Thursday, May 9, 2013
For the next few days, I will be on vacation from my job as executive director of ACT Today! Of course, I have not had a real vacation (you know, the kind where you lie on a beach, go out to dinner, travel to foreign countries) since my son Wyatt was born 11 years ago. Most of the last 11 years were spent visiting my aging parents, now passed away, and then after Wyatt regressed into autism at 2, vacations were not really vacations -- more like experiences. This "vacation" will not be much different. I will be on my way to the mountains of California for 3 days of outdoor school, as a parent chaperone for Wyatt and his class of fifth graders.
Of course, I had to volunteer to chaperone, IF my child with autism wanted to be a part of this experience, as his regular school aide is not authorized to go on an overnight. And because I can't sleep in the boys cabin, my 68 year old husband will be going too. That would be the same 68 year old husband who went through chemotherapy and many other invasive cancer treatments this last year. I have asked him 100 times "are you sure you are up for this??
His response, a weak "Yes, of course”
So, basically I am as worried about him as I am about Wyatt getting through this outdoor adventure.
As most of you who are parents of kids who have autism know, this kind of undertaking requires a lot of work before you take one step out the door. I used to envy the moms of "typical" kids, you know, the ones that can throw a few clothes in an overnight bag while we prepare truck loads of special food in a cooler, spend hours putting together supplements for each day spent away, make sure we pack the comforting items that are part of a routine that our kids might need to function. ( Mr. Pillow is on his last legs, a mere shadow of his former self, which was a full sized Thomas pillow, now patch worked together with one little blue strip remaining, so this could be his last out of town adventure).
Then there is the anxiety for what may happen -- will he behave, will he have a meltdown, will he be able to go to sleep in the cabin, will he sleep through the night? Will my husband do any or all of the above as well?
But recently, despite all the preparation and worry, I have begun to look at things with a different perspective. Maybe all the time and effort we autism moms put into preparing for these things makes those experiences a little more memorable. Maybe we have more of an appreciation for those things that other moms and dads take for granted. Perhaps the fact that we can't just breeze through childhood is actually a good thing. Maybe I will cherish the small victories -- to be able to sit around a camp fire and see Wyatt actually listening to stories, to go for a hike in the crisp mountain air with him by my side --and those little victories will be lasting memories. Sort of blessings in disguise. That's how I'm going to approach these next 3 days, anyway. Yep, that's my plan and I'm sticking to it.
If you happen to hear of a dazed and confused middle aged woman lost in the wilderness of California searching for the nearest Starbucks, make sure you tell them it's me.
I'll write soon about this vacation -- I mean, experience. I am sure there will be plenty of fun stories :) and hopefully a few lasting memories as well.