January 3, 2012
Ah, the silence.
There’s nothing quite like getting your kids off to school after a long vacation, then sitting down to write about said vacation (even if your husband is snoring gently in the background because your “office” is in your bedroom). I’m honestly not sure which of us was happiest this morning. It could have been Zach, all afire to tell his teacher about Coco Key, the water resort that is his new favorite place on earth. Maybe it was Justin, who literally took my hands and jumped up and down for joy at 6:00 AM when he saw his backpack lounging casually in the corner of our living room. Perhaps, instead, it was their very tired, but very relieved, mother.
Hell, who are we kidding. It was totally their mother.
Winter break is by far the most challenging of all the vacations we face around here, and even though Justin’s time home has been reduced to about four weeks a year (sending silent blessings right now to the institution of private education), ten consecutive days is a long time to fill. When my eldest looked at me with traces of utter disdain upon realizing I’d brought him to our local arcade for no less than the third trip in a week, I knew it was time for him to return to school. Our family made it through however, despite the fact that Justin’s ramped-up OCD behaviors made life particularly challenging (try shadowing your eight-year-old fourteen hours a day, and you’ll get my meaning), and the devastation of realizing that I ruined Zach’s life by buying him the wrong toy at our local aquarium.
Yet again, good times.
There were some really great (and really interesting) moments however, perhaps not ones to commemorate in my scrapbooks, but ones to remark upon just the same. I actually broke down and cried at our McCafferty family Christmas when both of my progeny decided to engage in particularly crappy behaviors during dinner at exactly the same time, making my sister-in-law respond in kind because she’s never seen me lose it before (yet recovering enough to remember to ask for a piece of cherry pie for the ride home). There was the moment in church where my four-year-old announced his extremely heartfelt “Merry Christmas!” to the entire congregation, a good three minutes after everyone else had committed to the holiday, and well into the minister’s sermon. The decision to leave a fairly agitated older child at home with his father resulted in my being able to sit like a grown-up for four hours at my best friend’s house, silently reveling in the fact that one of my children was in their basement with his cousins, unattended by a parent, and it was FINE. The latkes and brisket were excellent, but the uninterrupted conversation was fabulous.
And last, but not least, there was Coco Key.
My dear friend Babette, future author of a wonderful autism travel book called “Traveling with Your Autistic Child” that I’ll be writing about shortly, and founder of Peace with Autism, planned her eight-year-old son’s birthday party about an hour away from our home on the Friday night of New Year’s Eve weekend. Typically, my first inclination upon receiving such an invitation would be “not a chance in hell”. First and foremost would be the fact that I’d have to find the resort in the dark at rush hour (and even with a fancy GPS, that’s not always a given). Then there’s the reality that Zach’s most impulsive time of day happens to be at the extended “witching hour”, and the possibility of my losing him in the water park was high. Of course, being forced to wear a bathing suit at the end of a month devoted exclusively to carb consumption really seemed almost too much to bear.
But then I reminded myself this was for my kid, and I should suck it up.
So, we went. Once I realized I could actually tell my child which color water slide to throw himself onto each time because he can talk, I ceased my pre-hyperventilating mode in a heartbeat, and sat back and just thrilled to Zach’s joy. I didn’t speak to a single adult (except the large lifeguard who put my son in time-out for running, which was perhaps the first time I’d seen my son intimidated by a grown-up), and it didn’t matter. I was calm. I didn’t worry about forgetting to shave my legs. I had fun.
In case, you’re not getting the full import of this, I was relaxed with one of my kids.
In general things have eased up around here over the last two years, but perhaps the last person to relinquish learned behaviors may be me. The truth is, I have two young children with autism, and things are always going to be somewhat difficult around here. Justin becomes particularly challenging after illnesses. Zach is literally testing us CONSTANTLY, and sometimes, he’s winning. It will never be easy.
But it’s better.
Usually my New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by January 5th (or earlier), and include being nicer to my husband (it’s a goal), a repudiation of sugar (not going to happen), and a commitment to carving out more “me time”, which doesn’t occur either. So this year, I’m reducing my future achievements to just one simple word, one I haven’t really engaged in since my eldest was born. It won’t be easy, but I’m certain my elevated blood pressure will be appreciative.
This year, come hell or high water (or both), I’m going to relearn how to relax.