Kiddo and I found ourselves on our own for dinner the other night. I was exhausted and I was not cooking. He happily agreed and off to the local burrito place we went. Now before you say, “HE EATS BURRITOS???” calm down. He eats plain cheese quesadillas which he calls “pizza” because they are melted cheese on a something crust-like cut into triangles. I mean, he’s got a point. It’s particularly fun when we go to order and he yells, “PIZZA” and I then have do Kiddo-to-English translation to the confused server.
While we were tucking in, I noticed a car pull up in front of the joint. The windows were open and the cutest little fluffy dog was peeking out. I pointed it out to Kiddo, who got very excited because it sort-of looked like one of our dogs. He started to get “flappy happy”, as I call it and kept saying, “That dog looks like Maya! That dog looks like Maya!”
But while he was scripting up a storm, I was watching a young girl get out of the car. She was probably twelve or thirteen. She walked into the restaurant and right up to the takeout counter. It was then I realized she was picking up some takeout while her mom was waiting in the car with the dog. She gave her name. She paid her bill. She waited for her change. She then carried it out to the car and off they went.
And I felt tears in my eyes. This is not something my child could do. I am not sure it’s something he will ever be able to do. That mom didn’t have to worry about her child clamming up with nerves and not talking. That mom didn’t have to worry that the girl wouldn’t get the right order or that she wouldn’t wait for her change. That child did the same exact thing that my parents had me to do at her age when they were teaching independence/too tired to get out of the car let’s send the kid in to get the food. They didn’t even have a second thought about it.
This is when I have to talk myself off the ledge because I can easily wrap this sadness around me like a blanket. You think our kids need social stories? HA! I had to start reminding myself that only a couple of years ago we wouldn’t have been able to even sit down in a restaurant to eat. It was grab-and-go and usually through a drive thru because even getting out of the car was a production. I then reminded myself that even going to a burrito place was progress. A french fry-free meal? Groundbreaking!
So yeah, my son still needs help learning how to focus and order. And I often find myself having to repeat what he says because the server doesn’t hear him or understand him. I have to remember that he is trying. He tries every damn day to exist in a world that isn’t set up to be kind to those with a different neurology like his.
If he can keep trying, I can. I will get off this damn ledge because it doesn’t serve me. It doesn’t help him or me. We can keep on chugging along because clearly that’s what we’re supposed to do. Yes, sometimes I get sad about this, but I need to wipe my tears and put my attitude aside. If experience has taught me anything, I just have to feel the feelings and get on with it. What’s my choice? What’s my other option? Wallow in all the stuff he can’t do? Trust me, I’ve done it and I know enough to know that I will do it again. It’s a tough cycle, but it’s part of our lives.
I guess what I am saying is, I’m still surprised how sad I can feel some days about this. I thought I would be used to it by now but there’s always new ways it can creep up on you.
Luckily, the good stuff can sneak up on you too. So I’m just holding on for the next milestone he might hit. It might not be anywhere near as independent as picking up the takeout order, but he’s surprised me before and he loves proving me wrong.
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Autism is a trip Eileen Shaklee didn’t plan on, but sure does love her tour guide. It’s better to laugh than to cry, mainly because she got distracted by the free samples at Costco and forgot to buy tissues. So, come join this one mom’s adventure with a side of sarcasm (and fries) on her blog, Autism With a Side of Fries, on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash