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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Aspergers, glamping and managing the flare-ups

Given that it was the end of October and we've got three kids, rather than camp, we made the decision to glamp last week for half-term (yes, I know, a cottage would have been an even better idea - but double the cost).  A tent already set up for us on arrival, a proper bed to sleep in, heater included: it sounded perfect.
Oliver threw up before we even got there - all over himself, his car seat, the floor and his (screaming) sister. The rest of the holiday, any time we went out in the car it had to be with all the windows open so that the high-speed chilly October wind just slightly lessened the smell of sick and made the journey bearable! And, of course, there were the usual 5am calls for a wee (even a glamping tent can't get around that) and Ava spent most of every night shrieking as what felt like gale-force wind blew the canvas in and out around us and made the tea-light chandelier shake precariously above our heads!
However,  it was the reaction of Ethan to being in a confined space that was unfamiliar and out of his control, with three hyperactive kids that I (perhaps naively ) hadn't expected. We've camped before, but in our own tent that he spends hours erecting and then arranging the insides of. There are separate compartments for the kids and us, and he's in control of his surroundings. In our glamping tent all five of us were squeezed into one space. There was no-where in which to escape. The 'glamorous' touches such as the tea-light chandelier and the heater became objects of stress as the kids bounded around on the bed almost head-butting the glass holders of the chandelier and falling into the heater. It was too much for Ethan. He had his first explosion shortly after arriving in the tent. Yelling at the kids to stop yelling (!), yanking Oliver off the bed and putting him in an impromptu 'naughty' corner within moments of  arriving in the tent, telling Ava she was annoying as she darted into the tent to explore every nook and cranny without taking her shoes off first, and pushing Sam away too hard so that he fell over in the mud.
Those first couple of hours after arriving, my heart sank as I struggled to see how we would get through the next four days, let alone enjoy them. I angrily reacted to Ethan's anger and frustration by telling him that he was ruining our holiday and why didn't he go and check himself into a Travelodge and leave us to it, we'd have a better time without him. The kids were all crying. It all felt far from glamorous.
I took myself to the toilet block to calm down (it became our unlikely retreat zone!) and realised I had two choices. To rant and kick against Ethan's attitude and so make everything worse, for everyone. Or to try to understand him and do what I could to calm the situation and help him cope - even though, right then I just wanted to attack him. By the time I'd got back, things were calmer. I spoke to Ethan outside the tent - I listened to why he was struggling, we made a plan for how we would address these things, he promised to try and be calmer and more patient with the kids, I took the kids to the cooking barn and gave him some time out. We both agreed we'd put a film on for the kids after tea!

And things got better. For the rest of the holiday Ethan was, on the whole, a delight (in fact calmer than me at times). I think that, in the past few months, I've became quicker to forgive and move on. I've tried to understand more, and I've not built things up to be more than what they are because, very often, Ethan flares up quickly but rights himself quickly too. And I've discovered that by supporting him with his anger, frustration and stress, rather than accusing him over it and trying to change him, he's beginning to change himself. 

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