We are really lucky that my dad and his partner own a house in Newquay so once or twice a year we head down there for a few days, and that’s what we did in the last week of these summer holidays. We left John at home as he was working, and we went down there with a friend and her two children. We met Claire at NCT classes when I was pregnant with Katie and she was pregnant with her daughter T, so we’ve been friends for 9 years now. She also has a little boy just a few months older than Matthew.
We had a brilliant week. The weather was better than forecast, so every day it was warm and sunny with bright blue sky, we were on the beaches and the kids were splashing around in the sea and climbing round the rock pools. We kept hearing how rammed Newquay was with tourists this summer but we went a bit off the beaten track and managed to avoid them all. We had pretty much deserted beaches. We also spent one day at a theme park which wasn’t too busy either. The kids all get on well, it was lovely to spend some time with Claire, we have lots of happy smiley photos and we had lots of ice cream! Picture perfect.
But…there is always a but these days and it’s always me worrying about Katie and then worrying that I over worry. She did have a good time and she’s always happy to hear when we’re planning to go down to Newquay, but it was also clear that there were times when she was struggling and I’m still never sure if I’m managing those times in the best way for her.
Noise is always one of her biggest triggers and there is no denying this was a noisy holiday! 5 children and 2 adults in a 3 bedroom house, including two very loud and boisterous boys aged 4 and 5 who egg each other on and get even louder and more boisterous when they’re together. As the week went on Katie’s fuse got a lot shorter with them and she was yelling at them to shut up and pushing them out her way. I shared a room with Katie so she didn’t have to share her space with the other children and could retreat if she needed to, which was the best option I could think of, but it wasn’t great because she still doesn’t want to go upstairs on her own if there is no one else up there with her so she didn’t do it unless she was desperate. The times when she did choose to do that were more frequent towards the end of the week. She also started the week off eating at the table with the others (her choice) and by the end was preferring to eating on her own.
I thought her bedtimes might be easier given that we were sharing a room (and a bed) so her issues with being on her own wouldn’t be applicable, but they weren’t really. She still wouldn’t go to bed until me and Claire went up, so I ended up cutting our evenings short sometimes and going to bed when I didn’t really want to but I was worried about Katie staying up too late especially since we were busy during the days. She switched some of her home routines for different routines in Newquay. She still took a long time to get up to bed because she was checking that the doors were locked, shutting the doors between different rooms, making sure there were no gaps between the curtains and checking that there was no one hiding in cupboards or under tables. Even when she was asleep I don’t think she was properly relaxed because she kept sitting up in the middle of the night and asking where I was even though I was right next to her.
I’ve mentioned before that Katie loves theme parks and the day we went to the theme park was probably her favourite day but it’s noticeable as she gets older how hard she finds it to take other people’s opinions into account or to compromise. She just wanted to go on the rides she wanted to go on and found it really frustrating if the others wanted to do something different. Matthew and Claire’s boy were too young / short to go on the most of the rides without an adult so we had to stay with them or they wouldn’t have been able to go on much, but that didn’t help Katie because it meant one of us couldn’t go off with her at any point. She really prefers to be in control of situations where possible so when we were getting on rides she always made sure she was on first and she was the one getting to choose where she sat. She wanted to sit on her own and not pair up with anyone.
Towards the end of the day we said to the kids they had time for one more ride so could they choose together what they wanted to go on. They all chose the rollercoaster so we went and got in the queue. But then Katie decided she wanted to go and see the horses again, and that was a point when I wasn’t sure what to do. From my point of view it was really frustrating that they had collectively made a decision and then Katie was changing it. No one else wanted to see the horses again and it would have been easier if Katie could consider the majority view over her own, especially given that she likes rollercoasters too so it wasn’t like she was being asked to do something she hated. If I went with Katie to go and see the horses it meant Matthew couldn’t go on the rollercoaster because there wouldn’t be an adult to sit with him. If I stayed with Matthew it meant letting Katie wonder off round the park on her own which I wasn’t comfortable with given that she’s only recently turned 9, or potentially having a meltdown at staying with us and not seeing the horses. But then from Katie’s point of view she had spent all day going on rides that she didn’t always want to go on and being told when she could and couldn’t do the ones she really wanted to. For her, she couldn’t care less whether Matthew and his friend got to go on the rides or not and it’s not her problem that they needed an adult with them. She likes theme parks but there’s still all the noise, the standing in queues with people close to her, and adrenaline rushes from the rides so she’s already on edge. Plus the fact that although she had already seen the horses she had been moved on from them sooner than she would have chosen to be because everyone else had had enough by then. So in the end I said she could go off on her own to the horses while we went on the rollercoaster and it was fine, but I was really uncomfortable with not being able to see her and I do feel she’s a bit young to be going off on her own. Also I don’t understand how she hates going upstairs or downstairs on her own in a house but she will happily wonder off round a field or at a theme park! She was also happy to wonder off at the beach.
Katie also found it very difficult to share T with Alice, which was predictable but I still don’t really know how to help her with that. Katie and T have always got on well and are only 5 days apart in age so they naturally pair up, and the boys naturally pair up, and Alice is left on her own a bit. She is absolutely fine with that and she’s quite happy to play with the boys, or to do her own thing, but she does also get on well with T and it shouldn’t be an issue for her to also spend time with T or with Katie….but it is. Katie absolutely hates it and she point blank refuses to make a three with her, Alice and T which means T effectively has to choose between Katie and Alice as to who she spends time with. To be fair she only tended to spend time with Alice when Katie was choosing to be on her own for some quite space, but even then Katie still hated the fact that they were together. At those times she would be angry with both of them and would be feeling that T was being mean to her and didn’t want to be her friend anymore.
Katie recognises in herself that she finds it hard to share her friends, and I spoke to her before and during our holiday about the fact that if T wanted to spend time with Alice that was OK. It doesn’t mean she likes Katie any less and it doesn’t mean she’s being horrible to her. It’s not fair on T when Katie gets cross with her when she hasn’t done anything wrong. It’s a really hard concept for Katie to learn because I think she can sort of see the sense in it but her emotions overwhelm her. I also really sympathise with Katie because she’s in this constant battle of liking someone but then feeling betrayed by them.
So anyway, a lovely time away and the majority of it was great fun and everyone enjoyed it including Katie. It’s just always in my mind as to what can we do differently to avoid stressors for Katie, and could the holiday have been better for her – it probably could. It’s always such a balancing act between what she needs and what the others need and I’m never sure I’m getting it right.