Sunday 26 March 2017

Mother's Day and Harry Potter Studio Tour

You know me, honest all the way, so I have to say that despite our hugely successful visit to Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios in Watford, my Mother's Day didn't quite turn out as planned. Don't worry, I'm still smiling, though there's a bit of a story...
Siblings at Privet Drive, Warner Bros Studios
Thanks go to the great staff at Warner Bros Studios, who, when we mentioned about Sasha's autism sent us to join a very short queue of around 15 people. That then let us in to the front of the 'holding room' before the other 100 other people booked for our time slot joined us. Sasha had to manage the wait in the holding room, which included a bit of talking and a short (ish) video about the success of the Harry Potter films, before we were allowed into the cinema room. 

There were lots of loud whispers from Sasha about 'why is this taking so long?' and 'I don't want to be here now' but we just about managed to see it through. Luckily, we were then able to get front row seats for the cinema film all about the making of Harry Potter, so she was happy with that as she had a good view - although she did have to sit there with fingers in ears because cinema films are always played SO LOUD (is that for the old people, I wonder?!). 

With hindsight, I probably should have asked to just skip those two parts of the day. Whilst amazing for everyone else, they didn't add to the experience for Sasha, who was keen to just get into the rest of the studios and run through it all as quickly as possible. I'm not actually so sure why she was desperate to visit at all if I'm honest; she's never read the books and is unlikely to, and she's not watched any of the films and would find even the first one too scary I think....

Anyhow the next three hours went pretty swimmingly, with lots of photo opportunities as you'll see from my slideshow above. It was a case of dash through everything super quickly for Sasha and I, while Daddy and Tamsin took their time and tried to enjoy it a bit... No queuing for things like broomsticks and car green screen but we did manage to do the train green screen section together as the queue there was so small. We had a short break for lunch (two pepperami and two bags of mini cheddars in Sasha's case) and finished the second half mostly together, with both girls enjoying the interactive Dobby screens.

As I stopped to take a photo in the last room, Sasha told me that I had to 'put hashtag 'the best ending' #thebestending' and added that it was 'just so magnificent'.

Steph's Two Girls at Warner Bros Studios
Magnificence at Warner Bros Studios London
Then we entered the gift shop, having warned the girls that they could have only one gift each. We nearly hit meltdown when Sasha couldn't choose between two items, but she managed to make the decision for herself. My day was made when Tamsin decided that she'd rather have the equivalent money than spend it on something she really wasn't going to use, and Sasha followed that up instantly by offering that Tamsin could share and play with her wand. Sibling love right there. So yes, as we left the attraction, I was feeling on cloud nine. I was also looking forward to seeing my own mum that evening as I'd booked a meal out for the family. 

The afternoon started to imitate a bad downhill skiing run at that point however. It took a sharp turn as Sasha was obviously trying to de-stress and she resisted leaving the house again in the afternoon to go and play in the garden of our new house, but balance was regained as we got ready to go out for our evening meal. Sasha seemed happy enough, getting dressed in a beautiful party dress - the type she never wears, as she'd always prefer comfort (preferably nothing) over looking good, usually. 

There we all were, dressed up and leaving the house, to go to a restaurant for the first time in years, and I couldn't believe my luck! On entering the restaurant, we sat down and Sasha's three year old cousin sat next to her on the sofa seats. She was happy to entertain him by trying to teach him colours for the first ten minutes. However all went disastrously wrong fairly quickly after that. 

Having been given a free glass of Prosecco, I'll hold my hands up to not spotting signs I may have otherwise acted on sooner. The general hubbub of the restaurant, the extremely long wait for our starters, and the exuberance of Sasha's three year old cousin all sadly took their toll. I offered the iPad and headphones (our standard distraction technique) but the point of no return had already been reached.

There were screams of excitement from the three year old, but strangled cries of frustration and irritation from our nine year old, who wanted to leave immediately. Fortunately in some way, the excitement of our day had obviously had an impact, and she reluctantly rested her head on my lap and fell asleep. Looking on the bright side, there was another success right there - I got to eat my tea, albeit having to stretch over her body.

Stephs Two Girls eating out

When Sasha woke up, she was still just as angry, and we needed to leave pretty much immediately.

Huge apologies to my Dad, who had to pick up the bill, and to my mum, who obviously didn't quite get the happy family meal or photos which she would have liked on her Mother's Day... but how lucky am I though that I know that they 'get' it, they understand and they support us through everything. There's always a silver lining when you look for it. 

So we'd left in a hurry and arrive back home with an angry Sasha, only to realise that both of us adults had left our house keys in the house. See, I told you it was like a downhill skiing competition, with a final spectacular fall! Luckily for us, our landlord lives nearby and was home (praise the lord!) and it was only a matter of minutes before we could get inside and start to calm Sasha down with her home comforts. She's still awake now, but starting to feel better thankfully. 

Let's not talk about the final present of the evening for me, which was something the cat left me in her litter tray... sigh, trip to the vet tomorrow to add to my to-do list! 

Anyhow the point of pouring my heart out here, as always, is not a 'poor me' post, but just a truthful picture of a day in the life of this family with a child with autism. Sasha was not having a 'tantrum', she was verging on meltdown, and despite what it might look like to an outsider, there's a huge difference. She was visibly distressed and struggling with the overload, with tears running down her cheeks. Of course I do what I can to lighten that load for her - often by not leaving the house in the first place. 

I've not even touched on the added burden all of this is to her sibling, who so wanted me to have a lovely special day - how can she really understand as an eleven year old what we struggle to understand as adults? But she tries, and she's amazing, and in my eyes she deserves the biggest medal of the day. Along with my mum of course... well, it was Mother's Day after all! We did manage a couple of good photos before the final showdown...

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