December 12, 2010

Lord of the Pins

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , at 8:54 pm by autismmommytherapist

It’s part three of Lord of the Pins today, and I pinky swear that this will be the last installment, but what happened this week was just so huge, so monumental to our family, I simply had to write about it once more. We had our second outing at our local lanes, and with one small adjustment to our activity, one seemingly trivial nuance tweaked, everything changed. I’m not sure whether the biggest miracle is that I remembered to inquire as to whether the establishment had a “ball ramp” for its physically challenged players, or if it was Justin’s reaction to the additional equipment. I’ll tell you this though, my boy loves bowling now, barely needed the generally requisite reinforcers to get him to stay through the entire event, and reacted to the timer in a fashion that would have made any ABA practitioner proud.

And I have a sore ass and the pictures to prove it.

This time I had the pleasure of entering our neighborhood bowling alley well-rested and healthy, eager to be a little more hands-on with Justin, as I was certain we’d need to “work” this afternoon nearly as much as we had the previous week. This time “Miss M” came prepared with a pictorial activity schedule comprised of photos snapped at our previous session, so Justin had been “prepped” to understand the cycle of events: bowling, video, snack, bathroom, and exit. I’ve done something more basic with him in the past (trust me, I’ve gotten some interesting looks capturing precious moments in mall bathrooms over the years), and I’ve never really been certain how much Justin understood of where we were going, or if the advance notice really helped. I hoped, since he is generally compliant, that prior notice of what was about to take place might alleviate the crankiness about the entire endeavor, that acceptance about the unfolding afternoon might just facilitate a bit more fun for him.

A girl can dream.

We set up in the same lane we’d been given the week before, and within a minute the proprietor had been true to his word and delivered the silver device that would hopefully expedite our ball du jour’s travels, and thus elicit a bit more enthusiasm from our boy. After mentally congratulating myself for not only having the idea but retaining it for AN ENTIRE WEEK we found the appropriate ball for Justin, angled our contraption to try to ensure success, and faded our commands to gestural prompts in an attempt to get my son started. For a brief moment he simply looked at the metallic obstruction and smiled, and I SWEAR he remembered using one at that birthday party years ago. An entire herd of elephants has nothing on Justin’s ability to recall.

I try not to be jealous of my own offspring.

He quickly retrieved his purple friend from the waiting conveyor belt, placed his prize on top of the ramp, and shoved that ball with all his strength with a mighty and enthusiastic “EEEEE!” that filled the confines of the alley with its glee. After “Miss M” removed herself from the photo opp I joyfully slid over to the next lane, forgetting momentarily that the bridge between was the only secure spot for bowling matrons, and promptly landed squarely on two body parts whose heroic sacrifice saved my wrist from serious injury. I stayed down for a moment while I physically regrouped, and was actually able to get a great angle as Justin was eager to finish the frame and was completely ignoring his clutzy, semi-incapacited mother.

Yes, I got some shots. Yes, I’ll share them. And no, there’s none of me on my backside. I’m trying to regain the last vestiges of my pride, cut me some slack.

The upshot is, Justin made it through eight of the ten frames without a peep of protest. When he did eventually complain he had no issue being redirected to the table for his favorite movie scenes, even referencing the timer on occasion to see what amount of his leisure activity was left to him. He completed the last remnants of the game relatively passively, was excited to see the bowling photo shorn of its Velcro attachment on the strip and replaced with representations of those appealing vending machines. He sweetly sat back down after an attempted escape when we showed him the timer had not yet been reduced to white, and he happily accompanied me both to the bathroom and the car. We ended up spending an extra twenty minutes at the establishment due to his willingness to follow the new rules, but the greatest accomplishment that day had nothing to do with mere compliance. Yes, he stayed, and yes he listened to his mommy.

But this time, he actually enjoyed it.

As I’ve mentioned before I’m a planner (my close friends and family are collectively laughing at this understatement of the decade), and I’m constantly trying to think of activities that Justin will actually like rather than simply endure because it’s been requested of him. I’m also always hopeful I’ll discover things my son will be able to do when he’s older, when I might not be around to assist him. My grandfather was an amazing bowler well into his eighties, and hopefully those genes (as well as a multitude of others) have skipped a few generations and are firmly entrenched in my boy’s DNA mosaic. I like to think I can broaden Justin’s “fun repertoire” further than overpriced pretzels, musical stuffed animals, and movies from Pixar before I go.

But there’s another imperative here, one I know is equally important to increasing Justin’s tolerance of outings, and it’s this. There are a multitude of things I took for granted before his birth that I now know he won’t participate in, and I like to imagine I’ve done a pretty good job at accepting the situation (never liking it, but yes, accepting it). I am well aware that to retain a sliver of my prior sanity I need to learn to let go, and I try, I really do.

But I’m not ready to let go of this dream, the desire for true inclusion within the confines of my own family’s story. I’m not ready to embrace a future that only includes half of us every time we leave the house, or requires two vehicles for attendance. I’m not at peace with my youngest only having memories of his older brother’s cantankerousness on outings, not comfortable with no opportunity for our entire clan to just revel in being together. At this juncture, I am simply too stubborn to accept defeat.

And the joy of it is, perhaps with a little conditioning, a few new rules, and the wisdom of our “divine Miss M”, my wish might be granted after all.