We got up, ate breakfast, dressed, packed a lunch and left the house in plenty of time to stop by Vons for our daily visit to the light bulb aisle. The little boy was happy, cooperative, bouncy and singing.
Things were good.
Or rather, they were good until we left the store for the remaining mile and a half drive to the school.
We were behind a bus, we couldn’t see well, the fog was thick, and the traffic lights weren’t working. None of the left turn arrows ever went green, so we were delayed much longer than usual. Cars were backed up all the way down the street and some of the drivers ran the lights in frustration.
In a word, it was chaos – thick and foggy, aggravating chaos.
And inside the car, it was growing even worse.
On a normal day, the little boy has issues in traffic. He starts to shake when I slow for a light, and if I stop, he has a meltdown. I’ve written about all this before, but today was the worst of all.
He was so distressed that I could feel his pain on my body.
He threw everything in his reach. He kicked and he shook. He screamed, he moaned and his burning red face was wet with sweat and tears. He was like a small animal in the clutches of a predator, writhing to get free, crying in agony. It was unbearable to witness.
And there wasn’t a damned thing I could do, because a week ago, I got that stupid ticket and now I have 450 fat dollars trumping my survival instincts. So I sat, and watched the other drivers go.
My child was tortured by that mile of delay, absolutely tortured.
The bus finally pulled ahead enough to allow us an exit to the other lane. I took the chance and altered our route. That upset the little boy even more.
By the time we finally arrived at the school, I think he was in shock. I just don’t think he could cope with such a hopeless lack of control over his environment. It damaged him.
I shut off the car and climbed into the back seat to give him a hug. At first he wouldn’t let me, then he relinquished and even seemed to need it.
It took almost thirty minutes for him to recover and it became painfully clear in that time that school was off our agenda for the day. Just an hour before, he had been excited about seeing his friends, and now, he wanted nothing to do with them. There was no convincing him. I have learned better than to waste my energy with that battle.
I was really at a loss for what to do at that point. I didn’t want to suggest we return home because I knew he’d never leave the house again and I’d be trapped all day, hopelessly out of control of my environment.
Luckily, a good friend called to remind me that we had agreed to have coffee today. She was wondering where I was. I told her the quick and distracted version, but said I would be there shortly, with the little boy in tow. Her eight-year-old son is autistic too, so she gets it.
When I told the little boy where we were headed, he actually seemed relieved. A new destination had perked him up. He had no issue with any light in the three miles to the coffee shop, but I didn’t bother to revisit the possibility of returning to school. That ship had sailed and isn’t due back until tomorrow.
Coffee was pleasant. My friend gave the boy two quarters to buy fish food from the vending machine. He happily threw the food into the pond, bopped back and forth across the little bridge, and entertained himself quietly while we chatted. When my friend and I began comparing notes on homework and curriculum in the boys’ classes, he even seemed proud to show her how well he has learned to “borrow the one” in subtraction.
The change in his demeanor was miraculous. My friend is always surprised when I tell her how bad things get at home or in the car or in other places and situations that she doesn’t see. He’s a dreamy little angel when we’re with her.
The rest of the day went fine, but I do have to share a few other autism behavior highlights for your reading pleasure.
After coffee, we went next door to Borders. The store is closing and everything inside is on sale, even the fixtures. Since I’ve been wanting a world map for the bathroom wall, this seemed like a good day to get one. Sure enough, it was only three dollars.
I carried the long roll with me to the front of the store and got in line to pay. To hold the boy’s interest and keep him from wandering, I lightly tapped him on the head with the map and made a ringing sound. He giggled and snatched the map from my hand. I moved to protest, but he charmed me with a sweet little smile. I smiled back as he imitated my gesture and tapped me on the head. Except it wasn’t really a tap. It was more like a whack. And then he took a step forward and did it to the woman next to me too. 😯 😕 😳
Before we bought the map, we breezed through the children’s section to see what was left. The short answer to that question is “not much,” but we spent a few minutes there anyway. When I reached for my son’s hand to lead him toward the other side of the store, I found his fingers occupied by a small silver kaleidoscope. In the other hand, he held a glittery plastic recorder and a rubber rainbow ball. Clearly, I had not seen him reach into the mark-down toy bin.
A little baffled by the sudden appearance of these items, I told him to choose one and put the others back. (I’m such a softy.) He chucked the ball. Then he put the recorder to his lips and blew a note. I thought he would keep it and toss the kaleidoscope, but he dumped them both and walked away. Maybe this is a comment about my behavior more than his. I didn’t go back to clean the recorder and I wasn’t going to buy it if he didn’t want it. We already have three others. So, if you buy a plastic recorder from Borders, you might want to give it a little bleach bath before you give it to your kid. Not that my son is germy. I’m just saying he’s probably not the only one who did that, right? Yuck. French-kissing strangers. That’s just like French-kissing strangers.
As we headed away from the kids’ stuff, another mom came in with her toddler son. My little boy seemed fascinated with hers and that fascinated me. Though separated by a foot and a half of height, they locked eyes and seemed almost to be dancing as they made room for each other in the aisle. They circled one another and smiled. When the toddler peeled his gaze away and searched again for his mommy’s familiar face, my son’s eyes followed him to the end of the shelf. I wish I knew what my kid was thinking as he whirled around to watch the little one leave. So curious. Like many children on the autism spectrum, my son isn’t often so comfortable making eye contact. In fact, he frequently prefers to stand behind the people around him and it’s clear he does so to avoid their glances. This open, engaged interest in facial expression and body language from a younger child was encouraging to me.
Of course, it was tempered by the map thing. 😐 Although truly, even whacking that stranger’s forehead is sort of a good sign, right? He’s getting more social. No? Am I reaching?
We ended our outing at Carl’s Jr. Not my choice, but when the little boy craves a certain food, I pretty much get it for him. He had eight chicken stars. That’s a lot for him. A lot.
Today started well. And then it stopped. And then it went again. I’m still thinking about how it ended.
Here is your daily dose of the evil deed doers. And by evil deed, I mean rot. Squash rot, don’t you know? The most amusing part of today’s photographic tour? The fact that there are pumpkin plants sprouting three feet from the dying Jacks. I can’t remember if we sprinkled this year’s seeds in that spot or if these are late sprouters from last year’s uglies. Either way, it cracked me up to see them there. Because I know how much you all love my pumpkins.
And please, leave me a comment why don’t you? 🙂 Nothing delights me more than a message informing me that someone cares enough to write.
P.S. It occurs to me as I wrap up this post that I neglected to express how disheartened I am that our neighborhood can’t support Borders enough to see it survive. Certainly, we have Barnes & Noble and a Goodwill Used Bookstore close by as well, but my heart tells me this is a sign that the world is moving too quickly away from the printed word. While I am all for technology and how far it goes to bring literature to those who might not otherwise have it, I remain convinced that there is a magic to reading actual books that can’t be had from a cold hard gadget. There’s just something about the way that the book paper feels in your hands that is different and more charming than a Kindle (or whatever). Just my humble opinion.
P.P.S. WordPress doesn’t yet have a method for excluding individual photos from a slideshow or gallery, so that foggy bus pic is everywhere. My apologies.
P.P.P.S WordPress formatting options suck today. 😦 Weird alignment bugs me.