Saturday, October 4, 2008

A quarter past crabby

We hauled our gaggle of boys to a fair in a quaint little town called Waterford today. The town is filled with quaint houses surrounded by quaint lawns with quaint old, well-preserved cars out front. It was a lot of fun, namely because we stayed far away from these quaint little houses that, if exposed to our brood, would no longer carry the quaint label.

Instead we enjoyed everything else there was to offer. There were traveling minstrels and a squeeze organ playing, of all things, "Country Road" by John Denver. Periodically cannons would fire and scare the heck out of our little guys. We watched a blacksmith, working over coal, twist and turn strips of metal into hooks. All the vendors at the fair wore costumes of yesteryear and yore. There were bands were tucked into every corner, singing gospel and folk and strumming their mandolins. We even watched a fife-and-drum group, dressed in Confederate garb, beat out "When Johnny comes marching home again" and "Dixie," among others. During that last song, the vendor ladies nearby stood up, in their hooped skirts and bonnets, and sang the words proudly like they were the national anthem. At moments like these I am reminded that Virginia fought for the South in the Civil War. It's easy to forget when you live in a very blue Northern Virginia.

I had a great time. The older kids, however, complained during most of the fair. My legs are tired, or I'm hungry, or I want to go home. Even my husband wasn't too thrilled to be there. We decided to call it a day after about three hours. My two-year-old had been an angel in his backpack carrier, never muttering an ill sound (though he did growl a little.) We bought our seven-year-old a ginger ale from the local brewer's table, which was served in a beer bottle. Great. We looked like fabulous parents.

During the entire fair, we had walked through roped-off streets that were usually used for normal car traffic. Our autistic (middle) son had gotten used to the idea and enjoyed it quite a bit. Now, as we headed back to our car, we had to balance carefully on the edge of the road. There were cars whizzing by quite close so I held his hand tightly. He was confused about the change in family policy-- why couldn't we walk on the street now? I had to rein him in and explain repeatedly about the danger. We were all tired and I could hear in my husband's tone of voice that he was near the breaking point.

Our middle son began to growl and grunt loudly between his observations of the locals and their homes. This is something that I am so used to that I don't even notice. But there was quite a crowd exiting the fair, and I noticed people looking at us curiously. Their amusement soon turned to pointed stares when they heard my repeated injunctions. Many people who notice the interactions between me and my child jump to the conclusion that he is a naughty boy and I am a permissive parent. At this point I typically keep my eyes on the ground and just pray that we get to our destination as soon as possible. I would like to say that my feelings are not hurt that people judge me so harshly, but that would be a lie.

My son then proceeded to bump into me repeatedly, seeking what is called sensory stimulation. I wrestled him to the side of the road over and over, calmly repeating that he could get hurt. I forgot to remind him that his mommy could get hurt as well. At one point he bumped me so hard that I stumbled into the road, and I called his name sharply in alarm. My husband, who does not have the extensive experience of being in public with our child that I do, barked his name as well and grabbed his other hand. A couple walking in front of us turned to look at us again. I kept my eyes straight forward and wished we could fly.

The wrestling continued into the grassy parking lot. There was a gravel drive for the exiting cars, and my son tried to throw himself at it. I had a few ounces of water left in a bottle and told him I would pour it over his head if he did not cool off. My theory was that distracting him from one sensory problem with another sensory experience might derail him from his fixation. He did not stop so I poured the water. He immediately stopped his wrestling but then proceeded to howl about the water dripping from his hair. The couple turned to stare again, and my husband barked at them, "He has autism. You don't need to stare like that."

We made it to the car without further ado and collapsed into the seats. On the way home, our middle son continued to howl, and when I finally calmed him enough for him to speak, he cried, "I want to go baaaaack!"

All in all, it was a typical experience for a family that copes with an autistic child. I was able to shake the day off rather quickly. But my oldest son watches and learns from us, and it makes me wonder what he will do in future situations. Will he ever jump in and defend his brother? Or will he learn to keep his eyes on the ground? Will my husband and I ever figure out which of those two is the best thing to do?

1 comment:

Melodrama Mama said...

It sounds their isn't really a 'best' thing to are a great Mom and you are handling things excellently! Keep it up!