Arun dashed up to the lift and pressed all the buttons very excitedly. The lift pinged and the doors opened. He bounced a few times and scampered in, his floppy hair getting air as he jumped up and down.
“Going down” a dis-embodied woman’s voice announced and Arun grinned from ear to ear.
“Going down, daddy!” he parroted, literally laughing with the fun of it all.
We were at the national theatre car park and on our way to see the stage performance of the Charlie and Lola show next door at the Southbank Centre.
My daughter, Meri was thoroughly excited too, given that she completely relates to Lola as a precocious younger sister. But, as we walked into the auditorium, I was nervous. Taking Arun to anything that involves sitting down and being quiet for any period of time can be a challenge. His disabilities mean that he has an attention span somewhere between a gnat and Russell Brand and our success rate in shows is 50:50 at best.
We settled down and as soon as the familiar Charlie and Lola music started, I relaxed because Arun recognised it and started paying attention.
About half way through the show Lola asked Charlie, “Are you having a lovely time?”
Arun turned to me and at the top of his voice said, “Are you having a lovely time Daddy?” A ripple of laughter spread through the audience.
At the end of the show, Charlie and Lola headed off the bed. “Good night,” said Lola to Charlie.
“Good night daddy!” Arun said smiling at me. Again, more laughter.
We emerged, delighted at the performance and Arun’s behaviour. He had engaged in the show and was clearly able to follow the story and enjoy it. He even talked about the tidying up that Lola did and the space rocket that she broke. I was proud of my wife and I as parents too. It would be so easy to exclude Arun from so many events but we always try our hardest to involve and include him. We believe passionately that his disabilities should not be a reason for him to miss out, even if it means we get stared at when it doesn’t work out. “Anyway”, I smugly thought, “today has worked out. Arun’s really enjoyed the experience and so it’s been worth all the effort.”
That evening as I was getting him ready for bed, I asked him, “Did you enjoy the day Arun? Did you have a lovely time? Which bit of Charlie and Lola did you like best?”
A huge grin spread over my son’s face. “Going down, daddy!” he giggled mimicking the speaker in the lift.
“Don’t know why we bother,” I sighed.
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