July 12, 2010
I dropped him off this morning at special needs horseback riding camp, my oldest offspring who seems to be demonstrating both an aptitude and a penchant for our equine friends. I could tell he recognized the location from the way he bounced back and forth in the harness I lovingly refer to as his “strait-jacket”, the adaptation on a car seat that allows me to legally and safely transport him since he learned how to evade the strictures of a conventional one. He’s been here several times with his school on class trips, and he knows this destination implies both a work requirement, and several opportunities to slide into the saddle and urge his horse du jour to “walk on”. He smiles ever so slightly as I help him disembark from the backseat of my SUV, and since there is no refund offered should he decide against my choice of filler between the end of the school year and the commencement of summer term, I am pleased. Five minutes in, so far so good.
I leave him in the director’s capable hands, and contemplate the fact I’ll have approximately three hours to myself for five consecutive days, fifteen hours in which due to the distance between camp and home I will be unable to exercise due to the heat, run an errand, fold laundry, or tend to my other child.
I am already inordinately fond of horseback riding camp.
As I sit here in the parking lot waiting for the outlets to open (because truly, in this part of Jersey, my options are shopping, staring at bales of hay in our disappearing farmland, or embarking on the Great Adventure Safari), it occurs to me that I might be misinterpreting my son’s approbrium after all. How can I be so sure he’ll enjoy this camp, the grooming techniques he’ll acquire, the obstacle course he’ll conquer, the crafts activities he’ll simply endure? How do I know for certain he’d prefer to be here rather than with his grandma and brother at the beach, or immersing himself in our pool for the forty-two minutes he’ll remain outside? My grand scheme of course, my Machiavellian exertions, revolve around him learning the skills necessary to make himself a valued employee on a horse farm someday. It is an endeavor I’ve latched onto because it is the only activity other than the thrill of roller coasters, or replaying the same segment of “Monsters Inc.” on his portable DVD, for which he has truly shown any consistent affinity.
The truth is, I don’t know if he’ll enjoy this, and his communication device, utilitarian at best, cannot help him indicate to me whether or not he’d prefer to work with horses in any future professional capacity. As with so many other events I have to guess, like when I ascertain what toy he is truly requesting when his Springboard can’t come through, or when I sense an exacerbated irritability is the manifestation of the onset of illness, not simply autism rearing its ugly head. I hope I’ve chosen right for him this week, both for his sake, and for those rare unfettered hours, for me.
And I wonder, as I watch the manufacturers open their doors to eager customers hoping for that next great deal, if there will ever be a day I’ll stop wishing he could just tell me what he wants himself.