I’m sorry I’m so late getting this blog post out. No, wait – actually I’m not sorry. Not one bit!
I’m actually delighted that I’m late, because I had a great time ditching you all. Instead of rushing to get the kids off to school yesterday and then spending my morning struggling to think of something profound to say about autism, I was camping on the coast with my family. At sunrise I was strolling along the beach, arm in arm with my hubby, watching the early morning light tint the waves pink and having fun trying to decipher the stories behind the different footprints we found in the sand. There were a few virtuous souls out there, jogging their way to health. We watched them for a while, then followed our noses into town to a bakery famous for its ooey, gooey cinnamon rolls. (They lived up to their reputation!) No, I have to say that I didn’t miss you guys at all.
Perhaps I should have felt guilty that I was stepping out of the autism world for a little while. Actually it wasn’t the autism world, per se, but more the world of responsibilities. Instead of doing homework this weekend, my kids were eating toasted marshmallows. (They didn’t eat them so much as ‘accidently’ light them on fire and watch them foam, bubble and char. Yeah, it wastes food – but you have to admit, those flaming balls of destruction look pretty awesome.) They went hiking through a grove of eucalyptus to search the canopy for the first arrivals of the monarch butterfly migration. They stared up at the clusters of fluttering orange wings for a few minutes, then while my daughter sketched, the boys wandered off to ogle a duck’s foot they’d found on the path. (No duck, just a dried up old foot. Some things are more interesting than butterflies, I guess.) They rode bicycles and argued and slept late in sleeping bags and ate grilled pizza that was only slightly burned. It was a trip we couldn’t have taken when they were little because autism would have made it too hard, but we could take it now and we did.
Maybe I should have felt guilty that I’d pulled them out of speech therapy and geometry and English papers and the never-ending waterfall of homework. Five years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of missing a school day to take an extra-long weekend. School is too important. My kids’ futures are too important. But now I realize that every once in a while (and I mean super-duper-rarely-only-once-or-twice-a-year), a little family vacation is pretty important too.
My kids aren’t getting any younger. We’re already passed the days when the swings at the park are a big thrill or watching trains go by or wading in the waves. We’re already to “Isn’t that guy at the snack bar cute?” and “Can we have some money to go into town?” and “Do I really have to turn off my iPod?” (Although apparently dead duck bits are still fascinating.) My family is getting older, and if my husband and I blink we’re going to miss it.
So, no, I don’t feel bad about taking a weekend to step out of the world and enjoy my family. Geometry can be made up, sunny fall weekends at the beach can’t. Neither can whatever it is that you and your family like to do. It may be camping, or bicycling, or watching a movie together or going out for pizza. Whatever it is, do yourself and your family a favor – take a little time out of your routine to spend some time together. Make it a mini-vacation, even if it’s just for a few hours. Leave autism at home as much as you can. Your child will still have autism, but for a little while don’t let it be the focus of your relationship with him or the focus of your family. Let it be butterflies or marshmallows or dead ducks. Take a little time to remember why you had kids in the first place.
And take a little tip from Aunt Cassie. Don’t waste your time trying to get your kids to ignore whatever disgusting dead thing they find on the trail in favor of the educational exhibit you took them to see. Instead, let them enjoy their vacation. And while their attention is focused someplace else, take the opportunity to sneak a smooch with your sweetie. Remember, it’s your guys’ vacation, too.