May 22, 2011

Great Expectations

Posted in Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , at 10:59 am by autismmommytherapist

It’s the Saturday before Easter, and Jeff and I are trying desperately to corral two young boys onto the potty and into their sneakers in a somewhat timely fashion (and failing miserably). Truly, it’s our fault the kids are so antsy, as we foolishly put their Easter baskets adjacent to the front door in an effort not to forget them, and now that the kids have seen their egg receptacles, all hell has broken loose. Justin is running back and forth yelling his usual excited “EEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!”, which proceeds every occasion he believes will be fun. Zach is almost literally jumping out of his skin, screaming “It’s Easter, it’s Easter!!”, which it’s not, but that technical fact seems to be lost on our little guy. My husband and I have a moment where we look at one another and question our collective sanities, but we rally, and eventually make it out the door.

All I can say, is at least as far as Zachy’s concerned, the Easter bunny better damn well show.

We’re going to separate events today, as my local school district’s special education PTA is holding an egg hunt at a nearby park my oldest still loves, and the town next to ours is holding their own Easter shindig courtesy of the Elks Club, and I want the McCaffertys to represent at both. Our SEPTA works tirelessly to put together events for children with a variety of special needs, and our local Elks, Lions, and all other animals of forest and jungle are incredibly generous in their support of our kids as well. I’ve also learned over the years to match the program to the child, and while Zach would be equally content in either location, Justin would mutiny if brought to the Elks party. We tried to make it work at Christmas, and within ten minutes he had haltingly scribbled on his craft place mat, regarded grown-ups in the guise of elves with utter disdain, and commenced the low-grade whine that meant we weren’t even making it to the chicken nuggets. It just wasn’t his thing.

In other words, I’ve tried to stop making the holidays about me, and think about the children. It’s a work in progress.

After securing Justin safely in the car we make it to the park in record time, and I anxiously regard my watch to ascertain if we’ve arrived too early, meaning I’ve already blown it for him. Waiting is not Justin’s forte, and my chances of getting him to engage in this activity, even one that he loves participating in at my house and at Grandma’s annually, are shattered if he has to stand around for even five minutes (he’d make a great celebrity). I buy us a minute or two by letting him reorganize my CD collection in its black plastic holster, but eventually even handling Sheryl Crow bores him, and it’s time to exit the vehicle.

I place his basket in one hand and grab his other tightly since we’re in a parking lot, and although he’s attained almost eight years on this earth, the likelihood he’ll run in front of a car he’d never notice remains great. We make our way across damp, loamy earth and approach the open field, and I regard dozens of parents and children eagerly anticipating the imminent festivities, the children festooned in pastels, straining against the confines of the adults’ protective hands. I lean down and close the slight gap remaining between me and my eldest boy, and remind him this is an Easter egg hunt, that it will start soon, that even as of last year he still loved acquiring chicken cast-offs. As we approach the perimeter of the playground just adjacent to the field I have high hopes he’ll enjoy this, and I retain those hopes until we reach the first group of egg seekers, at which point he stops dead in his tracks. Justin looks around, takes in the scene, then makes up his mind about poultry products, Easter, and participating in group activities in general.

His lordship is not pleased. In the next second, he takes off.

To be completely fair to Justin, we have a routine when we come here, one I’ve tried in vain to vary over the years. The two of us cycle through each of the three playgrounds, tiered beautifully so the last one culminates with beachfront property at river’s edge. Once he’s finished conquering his plastic behemoths he always makes a dash for the dock, at which point his frantic mother tries desperately to keep time with his loping gait, as well as anticipate what fishing lines or sharp cutlery he’ll possibly impale himself upon prior to reaching the end. We conclude with a stroll down the beach, which generally consists of Justin’s attempts to play with toddlers’ toys, and my explaining he has autism and didn’t mean to destroy their sand castle/kick sand in someone’s eye/steal their precious treasure. Eventually, we make our way up the steeply graded hill to the car, he happy as a clam with the day’s adventures, his mother looking as if she’s just experienced a night sweat.

All in all, we will have killed twenty-seven minutes of our day.

I rush after him as he boycotts swings and monkey bars and makes a break for water, half registering the confused looks on some of the adults’ faces as the announcement has just come that the hunt is about to begin. He swerves right as I anticipated, and heads for that jutting wooden contraption that usually contains so much danger, but today, for once, it is mercifully bereft of hooks and bait. I contemplate attempting to drag him back up the hill as I know all the good loot will be retrieved in under ten minutes, but instead, I simply follow Justin’s plan. Within minutes we are at the end of the pier, buffeted by conflicting winds on all sides, enveloped in the scent of briny sea. My son runs back and forth, back and forth, halting occasionally to stare at the horizon, continually culminating his maneuvers with a mighty hug and kiss for his mama.

I glance back over my shoulder, and although I cannot see what’s transpiring above, I can hear the ecstatic echoes of joy carried across the current, to which my boy is oblivious. I wait for the sadness to kick in, the regret that Justin is not enmeshed in the fun, the envy that my husband is surely witness to my youngest’s ebullient participation in traditional Easter fare.

I wait. And I notice that my usual melancholy around these affairs remains relegated to the recesses of my mind.

I look at my boy, really look at him. He is thrilled with his day, not sad in the least that he hasn’t acquired his colorful plastic prizes. He is, after all, approaching the mature age of eight, and perhaps he’s outgrown this timeless ritual. Perhaps the reasons for his lack of interest, in the end, are completely irrelevant. At this moment he is happy, at peace with the world, satisfied to engage in the customs of our tradition at this place he’s been coming to since he was the tender age of two. He is joyful in his play, remains immune to regret.

And this time, joyfully, so do I.



  1. Kathy said,

    Your boy is growing up!

  2. Misifusa said,

    Love the pics & the story…

  3. Ruth Ormsbee said,

    Great story Kim. Your boys are looking good. God bless you all.
    take care.
    Aunt Ruthie

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