No lectures for Mummy on Wednesday — whoo-hoo — so we all went off to Alton Towers. Despite a certain masculine reluctance to follow either the sat-nav or the road signs (‘we live in Staffordshire, of course I know the way, I’m sure we always go through Tean’) we got there in the end. Big sister and her friend disappeared as soon as we got through the turnstile and we decided, first things first, we had better take Freddie to the toilet.
Just beyond the entrance we found the most inaccessible ‘accessible’ toilet I have been in yet. We were warned, by a lady standing outside with her nine-year-old in a wheelchair, that it had no facilities for changing nappies or pads; she had had to lay her coat on the floor to change her child. We weren’t too worried by this as Freddie can sit on the toilet (with the aid of our trusty Potette Plus and the buggy pulled up close so that he can put his feet on the footrest) and will co-operate with a change of undies if necessary. Once inside the cubicle we found that the floor was wet and filthy, there was no toilet paper and it was really difficult to manoeuvre the buggy due to the way the door opened.
Freddie recognised the Cbeebies logo as soon as he saw it, and got very excited. Infact, by the time we had walked a few yards he was overwhelmed. The twenty minute wait for the ‘In the Night Garden’ ride was a nightmare, with Freddie, who doesn’t really understand the concept of time and waiting yet, shouting ‘I want a turn’, and ‘no!’ every time someone started to sing along with the music. On the defensive now, I was alert for disgusted stares, and whispers about my sons behaviour, but in a place full of stropping toddlers no one batted an eye.
He was hardly any calmer once our turn came and we got into the boat. Being obssessed with the Haa-Hoos he couldn’t wait to get to them and then didn’t want to say goodbye, but if the other families sharing the boat with us thought anything of it they did not let on.
After that we paid more attention to the digital displays at the entrance to each ride that gave an approximate waiting time, and chose the ones that had the shortest queues, alternating rides with the other acitivities on offer that did not require any waiting, and allowed Freddie to run around (the Charlie and Lola House and the Tree-fu Tom play area), or fiddle with things (the Nina and the Neurons lab).
The Something Special Sensory Garden offered the chance to do both, with things to ‘find’ inside ‘Spotty bags’ and plants to rub and sniff, although I think more could have been made of this — with a greater variety of plants with more varied scents and colours, different textures to explore, and more things that would produce sounds. Freddie was very happy to sit in his buggy and eat his lunch here, watching Mr. Tumble on a big screen; he seemed more settled now, less overwrought.
At ten minutes to four we rounded up Big Sister and friend and headed off, very glad that we had brought the buggy with us, as the monorail (along with many of the big rides) does not run at this time of year and it is a long walk to the car park. Freddie nodded off on the journey, and only woke up when he smelled the chips we bought on the way home.
Once he was tucked up in bed, Daddy and I talked over how the day went – what was good, what was not so good, what could we have done differently. Perhaps he was overstimulated at first and needed time to take in his surroundings and process everything. Perhaps we as parents need to make allowances for a processing delay when planning activites, take things slowly so that he can acclimatise, and give simple explanations of new situations by referencing things that are already familiar. I recommend holding these ‘de-briefing sessions’ in a big, bubbly bath with a bottle of wine!
Freddie has mentioned Cbeebies Land a few times since – I think he’d like to go back. Daddy and I have hatched a plan to go back to Alton Towers, too — without ANY kids.