Moments…

The day is full of sunshine. It is warm.

Our car is full. Full mainly with Alex’s stuff… huge bed… wheelchair… 3 wheeler… seat to strap him into when we go out… and in among that is crammed everything else. Again the annual ‘really need a new car’ conversation.

We navigate driving on the wrong side of the road.

A favourite song comes on and we have our perfect soundtrack. And I think Ooh, is this a Moment? And it is.

Briefly.

Then Alex starts to cry… he is tired. And probably bored. We are all tired and bored but he is always the one who makes himself known. Emma – because she is a beautiful person – starts to read him a story. He stops briefly then, realising he’s been had, that the car is not stopping any time soon, starts up again.

Our summer holiday.

Moments…

The days are incredibly hot – 35 degrees hot, too hot for our English sensibility, and so we adopt the siesta. Well, 3 of us do, Emma just stays up watching TV as the rest of us doze but, as a result…

We are able to go out – as a family – and eat dinner. Eating at 8, 9 o’clock at home is unthinkable but here… it is normal. Alex, having slept, is energized. We giggle with the headiness of it.

Drink wine.

There is a swimming pool, and another pool and another – both inside and out. There is a whirlpool connecting the two. We find Alex a life jacket, look at each other nervously and… our family is pulled along… Alex, ever the water baby, just squeals, splashes delightedly.

There is a smaller pool where the wave machine makes the water lap at the edge. It’s shallow enough to sit down. Alex sits there, determinedly splashing. Emma, ever practical, dons goggles, splashes him back. An exclusion zone is – effectively – established… But Alex is older now, and I think it’s clearer that he’s not like the other kids so… the adults smile, they don’t mind and the children, they get it, and just work around him.

On sight seeing visits we come across accessibility everywhere we go… an old abbey has specially installed ramps that means there’s almost nowhere we can’t go… a chateau has a special avoid-the-steps disabled access door, complete with it’s own pull bell… In many restaurants waiters move chairs without being asked so Alex in his wheelchair comes up to the table… we are truly different, yet the same, and so we can all join in… do the same thing together. We are a family.

My constant fear is that this is the last year our holidays together will work… and so we take a trip via Euro Disney. I cannot say enough good things. We all loved it. There were enough scary rides for Emma, enough gentle rides for me and enough noise, lights, people for Alex that everyone, everyone enjoyed it.

And we met Spiderman.

There were not so good moments too, just so you know…

We take Alex on It’s a Smalls World – it’s a wheelchair accessible boat journey, what can go wrong? Alex – with his previously mentioned love of water – Has to Feel the Water. Longest 10 minutes of my life preventing him from getting out of the boat. Never again. After that, no more rides for him. Spectator only.

We are in a restaurant and the table we’ve been offered will not work for us, for Alex. It is tucked away in a corner, it is right up against a couple having a nice meal for two… Can we please have another table? This causes consternation, it will ruin their tables per waiter rota and as we stand there awkwardly waiting, waiting for the manager to come and be the voice of reason (and she is), Emma – who is in desperate need of food – bursts into tears, wants to know why we can’t just have One Normal Meal. She is right, we agree, and we talk about it. We know it’s difficult sometimes, but if we don’t try these things, we’ll never leave the house.

Another night, Alex and his Dad go home early and Emma and I… we have pudding… just the two of us. Quiet as you please.

This was a proper family holiday. Maybe because Alex is more mobile… he’s able to be much more a part of it… less passive… and whilst that can be… challenging… having to be properly thinking about the needs of both our children… well, that was good.

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Mummy, can we go back, I liked it there – there were croissants…

A different viewpoint

Watch that family on the beach. The father and daughter are out swimming, the mother and their younger son are sat at the water’s edge. Their son is splashing with his legs and flapping his arms and sometimes, if his mother isn’t fast enough, eating the sand. Odd for a 4 year old, but he is happy… Everyone is happy.

Regard that family in the park. The mother and daughter have marched on ahead, exploring the undergrowth, discussing the sculptures that have been placed there. This is the first time her mother has managed to engage her in art in this way and she is delighted. Further back the father pushes their younger son in his buggy, together they are enjoying the effect of the light coming through the trees. Strange that the boy isn’t up and exploring too but he is happy… they are all happy.

See now as they all go off into the forest, the daughter darting off to discover new twigs and stones that she proudly brings back to display to the rest of her family. Surprising that their son doesn’t get out and run with her. But he is happy… they are all happy.

Laugh as, when faced with a hill, they all three pull the son in his buggy up the hill – the strength of them all needed – they sing as they pull and the boy laughs that infectious laugh and they recognise the ridiculousness of their situation and all the time the adults fight the thought at the back of their minds – will we still be able to do this next year? Will he be too big, will this be impossible?

But right now? They are each and every one of them happy. Happy in the moment of being together, of enjoying the new… Celebrating that they have once again achieved that simple yet important pleasure: a holiday.

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Mummy, no need for lunch, this sand is yummy.