Every summer we make our annual family trek to see Grant’s extended family in the Michiana Area. Though family there is always warm and welcoming and just plain ‘ol awesome, since having Henry (and then Lucy soon after), this trip has become more of a stressful, anxiety-inducing exercise in chaos- on- the-road rather than a lovely, relaxing vacation as we used to pretend it would be; those cruel waves of autism-ness crashing all around us with rarely a break. A bit of a side note: this particular year, leading up to this trip was all the more stressful as I totalled my van the week before. You can see that here. So not only were we scrambling to get that issue settled and find a new car, Grant had to adjust his very efficient packing procedure for the new vehicle. But I digress…
Every year Grant’s family is more than supportive and accommodating to the needs of our growing, changing tribe and our peculiar particular ways. Grant and I have learned to accept that this trip is no vacation and to appreciate whatever little time we have to visit with everyone…which never seems long enough for us but sometimes plenty long for the little ones.
Over the last couple of years Henry really has come a long way in his development and this has made a big difference in our trek experience. Interestingly the 6-8 hour drive (depending on traffic and rest stops we need to make) hasn’t ever been too much of an issue. (Thank you mobile DVD players!) He seems to be learning to acclimate to the “new” environment (we stay with the same relatives every year) better and faster with each visit. Meltdowns and constant wails of “ I want to go home!” have diminished greatly as has the general “manic rambunctiousness” and irritability. (I’m quite proud of myself actually!) 😉 There are still many things that we have to pass on now because of the little ones, such as our leisurely shopping and sight-seeing trips to Saugatuck, New Buffalo or even the outlet mall in Michigan City. Eating out has become a thing of the past. At least for now. Oh how I yearn for a Butler burger or a Stray Dog…
But we’ve discovered new ways of enjoying our time as a family with family. We’ve had to just let go of how we think or wish things to be and are much more accepting of letting things go as they will. Our relatives have accepted that we are okay with staying in for meals when everyone else goes out. We don’t have to participate in every activity all the time and odds are we won’t. We have all learned that what matters most is getting a chance to be together and a lot times this means family coming to where we are and visiting on Henry’s terms. It is what it is for now. Keeping the little ones happy in an environment they are comfortable in allows the rest of us a much more relaxed time for catching up!
Weather and time permitting, the last few of years we have ventured to try a day or two at nearby beach on Lake Michigan. We were ready to accept the fact that if our day at the beach lasted 5 minutes or 5 hours we had to give it a try. Our first visit to the Lake with Henry two years ago was a pleasant surprise! Although he was cautious about the water and didn’t want to get wet, he still enjoyed playing in the sand and dipping his feet in the waves washing ashore. He never forgot that experience and continued to periodically talk about it until the next year when we tried it again. This time with life jackets on, both he and Lucy spent roughly 2 hours plus playing in the waves for two days in a row!
Fast forward to this year and our most recent trip last week. Whenever we would talk of our trip, all three kids would mention the beach and “Are we going to the beach?” “We have to go to the beach!” “How much longer until we get to the beach?”. From the moment we pulled in to Aunt Janet and Uncle Ric’s, Henry was ready to get to the lake! This trip we were able to spend two wonderful afternoons at the lake with barely a meltdown! (Only one incident of sand in the eye caused a bit of an issue and really, I couldn’t much blame him!) For a kid who has (and still is many times) been quite oppositional at. every. single. turn, this year was such a relief! The battles and outbursts at any and every request no matter how routine or simple were almost nonexistent! This is HUGE for us! HUGE! I’m not sure I’ve stress enough how HUGE this is for us! I am giddy at the prospect that there is true improvement here and that maybe I could hope for continued improvement in the future…dare I hope? Watching the kids play in the waves, all three together, HAPPY together, I felt as if we were hanging 10 on our boards just riding out those gnarly waves of the spectrum! (Okay sure…not a lot of surf on Lake Michigan but just go with me on this one, okay?)
At one point Grant and I lounged in our beach chairs (a first time for the two of us to be able to sit and relax together!) watching Molly and Henry and Lucy at peace in the water and with each other. I turned to him and said, “I kinda almost feel relaxed! Like this might be almost a vacation sort of.”
He grinned and patted my leg and said, “Good. You deserve it. Now shhhhh! Or you’ll ruin it!”
[Shameless Blog Promotion: Click Babble’s Top 25 Autism Spectrum Blogs and vote for me, A Chameleon’s Blog! I am the underdog here and certainly would love to be able to break into that Top 25! I feel our story is important and love to share and connect with others affected by ASD. Thank you for your support! ~ Karen]