August 6, 2010

Family Outing

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , at 6:31 am by autismmommytherapist

The McCafferty clan spent the entire day in public this weekend, no crying, no tantrums (except for when Daddy was told he couldn’t bring his Swiss army knife past security), and no agita. Just five consecutive hours of blissful, calm togetherness.

The Christmas miracle came early this year.

Truth be told, we began having successful family outings about six months ago, when a combination of therapeutic interventions, maturity, and the correct medication culminated in my oldest son’s ability to consistently behave in public. We’ve been going places for years he and I, but our field trips have been limited in scope and time, and generally have excluded his father and brother due to Justin’s penchant for leaving any destination within half an hour. We’ve been working on extending our stays, but now that Zachary’s older it didn’t seem fair to risk cutting his trips short, and depleting two gas tanks seemed an extreme alternative, so we’ve kept our boys’ trips separate for the most part. This Sunday however we got brave, and armed with season passes for Great Adventure that “by God as a family we are going to use”, we decided to give it a go.

For once the stars aligned, and literally everything went smoothly. Everything.

Of course, by this point in the autism wars I am conditioned to expect the worst in just about any situation, so I was mentally prepared for meltdown Armageddon. My heart rate elevated within seconds of entering the gates after I was told the office for activating our season passes was on the opposite end of the park, a route that would take us past almost every ride Justin deems appropriate. Jeff and I briefly debated our options, which included either waiting until later in the day and risking the long lines we’d been warned about, or instead popping a wheelie with Justin’s stroller and whisking him past his coveted rides so we could get the photo portion of our day concluded swiftly. We opted for the latter, and I bent down and whispered in Justin’s ear that he would indeed get to partake in his usual fun eventually, but we had to accomplish this errand first. He regarded me with what I interpreted as minor disdain, but settled back in his souped-up carriage, and calmly let us wheel him past his faves with nary a complaint. We didn’t even have to bribe him.

The four of us waited mere minutes to have our likenesses captured on tiny plastic cards, and Justin dutifully complied with disembarking from his seat and returning post photo shoot, even gracing the camera with the slightest of smiles. Our passes were quickly returned to us, with half of us looking annoyed, and the youngest, palest member of the McCafferty household barely registering his image on his entrance ticket. We swiftly gathered our things, made a brief potty stop, then worked our way back through the park, stopping at every ride that caught our fancy.

The four of us, together, went on every attraction that caters to the four feet and under crowd.

We were an ensemble crew on the teacups. We raced each other on the carousel. We were even able to get Justin to participate in every ride in the Wiggles World pavilion, an area of the park which he has made perfectly clear in the past year he has seriously outgrown. For whatever reasons, ones I’m certain I will never discern, this weekend the Wiggles were once again cool. Through Justin’s acceptance his entire family had the opportunity to plunge to the ocean floor on the yellow submarine, ascend to the heavens in the Wiggles balloons, and condone mommy’s lead foot on the Big Red Cars speedway. The lines were short (and so were the rides), but we went on every one the boys pointed to, some of them twice.

Before I knew it, we’d been there for five consecutive hours, and I’d relaxed for at least four of them. We’d enjoyed ourselves. We’d had an entire day of fun.

We were just like every other family.

Well, okay, not REALLY, but for a few hours, minus the fact my oldest son doesn’t speak, we were. I realized it was the first time we’d been together as a cohesive whole in the three years since my youngest was born where there wasn’t an incident, a struggle, or even just the marital sniping all couples indulge in on family outings. I’d even remembered the camera, so if I didn’t believe it later, I could prove to myself this day had occurred after all.

We eventually made the long trek back from roller coaster mecca to the waiting vehicle I only located by activating our car alarm, and before I employed that lead foot once again I decided to scroll through the wonders of modern technology and reenact our day. I was rewarded with a shot of Justin, eyes wide as he whirled around on the teacups, with Zach grasping his brother’s hand for dear life. There was an image of the boys, side by side, happily scarfing down the contraband carbs we’d snuck into the park to accommodate Zachary’s GF/CF diet. My photo gallery even included a family portrait, slightly askew, of two grinning parents and their progeny staring off in the distance from the top of the ferris wheel, blithely ignoring entreaties to smile and look into the lens. It wasn’t a perfect day. It might never be most peoples’ definition of perfect, ever.

But it worked for us. And that’s all that matters.


  1. misifusa said,

    I am so happy for you all…hope your subsequent visits to GA prove as wonderful as well! Perhaps you can try the safari next?

  2. It sounds as close to perfect as ANY family outing can be – I know this was just the first of many in your future as the boys get older 🙂

  3. Mom said,

    And so glad it was–well deserved by all!

  4. Kathy M said,

    So happy to hear it! Can’t wait to hear the safari story.

  5. Cindy said,

    Is it bad that I’m most impressed that you successfully made made it through the teacups? I swear I could revisit my last three meals just watching that ride.

    …seriously though, I couldn’t be happier for you all.

  6. jess said,

    ‘most people’s definition of perfect’ can kiss my @ss.

    just sayin’

    congratulations on a truly perfect day

  7. Debbie said,

    Reading this made me cry! For those of us who don’t have autistic children, we take these outings for granted and don’t think about the issues that you can encounter with special needs children, but your perseverance and diligence should be commended! Congrats on this successful outing for the ENTIRE family! I hope this is just the first of MANY that you can share with your family! You should celebrate! Will you post any of these pictures so we can see them as well?

    • Thanks Debbie! I have a “date” with my husband to help me with the photo thing- I’m truly in the Dark Ages with this technology thing… Thanks for posting, truly!

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