyone walks at least twice as fast there – always rushing!). I make sure we take the back pack that is hard to open because everyone knows London is full of pick-pockets (I’ve seen ‘Oliver!’, I know these things…!)
I work out where to eat, which could probably be a whole blog post in itself. It needs to be close to the theatre so we know we’re there if we’re running late. It has to have suitable food, not be too crowded or too upmarket because my kids will most likely be noisy and have tablets at the table and I can’t be dealing with the stares on top of everything else. Also check cost, because… London prices.
Next I think about any potential sensory issues in the theatre; lights, sounds (remember to pack ear defenders), smells. There’s not actually much I can do about these. Remember to pack dummies in case of anxiety. Yes, she’s having them more again. Sigh.
Now I can begin thinking about the return journey. Plan the route back to Euston after the show, bearing in mind it could be busier depending on when it finishes. Check with Dave which trains are the best to aim for back to Birmingham – he has insider knowledge, which comes in handy. Make sure we still have enough drinks and snacks for the return and that the tablets have enough battery, especially as we’re all likely to be very tired and a bit grumpy!
So, now I’ve planned all that, it should all go smoothly, huh?
In all fairness, the parts I could plan for went well. What I couldn’t plan for was the tiredness (for all of us!) This meant that Tink was pretty grumpy by lunchtime and was a bit restless. She didn’t eat either, but, rather, chewed and spat out. She then fell asleep on my lap about five minutes before the show started!
However, once she woke up a little while after, she was transfixed by what was happening on the stage, and the joy on her face made all the stress worth it! Even H said he enjoyed it!
The journey home was brilliant (apart from me and H dozing off on the train; we were very lucky Tink was occupied with her tablet). However, it left me drained. Absolutely empty. Physically exhausted, mentally drained, emotionally done. Just being on ‘high alert’ for an entire day left me incredibly tense and unable to relax even when home (especially as we then had a power cut, but that’s another story!).
So, taking on the challenge of a day trip can take its toll on all of us, and not just Tink. But, it’s a challenge worth taking or else we’d never try anything new!