This weekend we made a spur of the moment decision to go away for the weekend. I don’t really do spur of the moment decisions, so it was a bit of a gamble for me. It was, co-incidentally, also our first weekend together as a family since the boy got his ASD/ADHD diagnosis a couple of weeks ago.
Typically weekends in our house are stressful affairs, due to the boy’s meltdowns and low mood. Returning to the office on Monday morning can be a relief.
We have been to Kilkee, in Co Clare every August for the last few years and the boy loves it. Mainly the ice-creams and arcades , but also the beach. Kilkee is a small coastal town on the West Coast of Ireland. A traditional seaside village , that comes alive for the summer months and sleeps in the winter. It has some beautiful scenery; the wild, rugged kind that almost looks better in shades of grey than blue. Which is lucky, since it mostly rains there. The beach in the bay is expansive, and clean, perfect for children to run wild, and for the brave to take the plunge. We took the opportunity for an adhoc weekend getaway.
For the first time in a long time I can honestly say we had a great weekend. With nothing on the agenda except enjoyment, everyone can truly relax. Souvenirs bought for the kids, and ice-creams. Afternoon drinks for the grown-ups, and a trip to the arcades to fritter money away as if we had it.
But it’s at the beach where the faces really light up. Firstly, taking off socks and shoes and running tentatively to where the sea meets the sand. Then, braver now, removing t-shirts and dresses to splash in the small pool gathered between troughs of sand. Finally, sheer exuberance, tearing through the water, shouting, splashing, falling, laughing. I could have watched them all day.
This is my favouritest day , he said.
On Sunday, miracle of miracles nobody woke until 8.30am (apart from me, of course) and we went out for breakfast and a root around the rock pools for crabs, a favourite pastime of the boy. (That reminds me I have a crab shell in my bag.) To add to our good fortune there was a market taking place on the seafront celebrating all the delicious food on offer in the area. Free seafood for me, face painting and balloon animals for the kids. Receiving the diagnosis and understanding the boy better, helped us to avoid various trigger points over the weekend. Situations which would have previously led to meltdowns, from him and us, were side-stepped, thanks to an increased awareness of how his brain processes certain thoughts or emotions. And thus an incident with the boy’s balloon animal did not become the day-affecting crisis it might once have done, and we could close out the weekend, in the sun, on the wall, together, happy.
Of course , nothing good lasts forever and the return home on Sunday evening brought with it the stresses and strains of real-life , which make it so much harder to be the parent I want to be. The demands of grocery shopping, laundry, lunch preparing and bathing led to a hyperactive boy and a stressed out mother and we ended the weekend on a low note. The most difficult part of his behaviour for me to accept is the impulsivity and lack of empathy, which results in him tormenting his sister. This cannot be tolerated regardless of the reasons for it, but it’s up to us to guide him on this and show him the right path. Unfortunately, tired and stressed, I shouted. He got upset. Meltdown.
This is not going to be easy. One successful weekend away does not a perfect family make. Life will get in the way: work, finances, a tantrumming two-year old, a messy house, lack of sleep. These things all pile on top of us making the utopia of perfect, serene parenting impossible. But we are trying. We are aware, and we are trying and this was the first good weekend.