I know that Christmas is long over. Believe me, I know it’s already 19 days into the new year. But my family has been sick since about December 15th and we’re still feeling low (flu, colds, AND bronchitis), so I’m pretty behind. Heck, I don’t even know why I’m posting right now. I should be sleeping (and hacking up a lung).
But I wanted to write a couple of things about the holidays before I forget. Every year, my husband and I fly with our son to visit family. My husband’s parents live in Arizona, and mine live in Nevada. We somehow manage to spend time in both places. Every year, I swear it will be our last. This year, it really may have been the last.
Our boy (who is currently three) has Asperger’s Syndrome. Sometimes I feel almost guilty reading other autism blogs, because they seem to have it so much harder than we do. Yes, he has his meltdowns, and yes, once we’ve done something once, that means we will do it that way until the end of time. Yes, he has some quirks that make him special (and sometimes difficult to parent). But on the whole, he is a good boy. We feel very blessed.
But. Then this Christmas happened. And I saw just how difficult things can be with my little boy. I suddenly realized that we can’t compare our lives to other people, because sometimes things are “easy,” and sometimes things explode in your face.
The night we arrived in Arizona at my sister’s house, my son cried when we took him upstairs to bed. Actually, he sobbed. “I want to go home. Let’s go get in the car and go home.” We faced about an hour of his meltdown before he fell asleep, exhausted. He did the same thing the next night. We had been planning to spend a few nights with my husband’s parents as well, but we quickly realized we should stick with one house and stay there at night.
Arizona was the easiest part of the trip. Once we got to Nevada and Buki’s cousins arrived, things got bad. Buki couldn’t handle sharing toys with his cousins. Every few minutes, he broke down in a meltdown and we had to take him back to our room where he would cry it out. After a particularly bad morning of him crying pretty much the whole morning, I had a brilliant idea – We get away from the family for a while and go to the park!
My parents live right next to a playground, so my husband and I took Buki to the park. I berated myself that we should have done this earlier. Until we got to the park and there were other kids there. And Buki got in shouting matches and had meltdowns right there at the park!
At that moment I pretty much lost it. We couldn’t stay at my parents’ house without him melting down, and we couldn’t even get away without him melting down. I felt so trapped, lost, helpless, and angry. And I felt sad for my son, who was clearly having a hard time and not enjoying himself at all.
I suddenly wondered: could we ever attend family events like this again? Will my son make it impossible to attend social functions? Will therapy help him with things like this? I cried, and fleetingly wished that he could be “normal,” and that we didn’t have to deal with situations like this. I desperately love my son, but I had reached my parenting limit that day.
The rest of the trip got better. My dad, bless his heart, called my son over to him whenever he started to melt down, and distracted him or took him elsewhere. He didn’t lecture my son about sharing toys or getting along with the other kids. He simply helped him stop melting down.
And then the cousins left with their families, and Buki was left with just his grandparents again, and he did fine. It’s just when other kids are around that he melts down. We survived this trip, but only barely. I’m not sure if and when we can do it again.
But this trip gave me the realization that we are squarely in the middle of Asperger’s Syndrome, and we can’t pretend otherwise. Time to start looking for therapists and moving forward. Onward. Upward.