About two weeks ago, I made the decision to bring Will to one of Ryan's games in Orlando. Will is finally old enough to get what's going on, and Ryan and I have always hoped that Ryan would play long enough for Will to see him play. After the first home game, Ryan talked about how cool it was for all the kids to run around the field after the game - I knew then I had to bring Will out.
About two days ago, I started getting a nervous knot in my stomach. You see, I have a fear of flying, but not like you may think. My anxiety comes from having a child who seemingly looks normal but who has autism. So when he's jumping and running around the airport, people look at him, then they look at me like, "why aren't you doing something about him?" I fear the security line, which is dreadful for "normal" kids, let alone my child with autism who has a very low tolerance for lines. The other fears kick in... What if I can't keep Will from kicking the seat in front of him? What if Will flips out on the plane? What if he keeps standing up in his chair and looking and the person behind him? What if he goes nuts when we have to turn off his electronics when it's time to land?
Luckily, getting to the gate last night was pretty drama-free. I managed to find an amazing parking spot, was helped by two awesome women at the counter who gave me two seats in the very last row of the plane (thus alleviating the fear of Will harassing the person behind us), and went through a relatively short security line only to find our departing gate right in front of us. Breathe in, breathe out. Now, we just have to get on the plane!
Boarding a flight with kids is an interesting experience. Do people realize (or care) that we can see your expressions of fear and disgust when you see us coming? Or the relief when you see us walking by when you realize we aren't sitting near you? Trust me, it's harder on us than it is on you, because we're going to be spending the next couple hours doing everything in our power to make sure your flight isn't disrupted by the kids.
Well, the man sitting in front of me had that look on his face as we approached. I think I even heard him utter something like, "great." I knew I was in for a fun trip. About and hour-and-a-half into the flight, I was so fed up with this man constantly turning around every time Will made an utterance that I finally tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Sir, I'm sorry, but my son has autism, and I'm doing everything I can to keep him quiet." The man didn't turn around the rest of the flight. He even apologized as we were getting off of the plane, and actually tried to engage Will in conversation (dummy!). But this reminded me of one of the huge battles parents of children with autism face - our seemingly normal looking kids aren't normal at all, and most people don't know that.
The experience got me thinking about a t-shirt line I once thought about creating. The t-shirts would have fun and clever sayings about autism on them...
"I have autism... what's your excuse?"
"Yes, I'm cute, but I also have autism"
"Cut my mom some slack, I have autism"
"I'm not being purposefully bad, I have autism"
"Those aren't gang signs - I'm stimming"
"Autism's the new black"
I could keep going and going. And please, do share if you can think of any others. I really may try to do something with this. I sure wish I had something like this for Will to wear when we are traveling. It sure would minimize my fear of flying...
Now, what if I had decided to bring Bryn along for this trip? That would've been really interesting! Thanks to Mara for taking care of little Bean back home!