My heart broke open this weekend, so I’m going to spill a little of it here.
You know, a lot of times, I talk a big game on this autism parenting thing. I look hard for answers and share them with you once I have them, but sometimes, like a few days ago, I catch it right in the teeth and I literally stand there with my mouth open.
On Saturday, we dropped Nora off for camp. The plan was to leave the boys at home with Daddy, and I’d drive off with Nora, say goodbye to her, and hide out at a nearby Starbucks to get some writing done. On our way out the door, William started whining and stomping his feet. And then he was crying. And then he was crying and yelling, “William I go to camp! William I go to camp! No! I stay at home! Nooooo!”
Okay, I lied. I wasn’t left with my wordless mouth hanging open. I clamped my mouth shut and I swallowed a really, really bad word.
And here’s why: I don’t generally keep him from things *because* he has autism. Sometimes, I say, this is going to take a while to get to. Or, I don’t really have time right now to figure this out. But it’s more of a procrastination thing. Camp was really the only thing I’ve ever looked at, thought of the vast expanse of “autism,” and, in my head, just said, “nope.”
So then he goes and surprises me. He sees Nora going off to do something he’d like to do—which is something any kid would like to do, and wants to know why he can’t. Why can’t he? Because he has autism.
It’s possible, and even probable, that many kids on the spectrum would be perfectly suitable to the right camp. But, by himself, William wouldn’t be. Can’t be. And I’m not being dramatic when I say this; I am being very, very literal when I say that an average camp experience for him would mean either death or tremendous danger. In the absolute best case, a perceptive counselor would see the danger, figure out a really effective way to spend the week restraining him, and blow off her other campers in order to implement that plan.
So this is it, folks. This is the raw, un-edited process. We’re going about our day and something clobbers us in the teeth. We bleed and cry a little, explain to ourselves why this is real, decide we can’t accept it the way it is, and find a way to make our kids’ experience a little better.
I sat at Starbucks in front of my computer with my head in my hands, and rain banging on the windows in front of me. And I decided, no. I will not tell him he can’t do something because he has autism.
I don’t know how, and I feel fairly confident that this is not happening for a while, but I’m going to get that kid to church camp—even if it means I share a mattress with him and put my own lock on the door.
It’s not over, buddy. We’ll get this.