I understand most people don't know what it's like to have a child with autism (or any special needs for that matter). They don't understand what it feels like to always be on high alert... waiting for your kiddo to sprint across a parking lot or anticipating the next thing that will cause a major meltdown (which are different than tantrums - I'll explain that in a later post). Maybe they've never had to spend hours on the phone with insurance companies justifying why their kiddo needs continued therapy to treat a medical condition after a claim has been denied. And let me tell you... the fear and anxiety that come from social invitations - barbecues, pool parties, etc. are stifling. There will be no chill... you're watching like a hawk in case you have to ninja roll and intervene if your child decides to throw an enormous dirt-filled planter into your friend's pool (that's happened). And after an event is over and you're sitting in traffic, you've probably never had to consider asking a cop for a police escort home because of the tears triggered by the epic hour-long meltdown your kid is having in the back seat. Or... or, maybe it's because your other child has never broken your heart by saying that she hates that her brother has autism because he won't play with her. You haven't had to deal with these things... so again, I get it. You probably don't understand...
"Where's your husband? He didn't come with you?"
"You let her go out of town... by herself?"
"Are you guys having relationship problems?"
"I mean, if that's what works for you guys..."
Yep - all questions/comments Ryan and I have received both recently and in the past. All full of judgment... maybe even a little concern. One of us may show up to a social event... alone... the other parent left at home with the kids. Chances are Will has had a pretty rough day and we know that any further stimulus might trigger a meltdown. And it's the worst... the absolute worst... when those meltdowns happen in public or in other people's homes. I'd say 98% of the people at the get-togethers usually don't realize Will has autism so it looks like he's having a tantrum. We're pierced with annoyed stares accordingly. The hosts, who usually do know about Will's autism, always try to be loving and reassuring by telling us it's okay. Well, it's not okay. My kid just knocked over the DJ's speaker and is laying on the ground sobbing in the middle of your party. It's not okay. I'm panicking. My heart is beating out of my chest. I want to cry and it's embarrassing. And I was really, really enjoying that beer and some chill. It's not okay.
So to avoid these situations... sometimes, autism parents roll alone. Why should both of us miss out on some fun?
Everyone knows I just got back from the most amazing, rejuvenating five-day solo vacation the week before my 39th birthday. Yes... I went alone. I guess you could say Ryan "let" me go although I didn't really ask permission - we just coordinated schedules to make sure there was someone home with the kids. Ryan's going to meet some of his buddies to catch a UCLA football game in September. Yes, I'm letting him go alone while I stay home with the kids. And I hope he has an absolute blast. But this is our reality... it's what works for us. It's our way of making sure we both have a chance to come up for air every once in a while. To breathe.
You see, the last time Ryan and I went on vacation together... alone... was about 7 or 8 years ago (I forget, it's been so long). I can remember the sound of the ocean as we lounged in our plunge pool at the La Casa Que Canta resort in Ixtapa. It was the honeymoon we hadn't been able to take after we got married because... football. Will had already been diagnosed with autism, but he was only 3 and my in-laws felt comfortable caring for him for a week (on their territory - we flew will to California then flew back to Texas to head down south). That trip was everything. And needed.
We want to go on vacation. Just the two of us. We want to come back with tans and 5 lbs worth of extra weight from endless buffets of exotic foods. We want to lay out on the beach together sipping cocktails and running our toes through the sand. We want to hold hands over a candlelight dinner while tradewinds flow across our faces. A vacation. A dream. A luxury.
It's not that we can't afford a vacation. The issue is finding volunteers to watch the kids for a week while we're gone. The thought of wiping a 10-year-old's butt after he's pooped is scary. And gross. But unfortunately, if you volunteer it's part of the job requirement. We've had some offers but coordinating schedules has made it impossible thus far. Then there's the anxiety of planning the trip... heading to the airport... checking in for our flight... then getting a call that something is wrong so we need to return home. I understand... you may not have had to worry about any of this before. So I understand your questions.
So yeah... Ryan "let's" me go on vacation alone. I'm "letting" him go hang out with his guys friends... alone. Because one of us has to be home. But we both need a vacation... together.