We recently went on an incredible trip to DisneyWorld. My brother in law turned 50 in December, and to celebrate, he announced he was going to take the entire family, his side and his wife's side, to Disney, for an all expenses paid vacation! Needless to say, everyone was stunned, the kids were over the moon.
I was excited, yet, as I always am, worried about Limefreckle Jr. I have spent the better part of the last 9 years (since he was diagnosed at 2) worrying about that boy. I don't just "live in the moment" most of the time, I see a situation, and I anticipate all the things that can go wrong, and then I start to plan......it's not a facet of my personality that I enjoy, and after this trip, I realize that I really have to work on figuring out how to "turn it off".
We had a pretty rigorous itinerary for the trip, 2 free days, and the rest of the time parks scheduled for every day. Dinners scheduled at different locations throughout Disney,every evening. I tried to show Limefreckle Jr. the itinerary over the months leading up to the trip, and while he is like many autistic children, he does much better when things are scheduled for him.....he likes to be the one to do the scheduling! So I had to listen to a lot of complaining leading up to the trip, about which days the group goes where, etc. Because as much as I would explain to him that we didn't have to follow the schedule, that we could break off and do whatever we wanted to, that wasn't enough for him....he wanted to do things his way, and he wanted EVERYONE to do things his way.......I was a bit exhausted about it all before our plane ever left the ground.
The trip started out with a 5 hour delay at the airport. Something needed to be fixed on the plane, and we had to wait until the part was flown in from Atlanta (we were in Buffalo). As you might imagine, Limefreckle Jr. did not handle the delay well, and he had a bit of a meltdown at the airport. I tried my best to be calm, soothing, helpful to him. Getting upset and telling him to stop it doesn't work with him, I've been through enough meltdowns in my day to know the best way to handle them. But the part about public meltdowns that is so difficult for me is "the public". I do not want people looking at me....period....I do not like to be the centre of attention. There we were, wearing matching t-shirts (my husband had t-shirts printed up for the whole group and we all had them on) walking through the airport, my son stomping, yelling, crying.....and of course, people turn to look. I know that doesn't mean there is any judgement attached, it is just natural to turn in the direction of a commotion......but it is probably the thing that I find hardest......and for me, when I'm in a stressful situation like that, the tears start to flow, they are uncontrollable. And if there is anything worse than being the centre of attention and having all eyes on me, it's being the centre of attention, having all eyes on me,WHILE I'M CRYING!!
Of course eventually it all settled down, but that pretty much set the tone for me. I went into defense mode at that point, and spent most of the trip stressing and worrying about how all the ineveitable changes to the schedule were going to affect Limefreckle Jr. and what could I do to fix things. I'm a fixer....and I hate being a fixer.....I so want to be laid back, to go with the flow, to relax, to not worry, to know that things are all going to work out.....but I just can't. That is the biggest thing I learned about travelling with a group (we had 28 people in all). I am NOT laid back.....I am NOT easy going....I stress when things change......I need a schedule, I need to stick to the schedule......makes me wonder who the autistic one in our family really is? Have I always been this way? Have I become this way out of necessity? I'm not sure what the answer is to that (although I bet I have a few family members reading this right now who are anxious to let me know!) but I do know that it is something I want to work on.
I also learned this week that my son is capable of handling a lot more than I realized. He rolled with the changes throughout the week (and believe me, there were a TON of last minute changes) with ease in many cases, minor rumblings in others. I would anticipate the worst, and try to plan for it, yet he often just moved along and accepted things......something that I wish I had been able to do. He lived in the moment, he enjoyed everything about the whole experience,and he soaked it all in. There were many other children travelling with us, so I got to see several "issues" among them all, and realized just how close to "typical" Limefreckle Jr. really is.
In the end, when he returned home,and my brother asked him what the best part of the trip was, he said "being with my cousins" and that is what it was all about. We made memories that those kids are going to have for the rest of their lives, so the confusion, the stress, the overwhelmingness of the whole thing was minor in comparison to the memories we built for the kids.