I took my autistic daughter to see Taylor Swift overseas—and it was magical

Motherly Collective

“Mom, you can film any other part of this concert you want to,” my 10-year-old daughter told me, jumping up and down as Taylor Swift prepared to take the stage in Tokyo, “But just be here with me in this special moment right now.”

She was right. Three days earlier, we’d boarded a plane in Portland, Oregon, taken a twelve-hour journey, navigated a complicated train system and were now waiting for her favorite artist to take the stage. As I pulled out my phone to record Taylor’s entry at the beginning of the show, my daughter gently pulled my ear close to her to remind me about the reason for our journey. It was any Swiftie’s dream, and it deserved to be honored.

My child isn’t just any Swiftie, though. She’s autistic and also lives with a severe anxiety disorder and sensory processing disorder. Sometimes she barely wants to get up out of bed to take a walk around the block, much less work up the nerve to expose herself to jet lag and culture shock. We’ve left department stores in years past because the smell was “off” (though my exceptionally good sniffer couldn’t detect a thing). She needs plenty of downtime after playing with friends, curling up like a cat in her room for hours just for “personal space.” She is the smartest, kindest person I know, but she’s also the most sensitive and needy—and most likely to meltdown when faced with the unknown.

So why risk the ultimate disaster by planning a Taylor Swift adventure to a foreign country with my super delicate, hard-to-accommodate child in tow? Because I knew it would bring moments like this.

Of course, we traveled overseas to see the Eras Tour for partly practical reasons (though, arguably, taking a tween to a Taylor Swift concert is hardly practical in the first place). The Tokyo tickets were a fraction of the cost compared to U.S. options. The flights were cheaper than expected. We said ‘yes’ to this adventure, in part, for the same reason so many other Swift fans have traveled to far-flung lands for a chance to sing “Karma” in chorus. But that wouldn’t have been enough for me to pull the trigger. The chance to make this kind of connection with my special needs child was.

Life with a neurodivergent kid is not easy—for her or for me. Our lows are often lower than others’ lows. And that’s why, when opportunities present themselves to grab onto life’s highs, we grab them with full force. We say ‘yes’, even though we’re equal parts excited and terrified about how it will all go. It may all go to hell in a handbasket, but it also could be amazing beyond our wildest expectations.

Making sure our adventure was most likely to succeed meant adjusting many of my travel expectations. The first time we ate sushi was at the airport on the way home from Japan (and she opted for the hotel’s American breakfast each morning, much to my chagrin). We never made it to the Meiji Jingu shrine because her legs were too tired 300 feet from the entrance. I wandered through fish markets and tourist spots alone at non-peak times, knowing it would serve us both better if she had the chance to regroup instead of pushing through for the sake of tourism. This was not the fully culturally-immersive experience I usually aim for when I’m abroad.

I’m okay with all of that, though. The way my daughter extended herself to the Japanese people we met, and especially to her fellow concert-goers, was astonishing. Makena emerged from her shell in ways I had never seen before. She exchanged friendship bracelets. She asked about their favorite songs. She bopped and bounced right alongside them to “Style” and “Bad Blood.” She smiled and nodded in understanding at the woman sitting next to her, who sobbed uncontrollably as Taylor played her surprise songs during the acoustic set. The trip solidified our mother-daughter connection in equal measure. The way we bonded over the novelty of bidets (“It washes your what?!?!” she screamed) and matching kimono bathrobes will live in my mind forever.

Our Taylor Swift adventure is the best thing my daughter and I have ever done together, not just because we got to see an amazing concert in an amazing city, but because of how much it changed us both. Not only did her ability to navigate a sensory overload situation at a stadium concert and the crowded streets of Tokyo surprise me, it also educated me about her unique brand of resilience and maturity. It challenged her in the best ways, exposing her to a new culture she would have never known otherwise. As a person with autism, seeing the forest for the trees in daily life will continue to be a challenge for my daughter. That’s the way she’s wired, and that’s just fine. But this trip showed both of us she could also be just a little flexible and adventurous for the right cause. It also reminded me about how brave she can be when I give her the opportunity.

And, whereas I could have taken the trip to see Taylor with older, easier travel partners, accommodating her needs along the way taught me a ton about prioritizing experience over perfection when abroad. I had to be more present and less focused on checking items off a touristy to-do list if it was going to go well. Maybe most importantly, it reinforced my commitment to celebrate my neurodivergent child’s differences and to never place limits on what she can achieve or who she can be.

Our trip to see Taylor Swift wasn’t anything typical. In fact, it was high risk, but man was it full of great reward. Moments like we had in the Tokyo Dome, my daughter’s little hands clasping onto mine, her eyes shiny with happy tears of true connection, belting out together just how sparkling our special night was, will always be truly flawless in my heart. Don’t worry, Taylor, I won’t ever let it go.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top