Well I didn't think things would keep going at such a brilliant rate for long, and looks like I am hitting a few walls. Or maybe my usual ridiculous expectations of myself are a wake up call to the reality of what I am trying to achieve. Since the pub visit, we have had a few hiccups.
Firstly on Sunday we took Alex to Astley Park in Chorley, which has a gorgeous cafe. We decided a little walk first before attempting the cafe would be wise to get the energy levels down on both child and dog. It sort of backfired when Alex went on the swings and slides. Lucie waited beautifully while he played, but Alex has no 'end' button. He could keep going forever. So when we tried to move on, he went into full meltdown. Lucie was very patient, but we were struggling. We did persist with plan A with the cafe, as we had the ipad as a distraction for Alex when he sat down. Once settled, all went well, and we could have stayed an hour. So it wasn't too bad, but I think it unsettled Alex, as the next day when he saw the blue jacket and lead for Lucie, he went nuts.
I am not comfortable as this is all supposed to be a positive experience, and already Alex is refusing the jacket work. The next outing was with Michelle as a training session. I suggested B&Q as it involved a car trip, and could include a cafe. On arrival at the store Alex refused to come out the car, stressed and not happy. It did wear off, and we even tried the cafe, which went okay. Again, Lucie doing pretty good, but Alex not on top form.
Review time for me, and I started to think I need an activity Alex really wants to do, that has a clear start and end he can cope with - cinema - smashing idea. So with all the naive bravery I can muster Alex, Lucie and I go to Vue Bolton for the Kids Am film - only £3 entry, so no sweat if we have to scarper early. All was going really well, Alex very chipper, and happy to be attached etc, and calm entry to cinema, only to find out it is sold out, and the next film isn't for another hour. Doh! In fairness, the lady at the cinema could not have been more helpful, and was doing all she could to assist us, so at least we felt welcome and well cared for. On trying to leave Alex went into stress mode. I stood like a complete muppet in the middle of the shopping mall, just gathering my thoughts. I decided on the Starbucks next to us, to see if we could buy time till the next film.
On entering, Alex displayed an exotic meltdown, very vocally. (Fair enough - I had shown him the cinema then turned round to walk into a place of no interest to him). Yet again the staff were lovely, offering to help take my drink to the table, and helped me settle. It made me feel welcome regardless of my chaos. I sat down, tried to calm Alex, which took a few minutes, and Lucie was a star, just settled and calm. Meanwhile I am fighting tears, worried Alex's crying is disturbing people with their overpriced latte's. Though there was some consolation that at least with Lucie with us, it was obvious Alex had issues, and I didn't get the usual looks criticising a parent unable to get a grip on their child. Next thing I know Lucie perks up and I notice a Guide Dog puppy (and we are talking Andrex cute) sit at the table next to us. Talk about pile on the challenges. Having said that all went well. So once Alex was calm, I decided to attempt the cinema again. Only this time I find out prices were now not £3 but £12. As the morning was so strained and I thought Alex may only last a matter of minutes, this seemed too much, so I decided to quit while we were behind.
I drove home feeling totally wiped out and upset, with a sense of failure that Lucie had been dragged from pillar to post without me having direction, and most of all I had not given Alex a nice experience. At times like this I wished there was a way to give Alex a treat. If only he liked (or ate!) normal food, I could have given him chocolate, or taken him to McDonalds, or anything that regular kids do. But none of that works for Alex, so I gave him the only thing I had which was my mobile phone, so he could listen to music. I even thought - should I try going somewhere else, a ball pool, anything, but all these are problems for Alex and more likely to end in drama. So I drove home dejected and down. I parked up thinking, here we go again, home to the only thing Alex likes, the computer. Mmmm. But then I realised I had one more trick up my sleeve - Lucie.
I left Alex and Lucie in the drive, showed Alex I was leaving the blue jacket in the house and grabbed the flexi lead which is used for regular dog walks. It was pouring with rain, but I didn't care. I took them straight out for an hours walk in the woods. Within seconds it felt right. Lucie and Alex played wonderfully, and we all just mucked about and did what kids dogs and mums should do. Be silly in the mud and rain. It felt great. So we came home in a different mood, all caked in mud and chilled.
Lesson learned this week. Even Lucie doesn't have the miraculous ability to make me a more organised person - and more importantly, the benefits of her are not just the jacketed formal work, but can be the down time of just play and nonsense. And in all my failures trying to give Alex a good outing, there is the huge consolation that the dog bits were fine, and it appears that sometimes the public really want to help and make your day easier. All things to focus on, that in moments when you feel your world is crashing down, there really are people out there who can help, and dogs who stay calm through it all....result!