“So don’t hold back, just have a good time
We’ll make the rules up as we go along
And break them all if we’re not havin fun
Come on baby let’s get away”
~Janet Jackson, Escapade
Lately we’ve been daring to live.
To get out.
Autism once held us back. The inability to wait, the tendency to bolt, the overstimulation, the tantrums and unpredictable behavior. All of these factors have, in the past, caused us to opt out, stay home, close the door to what we could be.
My friend Carrie often encouraged me that getting out and helping Rhema learn to navigate the world through experience was just as important as the extra speech therapy sessions. Sure there will be some meltdowns, she’d day. Some improvising, some fast getaways and outings cut short, some heart wrenching and frustrating moments… that’s ok. There will be some funny and thrilling moments, too, and memories made that make it all worth it.
Honestly, there was a time when we dreaded the weekends – there was no set schedule or direction and autism shocked us every Saturday and Sunday, and everything inside our walls fell apart.
Emily Colson in Dancing with Max faced similar circumstances and felt like a hostage in her own home because of her son’s challenges. But one day she decided to believe that it was her last day alive. She asked herself how she would spend her last day. She imagined all of the things she longed to do and really experience with her boy – going to the beach, walking in the city, running in the water. She wouldn’t care what anyone thought if things didn’t go well. So she got up out of her pity party and she and her son lived life.
Perhaps for us it was Brandon’s absence over the past two years. Maybe it taught us something about cherishing family and “redeeming the time.” Now we actually look forward to venturing out, doing things together, Rhema right there with us.
So this year we had our first successful outing to a restaurant.
We took a 2-day trip to Storyland.
We took a train ride with grandparents and cousins.
We went to the New England Aquarium.
It may sound simple, but these are huge, HUGE accomplishments. And they have not been without incident, mind you! But these are things that a short time ago I could not have imagined doing, never even considered a possibility.
This weekend we decided to try another first: pumpkin picking. It wasn’t until we had parked the car and I saw the crowds and the wide open spaces that I looked at B, panicked. “Um. How are we going to do this???” And the Hooah-Hooah-airborne-battle-tested-West Point trained-Chinook-pilot-soldier-boy just shrugged at me like I have no earthly i-dear.
And I thought, God you’re good because you make every day of my life an adventure with these people you gave me and called family.
But the pumpkin patch we did. And a hayride. And apple cider and donuts. And non-dairy cotton-candy slush. Oh, it tasted sweet, y’all…
With arms raised high, we did it! In our own crazy, hard, beautiful, offbeat, wonder-filled way.
Note: Rhema’s school has done a great job of getting her out in the community and giving her the tools to succeed in public. Her amazing teachers have helped make days like this so very possible for us!