It seems almost impossibly to believe our summer is nearly half gone. The Herd has taken more of a hiatus than I intended, but we’ve been BUSY! Lots of good things, lots of good days, a couple of not-great days. We’ve been to Chicago (well, the suburbs), Northern California, and hosted half of a family reunion with 12 cousins rolling through our home over the course of 12 days. We’ve been to the movies, the pool, two baseball games, spent countless hours in the car and on planes, ridden BART in the Bay Area, went to the San Diego Zoo, and attended a 4th of July party at my in-laws’.
Little Man has been awesome when I least expected, and completely fell apart in situations he normally handles really well. I’ve found myself going back to micro-managing mode, then reminding myself that isn’t helping anyone, least of all him. There were a couple of times I’ve had to tell myself to walk away, let him deal/calm himself, or let Spouse take over.
We’ve had some looks, trust me, and some uneducated comments. I had to go back to that thing of deciding whether to honor someone we don’t know with an explanation. He’s relatively used to traveling. We’ve taken them all on road trips since they were bitty babies. He knows the drill…knows to pack his car/plane bag with what he wants for the duration. He hates the airport, and air travel requires reminding him we will be in lines and have to go through security. We did not pre-board this year. I let him decide that one. Luckily, we somehow scored TSA pre-check coming and going so shoe removal wasn’t required, and we breezed through. I did have to laugh though. They did make him put Jaws (his large, fluorescent orange stuffed shark) through the x-ray. He impatiently waited on the other end to make sure Jaws came safely out the other side. It made me smile.
On the last leg of our journey home from Chicago, I was sitting across the aisle from my three, and next to a rather talkative gentleman. He was quite the name-dropper, and I’m sure exaggerated his life experiences quite a bit, but he was nice. Of course he asked about the kids, and as it sometimes does, it came out that Big Man was a micro-preemie and Little Man is autistic. He had all kinds of questions, and I had my moment to advocate and educate. Moment taken. It was a bumpy flight in which the seat belt light was almost never off, not a good thing that day. Little Man threw up. Blessedly, we had warning and got him the barf bag (that name makes me gag) in time. Then I was congratulated on how calmly I handled the situation. Hah. Apparently, I had this gentleman snowed on how I handle my kids. He caught me on a good day. But seriously, what was I supposed to do in that moment? Cry? (probably would’ve been justified) Yell? Not on a plane full of people and why yell when it wasn’t Little Man’s fault? Freak out? Wouldn’t do anyone any good. Life lesson learned….Little Man HAS to eat every couple of hours even if he says he doesn’t want to; and Little Man and turbulence do not get along.
Going to the movie theater is always a challenge. The volume is always so loud, and it’s usually cold. He typically must be bribed, although he then typically enjoys the movie. We do it his way, with headphones, his favorite candy, and usually two or three trips to the bathroom when he needs a break. At the pool, he knows he has to “be social” for a certain amount of time per hour, then he can go back to his headphones and quiet corner. Baseball games are interesting. He knows exactly what’s going on, and even though it seems he’s paying little to no attention to the game, he can let you know the score at any given moment. And he can read box scores. He does wear two sets of headphones (ear buds with noise cancelling headphones over them), and we take his DS as well as the iPad to each game. I think people are becoming more aware of autism and autistic kids because not one person around us -that I was aware of anyways – said anything, outside of one guy saying “That kid sure does like his DS.” No biggie. Again, we do it our way.
I was ready to have the conversation of why we take him to the movies, the pool, or baseball games. I had all my arguments lined up. First of all, Spouse was not with me. Leaving him home wasn’t an option. Second, he knows it’s part of the deal. He needs to get out in public. It’s therapeutic to a certain extent. Trust me, when he’s done, he lets me know and we remove him from the situation. Third, I refuse to make my two NT kids miss out on things simply because of their brother’s autism. They have been affected enough.
He did have a few meltdowns, and threw a couple of tantrums. He was so out of his element, so far from routine. Even when we came home, he didn’t have his bedroom, and our home was full of people (great fun for everyone but him). He lashed out. He yelled. He threw things. He screamed. He cried. It was somewhat brutal at times. But those weren’t consistent, and we managed. He would retreat to his quiet corner, go play in my room with his Legos, and/or put his his headphones on. We did come down on him during one tantrum. He was seeking attention, and screaming at us for no reason. We know his triggers, and we know we had asked a lot of him in a relatively short period of time. We were at our limit as well, even giving him the benefit of the doubt. Three conversations with mom AND dad later, he tearfully apologized, and we all moved on.
I know our life isn’t “normal”, but I’m coming to the realization very few families have a true “normal.” So we do, and we do it our own way.