Friday, August 13, 2010

The Ghost of Fear

We are going to a wedding tomorrow. It is 1 1/2 hours away and we are taking the kids with us as we've been informed by relatives that we don't dare show up without them.

Our 2nd son, who just turned five, is mildly autistic. Well, the two consultants at Children's Hospital in Seattle have refused to label him as such and instead call it Pervasive Developmental Delay, Not Otherwise Specified - which puts it under the same developmental umbrella as Autism and is harder to say, so we just call it Autism.

What does that have to do with the wedding? Well, for years, going anywhere with all our kids was painful. We slowly stopped going out to restaurants because Thad couldn't sit still through a meal. We stopped going to family-friendly church events or friends' BBQs because dealing with Thad's social issues while keeping an eye on the other two children meant that neither my husband nor I ever had the chance to visit, so it was pretty much pointless to go at all. Essentially we found ourselves avoiding any public group activities because it was too stressful for us and the kids.

However, Thad is now five and - thanks to special ed preschool and both speech and occupational private therapy - he's come quite far socially and developmentally. We've started going out as a family again, and sometimes it isn't half bad!

I am still haunted by the ghost of fear, though. Every time we have a family activity planned, my stomach clenches up and anxiety seizes control of my emotional and logical self. Going to events still isn't the carefree get-up-and-go experience that it seems to be for parents of "normal" children.

In fact, I clearly remember watching the kids play on the playground after church one Sunday about a year ago and talking with one of the other moms. She asked if we were going to the church campout the following weekend. I attempted to explain why we were not, and I can clearly see the blank expression on her face - confusion, disbelief, skepticism, and just plain not understanding. She just didn't GET it. At which point, I got something that I hadn't been getting: normal families had completely different experiences of going out than we did.

Now, a year later, we also sometimes have that "normal family" experience when we go out. My husband and I will look at each other while driving home and be astonished that nothing terrible happened. No freak-outs, no scream-fests, no ten-minute struggles trying to get our son to calm down and just eat ONE BITE of dinner. I remember after one memorable family trip to lunch out and a stroll along the beach, I turned to Aaron and said, "So this is what normal families feel like! No wonder they are always going out and doing things. It's FUN!"

So now I'm facing a day-long trip tomorrow, to a wedding - where kids have to sit still and be quiet for large amounts of time - and I'm fighting down that anxiety. Thankfully, the wedding is outdoors, it is "casual and rustic" according to the invite, and we know from experience that these relatives are easy-going and kid-friendly. Plus my in-laws will be along to lend two pairs of extra helping hands! I am tentatively hopeful that it will be a mostly-good day.

Quick note about my to-do list: I did sort through the kids' clothes, but I didn't get to the dishes. I did make dinner, but I didn't mail my order (she said she wasn't in a hurry and I didn't leave the house to drop it off at the post office). I also cleaned the master bath shower, which wasn't on my list and I can't remember how it came about, but there you go.

So today's list: put together some photos and mats for the wedding gift, wash my outfit that I want to wear tomorrow, and mail the order on my way to my mom's (yay for Nana having Fridays off and getting me and the kids out of the house for an afternoon!) I've decided to let my husband tackle the dishes. After all, I don't want to hog ALL the fun, right?


Pili said...

I can only try to understand how hard it must have been to deal with outings with a kid that has autism (even if it goes by a different name). Still, I'm glad to hear you guys are having better experiences now, and that Thad is doing better too!

Best of luck at the wedding! Have a chamomile tea (or two) to relax!

Right As Rain Creations said...

Awww, thanks Pili! :) Chamomile tea is always a good idea.