I wish I could tell you that it's all wine and roses. That your kids are always going to be on their best behavior every time you go out and will be perfect little angels at home.
But oh, would I be a liar.
Meltdowns in our family can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours, and they are not always at home. They can happen anywhere, and in their wake I usually feel defeated. I feel like I've completely failed my kiddos because no matter what I did it wasn't good enough, even though I tried. I don't like to talk much about these events,especially the public ones, because they are a stinging reminder of just how hard my kiddos really have it and just how cruel the scrutinizing world can be.
But some stories are worth repeating, because some have a happy ending.
It was nearing the end of April vacation, and the kiddos were getting restless. I decided to take them for a walk on the waterfront one unusually warm day just to break up the monotony and get them out of the house. Naturally, the walk wasn't without incident, but I had expected as much and soldiered on, praying for the rest our trip to go without incident. Once we got to the main drag, they saw an ice cream restaurant and insisted that we go over. The line was around the corner when they plunked themselves down at a table, and I knew then that this wasn't going to end well. There was no way they were going to be patient enough to wait that long. I made the crucial mistake then of telling them the line was too long and we'd have to try again another time.
They. Lost. It.
Full on, high pitched shrieking and crying. Sweet Pea was wailing at the top of her lungs and Monkey was screaming and throwing himself on the ground. He went into "jell-o mode" (where he becomes dead weight) when I tried to pick him up so we could get going and get away from the staring and scowling crowds. We had reached a cross walk and now that I had Monkey in my arms, Sweet Pea was on the ground. Both were still wailing and I could feel myself losing it when I was approached. A gentleman, probably not much older than me, stopped me before we crossed.
"Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice you were struggling. Do you need help? I have a little guy of my own, but if there's anything I can do...?"
I was flabbergasted. Most people would scowl or scold me and tell me to get my kids under control, and here this man was, acknowledging the difficulty of my situation and still offering to help. I choked back the tears of gratitude and thanked him. I politely refused because we still had a long walk back to the car. That's when he put his hand on my shoulder and said the best thing you can say to an autism mama. The one thing I needed to hear and will never forget:
"You're doing a great job, Mom."
I nearly burst into tears at his kindness. I nodded my thanks and we parted ways. The meltdown continued all the way back to the car and all the way home. Once we were home and both children had parted ways into their respective rooms to calm down, I made myself a cup of Earl Grey and reflected on what he said to me. It made me feel validated. It squashed those feelings of failure and defeat and restored my faith not only in myself but in the world again.
So to you, kind sir, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your understanding and your empathy. It means more than you'll ever know!
In the immortal words of Capt. Jean Luc Picard:
Pretty sure this stranger lived by this mantra. I think everyone should!
Peace and Love