What if, instead of thinking about what could go wrong, we thought about what could go RIGHT? – Sensory Planet’s Facebook status, June 20th
I had been dreading this week for a long time.
We had two weeks off between the end of the school year and the beginning of our summer school program. The first week I knew we were going to fill with our Story Land trip. But the second week? Plan-less.
Three boys home. Three boys who were not used to spending this much time together. Three boys with nothing to do but crash into each other.
I had low expectations for how the week was going to go. Scratch that. I had NO expectations. I knew we could go to Target only so many times.
Monday: I’m sitting at the computer. 7:30am. Two out of three boys are up already. We’ve already watched two Nick Jr. shows.
My instant message lights up. It’s my friend, Howie’s aide from this past year. She asks what our plans are for the day. I respond with “I have no idea how I’m going to fill up all these hours.”
A pause in the messaging. And then…”Want to go to the beach? StreetSweeperMom* is going with her two boys too. We’re leaving in an hour.”
I come up with every excuse. We haven’t been to the beach in two years. My kids hate sand. I’ve never been without Tim. We’re not “beach people”.
Well, apparently, we are now.
This day was life changing. I got kicked out of my comfort zone by my friends. And my kids…surprised the heck out of me.
*StreetSweeperMom is not her real name. Of course.
Tuesday: 8:30am. The phone rings. It’s the mom of one of the kids from Howie’s preschool class. She’s taking her son to the playground after his tennis lesson, and she wants to know if we want to meet them there around 10am.
My first instinct is to say no. I hate the playground. I hate the constant comparison that I do with my boys and the other kids. I hate the fact that I feel like the only one who “hovers” over my kids on the equipment. I hate that I’m the one disciplining other kids while their moms sit on the bench talking on the phone. It’s just one of those places that brings back every bad feeling.
But somehow the words “Sure!” came out of my mouth.
Howie was so happy to see his friend. They spent an hour chasing each other around. I spent an hour bribing Gerry to stay at the park in the heat. Cost me a Captain America Coolatta from Dunkin’ Donuts, but he stayed.
At 11am, I was finished at the playground as well. I started to give my 5 minute warnings to the boys.
“Do you want to leave Howie here with me? I’ll bring him home at lunch time.”
It’s Howie’s friend’s mom. My jaw dropped. A string of “are you sure?” and “they could be a handful together” and “I’ve never left him here before”s came out of my mouth.
“We’ll be fine. I’m familiar with all this.”
by “all this” she means the autism. Her son’s on the spectrum as well.
So I leave him.
At noon, they’re back at our house. “He was perfect,” the mom said.
That afternoon, we went swimming at our friend’s house. My first time taking the boys in the pool without Tim.
Wednesday/Thursday: I chose to let the kids decide when we left the house instead of arguing with them about going out. If it meant not getting dressed until 11am, so be it. We even took a detour to the craft store before the supermarket, breaking my “only one stop” rule. We survived.
I’m choosing to ignore the “Mom, I’ve been dealing with this since he was four. I’m done.” comment that Gerry made in the car when Howie’s verbal stims got really loud. Instead, I’m focusing on the fact that earlier that morning, they built a Hot Wheels track together without me.
I’m also choosing to ignore the appointment we had with Lewis at the ENT specialist. He was there for another hearing test. The doctor said he couldn’t even see in his ears. “It’s like he has a hard crayon in there.” Instead, I’m focusing on the moment that night when he told me “I LOVE spaghetti.”
Friday: 2pm. The phone rings. It’s one of Gerry’s friends, returning his call from the morning for a playdate. His mom gets on the phone and proposes a child “switch”. Her youngest is one of Howie’s best buddies. She’ll take the 5 year olds, I’ll take the two 9 year olds and the 2 year old.
I take a deep breath. Howie has never been on a solo playdate. Ever. I’ve left him for 20-30 minutes or so when I’ve run out in the middle of a get together, but never an actual “no parent” playdate.
I say “Okay! Sounds great!”
I send Howie off at 3pm. Tim’s set to pick him up in an hour or so.
Two hours pass before they come home. They were playing so well, Tim stayed.
That night, after the kids are in bed, I go over to StreetSweeperMom’s* house for drinks. Five of my friends are there. We met because we’re all autism moms, but we’re now bonded by so much more. After several glasses of Skinny Girl and many mint chocolate brownies, I share my nerves about traveling to a family reunion alone with the boys.
My friend tells me “Howie’s come a long way. I’ve seen him change, just these few weeks alone. You’ll be fine.”
*StreetSweeperMom is still not her real name.
Saturday: 6:30 am. Howie’s up and I told him we were having our first swim lesson of the summer. “I can’t wait to show her how I can swim with my vest on!” I explain that swim lessons are without a vest.
Cue two hours of meltdowns. I haven’t seen this in a long time. I’m beginning to wonder if my friend was completely wrong.
Those swim lessons are a post all on their own. But he did jump in the water, which was more than I can say happened all of last year.
The rest of the day was unsettled. We paid big time for the 30 minutes of swimming.
Sunday: 8pm. We had just told Howie he couldn’t go to the fireworks. The day was one constant “red choice” after another. I sat him down and quietly explained that his engine was running too high to go to the fireworks.
He could have completely fallen apart. Instead, he sat quietly for 30 minutes in his green chair. “I’m making green choices now”, he said at 8:30pm.
So off we all went. My first fireworks in five years. Our first time as a family.
(it was dark so I don’t have any pictures. But it was awesome. Five of us in the back of the truck. One kid in headphones saved the day.)
Monday: 10:30am. The highs of the week are becoming a distant memory. Just like the fireworks themselves, the whole family is beginning to fade. An attempt at a family breakfast out fizzles. We spend the morning at a friend’s house with their water slide. The boys hold it together there, despite the grouchy faces caused by lack of sleep and a week’s full of tolerance.
Today: 9am. Two boys at camp. One two year old walking around like he owns the place again.
This week that I had been dreading was now just a memory. I had expected these eight days to go badly. Now photos and seashells remind us of the week that our world expanded beyond our little house.
We just needed something to set us on fire. I wonder what comfort zone we’ll crash through next time?
“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?
Do you ever feel already buried deep?
Six feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you?
You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July
‘Cause baby, you’re a firework
Come on, show ‘em what you’re worth
Make ‘em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky” – Firework by Katy Perry