Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Travelling WITHOUT An Autistic Child

Yup - we did it.
Sorry for the delay - our modem died shortly before we went on vacation and once we got back - had to request a new one.  And I don't know about you lovely folks - but if I use my phone for blogging - I wouldn't make any sense at all.  (I have done it in the past and I spent a lot of time having to edit them so they make more sense in the end!)

So yeah....a 4-days long vacation without the V-Man!
I have only the slightest regret in not bringing him because we were staying with very dear friends of ours that he's known since A-Man was born (they were the baby-sitters for V-Man when it was time for us to rush off to the hospital) - and he would've had a blast at their place.

Do I really, truly regret not bringing V-Man?

No I don't.

Call me a horrible mother, call me a bitch, tell me it's not fair - I really don't mind.
And I'll tell you why.

A) This is our first time travelling outside of our city without the V-Man.  He has been to Estonia, Sweden, Paris, Canada and the UK (which was our last family trip - a pure nightmare and I was pregnant with M-Girl - so nearly 2 years ago!).  We haven't even gone to Tampere (1.5 hours away) as a family or Helsinki (3.5 hours away) either.

B) He's hated every single f-ing moment of the travelling bit.  The leaving of his home, our dogs (they never travel with us - we hook them up with wonderful doggy-sitters instead), his familiar environment and the potential ear popping - and let's not forget - time zone differences!
Even an hour rocks his world.
Maybe things will change when he gets older - I certainly hope so!

C) We don't have friends or family here that are able to handle the V-Man while we're able to go for vacation.  Or even for 1 night out of 365- like our anniversary as an example.
What we do have now - is the overnight care system (or "respite care" if you will) and while we've had it for awhile, we've been nervous about actually leaving the city or country to make use of him not being with us for 3 days.
Lately, he's had a longer stays - about a week long - and still - we didn't go anywhere!
Just. In. Case.
I've been studying, SH had pneumonia, M-Girl is currently cutting 2 teeth and I recently got back in touch with my biological mother!
Anyhow, where was I?  Right, so we finally decided that we would take a small vacation and fly from Helsinki to Copenhagen and stay in Malmö, Sweden with friends.

Now, let's tackle those possible things you might be thinking of us.
  • Horrible parents: Going on a vacation for the first time without V-Man (and still bringing a teething child and a sensitive 3-year old) in nearly 6 years - I don't think it's a terrible thing.  Not like we have date nights weekly (never mind monthly) or we have grandparents for the kids to chill at for awhile here and there.  And the V-Man is 5 - he's not a newborn staying behind.
  • But he's losing the oppourtunity to travel:  He hates travelling!  Why put him through torture (i.e. ears popping, time difference, loss of comfort and familiarity, strangers and different languages)?
  • It's not fair - he's spending less time with you: I assure you - he gets more attention there at overnight care than he possibly can with us and the other two children in tow.  We do try our hardest to split up attention and special one-on-one time regularly.
    • The way we've come to see it is that it's a break for everyone.  He gets a break from fighting with A-Man and listening to M-Girl scream (A-Man too) and he gets a break from odd and random schedules.  He's in a deep and strict routine there and we're not there to interrupt it.
      • We get a break from him grabbing our chests, sniffing our pits and our bums (maybe he's imitating a dog?!), having to watch him every second of the day and we can go to have a date or take the kids out for dinner - where fast-food isn't entirely involved.
I had 1 friend ask me if it was fair to leave a child behind.  I'm assuming other friends think this too but haven't asked.
No - it's not 100% fair to do this.  But is it fair to drag (seriously) a child with non-verbal autism to various countries for the sake of giving "him an experience he'll remember"?  Maybe he will - fantastic!  And maybe those memories will be horrific for him.  And if we ever have to move abroad or travel together abroad - it'll just be a pure nightmare for him (everyone) all over again. 

In reflection of our first big trip without V-Man and with all the events that happened - here's why it wouldn't have gone well for him:
  • About 3.5 hours train ride to Helsinki - no way to get out without probably being left behind.  He hasn't done this in about 2 years - who knows what the end results would've been.
  • Our bus was stuck in traffic and we were quite stressed out about checking in on time.  V-Man can sense our stress and reacts whichever way he deems fit at that moment.  That can be a yay or a nay.
  • He's been running away a lot lately - it's a game to be chased.  
    • Now picture security check time...
  • He's been bashing his head a lot.  Not only is this sad and frustrating - it's also severely embarrassing that we cannot do anything to comfort him in that moment.
  • When we arrived to Copenhagen, our stroller did not.  We had to have it shipped to our friends' home or take the risk that it was on the following flight and wait nearly 1½ hours to get it.  
    • We waited and thankfully got it.
  • The Wi-Fi in Copenhagen's airport took ages to kick in - nearly an hour.  There's no way he'd be entertained without Youtube or rubbing chests or digging through random strangers' bags.
  • It actually got dark in Malmö at night and that probably would've freaked him out.
  • Time difference of 1 hour.
  • On our way home - we opted to go to Copenhagen the day we were flying out and we rushed a lot here and there and it was so hot and sunny - loads of people were out and about.  We took a Hop On/Hop Off bus tour - who knows if he'd like it or not.  He likes buses in general - so perhaps!
    • We also had to wait 20 minutes for the following bus to arrive to take us back to the center.
  • On our way to the airport - not the first, nor the second but ALL 3 trains we sat on to take us from the city center to the airport advised in Danish and English that "the staff were not present on the train - so please have patience as we can't leave yet".  Train 3 clarified with "the staff are stuck in Sweden for some reason - we'll leave as soon as we can!"
    • I was in tears after dragging our friends, our luggage and two tired children - one whom I was carrying - (imagine a third!) and a stroller on a horrible game of Musical Trains.
    • We had less than an hour to get to final check-in.  Hence my tears.
  • We ended up arriving and getting our baggage just as the last bus of the night was going back to our home.  No trains after 8pm - so we had to wait until 2am to get a bus.  
    • That means definitely having to wake him up (and the others) and possibly trying to carry 2 children while pushing a stroller and carrying our (mostly carry-on) luggage.
    • When we arrived in our city - because it was a weekend - the bus schedule was changed and we had to wait an hour for the first morning bus to take us home.  (We wanted to get back onto the saving money train and not take a cab.)
So I can happily say that I don't have very many regrets at all about this trip!  We got him presents of course and we took a lot of photos.
Knowing he was somewhere safe, comfortable and happy was our main concern and made travelling that much easier.  Especially considering the freak out with the final train ride to the airport!
It was liberating in a sense and we didn't have to stress about every tiny detail that could possibly upset him and therefor shortening our stay or skipping out on popular tourist attractions...
It was relaxing and isn't that what a vacation is SUPPOSED to be?
I'm not saying we plan to have a mini vacation every time he goes there - but perhaps once or twice a year never hurt anyone.

I do apologize if some of this post comes off as repeatitive - but I'm watching an episode (the final one!) of Agent Carter and chatting with friends online.
Can you tell we haven't had internet at home in awhile? :)

Have a lovely day,

1 comment:

  1. :) I am not sure who your thoughtless idiot friends are, but clearly they are ones that have never dealt with being a mother of three, one of which is autistic. You shouldn't have to write this story. Not all kids must be with you at all times. You guys are fantastic parents. You deserve to go on holidays. End of story. I am glad you wrote this down though, because it makes me realise how lucky I am with my special kid. He and V-Man even though both completely non-verbal autistic, are very different personalities and have very different comfort zones. It's not YOUR FAULT. They just came out like that. A friend of a friend just found out that her boy has RETT (how to spell it) syndrome. Made me feel oh so blessed. Mine is ONLY autistic. He can walk. He can climb. He is happy. These things I remind myself every day. Look at the perspective and feel blessed is my mantra.