A few months back I was the lucky winner of a family ticket with camping to the Wilderness festival in Oxfordshire
Yes, I was having a period of good fortune as I had also managed to get hold of a cybermummy ticket, won a build a bear birthday party and the fantastic prize of a £15o dove spa voucher.
This itself was a fantastic prize that I won on the awesome blog Not Supermum. The festival would commence on the 12th August and finish on the night of the 14th, meaning I would be leaving on the Friday and returning Monday morning. Given Little man’s Aspergers I considered all the options very carefully, which basically were, “Take him” or “Not take him” Of course I don’t want to leave my Little man behind and just because he has Aspergers doesn’t mean he is unable to be involved in the daily activities that you or I might participate in. I’ve always stated this opinion and continue to do so! However, I was thinking of him as opposed to anyone else, let me explain! Back in early July I was invited as a VIP guest to the Pandamonium Festival by Cadbury. The event was in Nottinghamshire and although we enjoyed the Cadbury mini games and the lavish VIP area where we sat next to the Ambassador of China, things started to turn sour by the afternoon. A festival is a place that you can’t attend on a schedule, It just don’t happen! What with crowds, unannounced changes to a listing, and the fact that most of the time you are unaware of all the activities on site in till you arrive. This is an incredibly anxious prospect for Little Man and many others like him.
Little man is a child who manages reasonably well if his home life isn’t tightly scheduled, though we try with the help of visuals etc… It’s outside of the comfort of the four walls of our home, things become very difficult. Little mans intense need to control his environment causes him to become extremely rigid which is becoming a very tiresome for all involved. I almost had a breakdown once home from that festival, we all did including the little man himself, so, I needed to weigh things up in my mind before being any arrangements.
If the truth be told despite any post I’ve written to assist a family embanking on a day out with a child on the spectrum I still find the whole task incredible hard for myself to apply. Many theme parks will cater to the family of a child on the spectrum, offering wrist bands to avoid queues and busy areas of the park (sometimes known as a ride access pass)! Festivals are a very different thing altogether.
So, after much deliberation I came to the decision that it was probably best if Little Man remained with his father who was already watching my toddler. However, I did something that some may describe as odd! I went against my instincts, choosing my desire for my child to have a weekend of fun just as his sister would. I asked him, he wanted to come! As his mother how could I possibly leave him behind?
We left for the Wilderness festival around 8 p.m Friday evening, (We meaning, myself, my friend Donna, daughter Alice-sara and my Little man) as total camping virgins. During the drive Little man was a little anxious about speed limits and motorways. I tried my best to estimate our journey time, through I didn’t want to, as I wanted to avoid any rigid time keeping. This failed terribly as he would not rest till I gave the estimate. We hit Oxfordshire 20 minutes above schedule, giving us some extra time to now get to the beautiful Cornbury estate in Charbury the location in which the Wilderness festival would be held! I breathed a sigh of relief at the prospect of avoiding any upset from Little man. We left the A road with his beautiful array of cats eyes that provided Little Man with visual delight and entered the extremely dark bendy country lanes. The roads were dark and narrow. I love these little lanes yet, I had little time to sit back and chill in the passengers seat as Little man was becoming a little worried. Suddenly everything went very wrong, what started of as having plenty of time given the fact we had hit Oxfordshire a little quicker than first expected had now flipped the other way, we were now somehow 20 minutes over schedule. As the realisation set in that, “We were Lost” there was no hiding it from Little man who had already worked this out for himself. Once Panic had set in, it resulted in verbal abuse, mainly at myself, followed by lots of tears. I was becoming stressed along with my poor friend who was the one driving. The other problem was, the gates were due to close for the Campsite which would result in us all spending a night in the car! Can you picture it? Its a terrifying vision and one I would rather not live out!
Thankfully the lovely people at Wilderness took one look at my face and Im guessing that of little mans (That displayed a string of emotions) and my guess is, wanting to avoid the tantrum that was so obviously brewing, had then decided to let us in! Well, it was this or maybe the fact they felt sorry for my poor daughter who had basically slept all the way from London and was now stood with a blanket around her, eyes still closed and shivering like a ice cube. Whatever the reason, I was most grateful to them when they ushered us in.
However it wasn’t a case of getting in, unpacking and jumping into a nice warm bed! Remember we’re camping here, and we are, “camping virgins!” Myself and my friend were yet to embank on our challenge of attempting to put up the tent. Lets just say that little man had good reason to blow up when we were still trying to work the stupid thing out some two hours later, (seriously not kidding, even I had a mini tantrum by this point, which largely consisted of me kicking tent pegs in sheer anger). Well, at least my daughter didn’t complain, nope she was in here sleeping bag embracing the whole camping experience by snoring under the full moon.
The festival was great, It had that hippy chick, carefree feel about it. Dress crazy, dance like a idiot, or sit and debate politics through the small hours, no one cares! This attitude makes life so doable even if it is just for them few days! I love that happy festival atmosphere. That’s the good thing about this type of festival, No one stares or makes judgements when little man is having a hard time! My parenting skills are not judged, “If they were at least they were discreet about it!” Honestly, I met some really nice laid back people.
The overall location was idilic, what with beautiful swimming lakes where I embraced the whole ‘Wilderness’ theme by freezing my arse off while being nibbled by crayfish, as Little man sat watching alongside my friend, (only myself and my daughter braved the cold waters and its many residents).
Another area of concern was Little mans fussy eating. He will not eat anything cold or packed in a cool box, knowing the festival would be selling food at normal “Festival prices” I was aware that we would need to embank on daily journeys to the nearest local takeout to be sure he ate.
As expected the festival wasn’t the type of event that you would find people following a routine, just like my true personality, people were spontaneous, taking things how and when they came. This may have been perfectly fitting for me if I were alone,though it’s been so long since I have indulged in such spirited self-being, that I probably wouldn’t know how! The point, “I wasn’t alone!” Of course the problems Little man had with the lack of routine were displayed through eruptions of unpredictable behaviours! He hit his sister and swore so loudly that he may of been heard from those back in London! There where moments that he coped and enjoyed those activities that he coped with, though the majority he did not handle well t all! Of course I understand its hard for him, yet I’m human and could not help feeling somewhat restricted from the events taking place around me. I often found myself feeling a tad sorry for myself! Though it would pass within seconds, I needed to think of Little man and ways to improve the situation.
I myself felt some strong emotions come over me during the festival. At times I was so goddamn angry at Little man as he swore and called me horrific names! Others times my heart arched, I longed for my son discover a world of enjoyment as oppose to fear and anticipation that nearly always tipped into huge bouts of anger, accompanied by meltdowns
Despite this I tried my best to give them both a good time and see it through to the end. We did it (Well, we left the night before we had to) This wasn’t due to little man but just the connivence of avoiding morning traffic on the busy M25.
I pray that one day, my son be be able to enjoy events fully like those such as the Wilderness festival! I hope over time we help little man develop the skills needed to enable him to deal with his anxiety and hopefully reduce it.
Would I take him again?
Yes, if he wanted to, I would?
Because his my son and I love him, Its as simple as that!
- Wilderness 2011 | Review Our Reviews: The Student (wannabehacks.co.uk)
- Wilderness festival in Oxfordshire (guardian.co.uk)
- Chocolate, sun and lots of fun (aspergersinfo.wordpress.com)