“I was just trying to get him out of the house and he had to have his particular pair of shoes…I just wanted to forget about it all for one damn day.” – Adam Braverman character from the Parenthood episode “Qualities and Difficulties“.
Just wanted to forget about it for one damn day.
Many families who have kids on the spectrum tuned in to this week’s Parenthood episode. It was previewed as the one where the character Max learns he has Asperger’s. I chatted with many friends of mine before the show – would we watch? Could we watch? I ultimately decided that I had to watch, and armed myself with a bowl of ice cream and thin mints to make it through.
For me, however, the more striking part of the show was not the conversation about Asperger’s. It was a scene in the middle of show between the dad and Max.
(slight spoiler alert…I won’t go into details of the scene, but if you haven’t watched the show and plan to, you might want to step away for a moment)
In the show, Max’s father Adam was trying to get them out the door for school and Max couldn’t find his shoes. His dad, sensing Max’s rigidity of schedule, decides they will blow off school and spend the day at the amusement park riding roller coasters. The day goes fine until something happens and they can’t ride the coaster. Max has an epic meltdown in the middle of the park, and can’t recover.
Later on, when talking to his wife about the day, he says this line : “I just wanted to forget about it all for one damn day.”
While I had been teary through most of the show to this point, this is when I really started to cry. This part is what hit home the most for me. Because he wasn’t saying he wanted his son to forget about it for one day, he was saying that HE wanted to. The dad. I knew exactly what he meant.
Because I want that too. I just want one day – one thing – to be easy.
This hit me like a ton of bricks a few weeks ago when Tim went out of town to buy a car. It was in Chicago, so he had to fly out there and then drive the 16 hours back with it. I suggested he take Gerry with him, as a sort of father-son bonding experience. For the trip, I packed a small backpack for Gerry with a change of clothes, a few books, a camera, and a notebook. Tim loaded a few Star Wars movies onto his phone. We told him about the trip about a week ahead of time, and off they went. Easy.
If that was Howie, we’d have bags of just food that he can eat, his vitamins, his melatonin, his special music, noise-canceling headphones, several changes of clothes, and two or three social stories. And that’s if we could even get him on the plane. Or into the car. Or, in this case, taking him was not an option at all.
We can’t just “pack up and go”. The days that go smoothly – or that seem to go smoothly – are the days where I have carefully scripted every single moment. We don’t try anything new. We go to the same restaurants where we know we can eat. We go to the same amusement park every summer because we know it so well and stay in the same hotel. We go to the same playspace every year for his birthday party. We’ve talked about taking a different kind of vacation this summer, but the sheer amount of work involved for all three kids to be happy is paralyzing. If it was just my son, maybe we’d branch out a little more. But his meltdowns don’t just affect him, they affect the whole family.
(I’m sure some of you are thinking that maybe if we didn’t micro-manage everything, that he’d learn to adapt to change. Maybe. Maybe not. Experience tells us otherwise. We’re working on it. I have to be aware of his abilities at 4 years old. And what the rest of my family can absorb at this time.)
These thoughts had been swirling around my head when my friend Patty wrote a post called I Just Want Easy. She wrote that she just wanted one area of her son’s life to go smoothly without any help from her. I understood so completely. In my response to her, I wrote “I feel like the only times when things do go smoothly is when I’ve completely hyper-managed the situation.”
And that gets back to the episode of Parenthood. His wife warned him that he was “going rogue”, that the change in schedule would be really detrimental to Max’s well being. The dad just wanted a break. For his son and for himself. He just wanted them to be father and son, out at an amusement park, having a good time like all the other families. One family’s “normal” is another family’s “going rogue”.
I felt this again at a kindergarten information meeting. While all the other parents were worried about their kids remembering their PIN number to buy lunch, I was worried that my son wouldn’t even be able to be in the cafeteria with the noise, smells and people. Other parents wondered where their bus stop would be. I wondered if we’d be able to get out of the house on time to meet the special ed van. One parent was curious how the kids moved from the classroom to gym, art, and the library. I was curious how my son would get his sensory breaks and OT time. Other parents think about the big transition from preschool to kindergarten. I think about every little transition during the day from the moment my son wakes up until he goes to sleep.
“Going rogue”. Just for one day. Going off script and just doing something crazy. Like wearing different shoes. Or eating a different kind of sandwich. Or sitting in a different chair.
I knew parenting wasn’t going to be easy. But, for one day, I’d like it to not be so damn hard.
“Take it easy, take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels
drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can
don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand
and take it easy” – Take It Easy by The Eagles