So, as I type this I have recently returned from a fantastic week away in Majorca with a fading tan and a lot of bug bites and some brilliant memories of a sun drenched break with the family.
It was the second holiday abroad we have been fortunate enough to take Matthew away on, and realising that with his complex needs it may not be so simple as he grows up and is no longer just that energetic toddler as he is at the moment, but that part is for the future, so we cannot worry about that just yet.
For me the holiday was a fabulous experience, allowing me to spend quality time with my kids, allowing them all to experience new things and have a degree of freedom not afforded to them at home. It was a joy to watch the girls improve in confidence and ability at swimming, for them to try a variety of foods they would not normally touch at home and for Matthew to run us ragged with his boundless energy and dive fearlessly, head first into the pool over and over again (I was there to catch him).
As expected there were sideways glances and hushed whispers from other families, as they saw Matthew gain sensory comfort from his need to head butt us (usually gently), be it in the hotel restaurant, by the pool, in the bar, wherever. The unusual surroundings affected him quite profoundly at times, and considering the noise and bustle of a holiday resort in peak season he coped remarkably well.
It was also the first time in a while where I had been exposed to a greater extent to the wider world and children of a similar age to Matthew and seeing this the reality hit home. I know and accept Matthew’s differences and love him just as he is, but when those timely reminders arise it is hard not to look on, even if it is just briefly without a little tinge of sadness, though definitely not bitterness.
One afternoon I was out on my daily stroll around the streets of C’an Picafort with Matthew in an attempt to put him to sleep for an hour or so I noticed a father and son playing football on the pitches at the back of the hotel. The little lad all togged out in a Barcelona kit and of similar age to Matthew was charging up and down the pitch with boundless energy, cheering loudly when he scored a goal. I would be lying if I didn’t say I had to swallow hard at that point, something I just expected I would do with him at this age added to a list of maybe one day.
Back by the pool, children far younger than Matthew toddled around with freedom and confidence both in and at the side of the pool, we constantly hand held through fear he would trip, fall and hurt himself. Parents looked on inquisitively as Matthew shrieked with delight jumping as I pulled him through the water with an evident curiosity as to why he did not speak.
At the airport on the way home, the queue for check in was long and likely to be a good hour wait, speaking with an airline rep I asked if the pre-arranged special arrangements for priority check in etc. could be used and we were immediately ushered to the front of the queue. The gasps of disgust from those nearby were almost audible above the hustle and bustle of airport noise and the judgemental looks and face pulling was all too evident, priority being Matthew at this stage I smiled and did my best to ignore it and took it as a lesson in the world we now embrace.
So reflecting on what was a fabulous week away although I was greeted at times by people who stared, reminders that made me want shed a tear, though these things just make me stronger.
The week gave me a chance to bond with the kids and a reminder that Matthew, despite all his challenges, this amazing little chap is so determined, so funny, has a character that is adorable and can make even the brightest day on the Med even brighter. His sisters, despite their sibling squabbles are his guardian angels and Debs is just incredible for doing all she does day in day out while I am at work and still come out smiling when I get home.