Travelling with our kids

After Easter I will be taking Joshua to Stockholm, just the two of us.
I am looking forward to it, I am, just not as much as when I go by myself.

Travelling with children can be tricky and hard at times. Travelling with a child on the autistic spectrum requires meticulous planning.
Travelling for our children is a huge deal. It becomes easily overwhelming with all the sensory input that comes from busy airports, planes, new places, faces and languages. Not to mention all the uncertainties. What if our flight is delayed? What if the person we’re supposed to visit becomes sick?
Yes, a lot of uncertainties happens in our day-to-day life too, but it is so much easier to deal with when they’re in familiar surroundings.

Joshua loves trains. Always has, probably always will. He started to teach himself how to read at the age of 2 because he was so eager to find out what the underground signs said. That’s how committed he is to trains!
Now he’s expanded his interest to lifts. Not as much as trains, but still, it is a serious crush. He has a YouTube channel ( TheBoshmeister99) where he puts up videos of lifts and trains he’s filmed. He watches other peoples train- and lift videos. You wouldn’t believe how many videos there are out there about lifts! I’m glad he’s not the only one out there with this obsession.
He loves them.

So when we go to Stockholm, the only thing that really matters to him is to go on public transport. Yes, he cares about his uncle, cousins and everyone else we’re seeing, but what mostly matters to him is when we can go back on the underground. And because he only goes to Sweden 1-2 times per year, he want’s to make the most of it.
So when I plan our trip I have to make plenty of room for his train spotting and train rides. If we go to X’s house, maybe we can take the underground and tram to get there. After we’ve seen Y , I’ll take him on the train for a ride for a couple of hours before we go to Z…. and so on…
It’s exhausting.

I also have to make sure we don’t do too much or see too many people, because again, sensory overload. We find that the boys can only take a few hours of activities at the time and then we need to get back to ‘base’ where ever that may be. If we stay in a hotel we would go back there for a while to chill out, or if we’re staying at my brothers, we would hang out there for a while, or it can be someones else’s home, if he feels comfortable there, like my best friends for example.
Point is, there’s only so much input their brains can take and then they need to ‘re-charge’ for a while, doing something familiar. For our boys familiarities can mean playing on their iPad. Its the same games they can play at home, it’s their own device, it’s familiar and comforting.

It’s taken me a lot of travelling with them, a lot of trial and error to realise what they need. What works and what doesn’t. I sometimes still feel like they ‘should’ spend more time socialising with family, ‘should’ enjoy the scenery, ‘want’ to do other things….
But that’s not them. We, of course, encourage them to do things and be social, but it’s about finding a balance so that it doesn’t backfire.

Last year I took Harry with me to Stockholm for a few days. It was the first time we’d gone just me and him and it went really well. He’s thankfully not in to lifts and trains like his brother, so we had some more freedom to do other things. We spent a lot of time with family and friends and out in the snow. Harry was great and really enjoyed it.
Until the last day.
We were supposed to take the underground to meet up with my step-mum. But as we entered the station Harry blankly refused to go in. I tried to explain to him again what we were doing and what was going to happen when we got there. I offered him his ear defenders, which he sometimes want’s when it gets to noisy. But no. He wouldn’t have any of it. He just kept screaming and the more I tried to persuade him to go, the more upset he got. He ended up having a complete meltdown in the station and I had to carry him kicking and screaming back to my brothers place, where we were staying.
It took him ages to calm down. I just had to admit defeat and we stayed there for the rest of the day. He’d had enough. All his resources emptied and he had nothing else to give. Sure, it was a shame we didn’t get to see my step-mum but thankfully she understood, and Harry and I spent the day quietly at home.

That’s how it is for us. Finding a balance of pushing and pulling back again.
I accept that. I try not to have to high expectations of how our trips ‘should’ go.

And I never take them both on my own anymore. I take one of them, or all four of us go.
I’ve made myself sick, physically sick, with stress in the past when I’ve tried to take them both on my own. When the boys were only about 4-5 I took them on my own. We knew about their autism of course, but hadn’t lived with it long enough to know the balance of pushing and pulling, and I pushed to far.
We’d been out with family to Skansen, which is like a huge out door museum/park/zoo of all things Swedish. Kids usually love it there, but it didn’t take long before I realised that the boys had had enough, sensory overload and all that, so I decided to take my two and leave. Well, we were half way back through this park, when Joshua decided to run off. And this place is huge! Especially when I’m chasing a five year old, with no sense of danger what so ever, whilst carrying his almost 4 year old brother!
I caught up with him in the end, and after a good telling off, we went back to my brothers where we were staying. But I’d been so terrified and I got so stressed about it that the next morning I woke up sick as a dog. The whole day I was so sick and still had to take care of my two, in someone else’s home. It was awful. And I swore to never go with them on my own again. And I haven’t.

And yes, kids run off all the time no matter what country they’re in, and ours have too. Harry has run off more times than I can count.
But when we go back to Sweden, I want at least a chance to see my friends and family and catch up a little, otherwise what’s the point?  I want to see the people I love and care about and don’t see every day. And if I can do that and not be stressed to a point of physical sickness, I’d rather do that.

So, travelling with our boys is about finding a balance, and try not to have to high expectations.
I am really looking forward to this trip, and Joshua is beyond excited which puts a smile on my face. His excitement is contagious. He might be mostly looking forward to all the train rides, but I am mostly looking forward to spending some quality time with him, and having a good catch up with our family and friends.

I will let you know how it goes.

xx

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