Ah, summer vacation. The words elicit memories of running through sprinklers in the backyard, sitting with friends on the steps while you eat popsicles until your fingers are sticky, and late nights catching fireflies.
<screeching tires sound>
Not in this house.
In this house, summer vacation means a halt to all special ed services, early bed times, extra melatonin doses on wild days, and keeping fingers crossed that we all survive it. It means higher anxiety levels because the routine is broken. It means cajoling the kids into trying things like swimming. It means that at this very moment, two wild children are yelling about bananas and Sasquatch while I attempt to focus on what I’m saying… what was I talking about? Oh, yes. Summer vacation.
Three years ago was the last time we had taken a trip somewhere, because frankly traveling with kids on the spectrum is my personal version of hell. It means ripping the kids out of everything they know and hoping that they don’t totally fall apart.
The photo above was from our last vacation to South Carolina. We drove for two days to get there, and that alone was pretty challenging. Being stuck in a hotel room with kids who are completely out of their element is a special kind of difficult. But both kids were still in diapers (so there’s that- fewer potty breaks on the road trip) and they both still rode in a stroller so we could keep them secure.
Fast-forward to this year, and we decided it was time to take another trip. Frankly, my husband and I were getting a little zany and really needed some down time. So I hopped onto my favorite travel site to look for a cottage to rent. The plan was stay close enough to home to be able to easily manage potential meltdowns, while being far enough away to feel really AWAY.
Oh yeah, baby… this. So very much this.
I found us a place on the lake, about an hour from home. Easy-peasy. It was within budget, could accommodate our entire family (including my mom), and we could relax and do the fishing that Speedy has been asking to do.
Within minutes of our arrival, Wonder Boy was nervous. “We’re not staying forever, right?” “No, honey, we’re staying one week.” “But we’re not staying forever, right??”
This went on until the next day, when the questions steadily increased. Fortunately, I needed to head home to grab items that we’d forgotten, so when I was there I grabbed all of his plastic sea creatures and insects (the more realistic looking, the better) and dumped them into his backpack. I added his beloved National Geographic for Kids magazines and when I got back I presented him with his treasures. He sat on a towel in the yard and proceeded to script one of his nature documentaries for the next hour.
The lesson here was clear: a piece of home (or several dozen, in this case) really makes all the difference when you’re traveling with kids of any abilities, but especially kids on the spectrum. It’s all about the routine, the familiarity, and when you take all of it away it can be scary!
And then, something truly beautiful and magical happened:
And fished some more.
Speedy sat still.
Let me repeat that.
Speedy. Sat. STILL.
I am still completely taken aback by this, because while I know that combined-type ADHD includes hyperfocus, we’d not yet seen true hyperfocus in him until the vacation. Until the fishing. And then… well, it was just about the best gift we could have given him and ourselves. The gift of hope.
This showed me that yet again, I was entirely focused on getting WonderBoy through the process of a vacation, and had not thought about what it could mean for Speedy.
And I can’t forget the Teens. They spent the week relaxing, drawing, photographing, and appearing to grow closer to each other. This brought me great joy, particularly as my first baby, my oldest son, prepares to completely break out on his own. He’s been at college for a year, and spends each summer working at a camp. To say that we seldom see him would be an understatement. I hope that he knows how much I cherish the fact that he could join us on this trip.
This post is starting to look like I just wanted to share all my photos.
The truth is, I do. Why? Because this trip was so much more than simply a week away from our daily lives. It was a chance to reconnect, to find ourselves, to find promises of what can be. This trip helped me find…me.