I saw pictures of happy kids splashing in oceans. I saw sun-kissed moms who were lying on the beach without a care in the world. But I wondered . . . how did they hold their Pina Coladas and read a magazine at the same time?
As my husband reminded me, we’re not one of those families.
Sometimes the truth hurts.
“That’s okay,” he said, trying to look on the bright side.
And it is okay most of the time. It’s just that spring break gives us a solid week of no school and little structure. It makes the things we can’t do come into sharper focus.
I wish we could all go to a movie. I wish we could all lounge around. I wish we could all eat something besides pizza on Friday without the world coming to an end. I wish we could stay away from Hy-Vee, Isaac’s favorite grocery store.
For those families like ours whose kids with autism are quite routine-oriented, the week is long. At times it’s excruciatingly painful. No matter how many activities are planned, it’s like being stuck in a room for a week watching paint dry.
When the regular routine is out of sync, spring break is not really a break at all. It’s more of a breakdown. At least for me it is – I feel that way every year.
Whoever scheduled spring break never consulted a family with children on the autism spectrum. Who in their right mind thinks it’s okay to have five days without school in the middle of March?
What was spring break like for us? I jotted down some highs and lows.
Saturday, March 12
10:00 am - Isaac brought up three suitcases from the basement and left them in the living room. I guess he wants to go somewhere.
9:30 pm – In honor of Daylight Saving Time, I set clocks one hour ahead. Isaac didn’t like that idea. Every clock I set ahead was turned back to normal time before he went to bed. Lesson learned. It doesn’t pay to be proactive.
Sunday, March 13
9:00 am - I heard one of the boys say, “Due to the time change, we have one less hour of spring break. Hurrah!”
11:00 am – Isaac went to the office with Chris and became upset when he saw a clock on Main Street that hadn’t yet been set ahead one hour.
2:00 pm - I baked a pumpkin pie in anticipation of Pi Day (3.14) tomorrow.
5:00 pm – I wrote out a list of events for spring break. Isaac crumpled up my schedule and tossed it into recycling. Gee, thanks.
8:00 am – I was invited by a friend to go to her house and make a pie in honor of Pi Day, 3/14. I’ve known her for years and love her family. I appreciated her reaching out to me more than I could ever say. She told me I could bring the boys.
I told her I was sorry I couldn’t go because we were spending the day packing for tomorrow’s trip and looking for our summer sandals. Plus it was raining, and I wasn’t sure Isaac would stay inside their house if he didn’t feel comfortable. I said I made a pie yesterday in anticipation of this day. Mostly I declined because Isaac is very happy here on the first “official” day of spring break, and I can’t upset a good thing. Plus, I don’t want to go over there and chase him around while I should be making a pie. Noah and Henry weren’t sure they wanted to go. I felt bad saying no even though she understood. Sometimes, though, it’s more work than it’s worth to upset the schedule of a kid who is happy. He had no idea we might be going. And yet, I loved being invited!
3:30 pm – I opened the door and my pie-baking friend handed me the cutest mini blueberry cream pie I had ever seen. I may have been speechless. It brought tears to my eyes.
6:59 pm – to the Rec Center
Tuesday, March 15
8:20 am – We left to drive to Wisconsin Dells for an overnight stay at a waterpark. We took everything with us, including the Wii and the kitchen sink.
12:30 pm – Henry saw a sign at a Kentucky Fried Chicken and asked, “What’s in a pot pie?” Translation: “Is that legal to sell or eat?”
5:00 pm –We went to Moose Jaw, a restaurant near our waterpark, but Isaac wanted to be seated on the second floor. Nobody was eating up there. He wouldn’t sit with us. Instead he wanted to sit at a table for four. Chris talked to him about the fact that we have five people in our family. Ultimately he came and sat with us. The whole time we were there he listened to 98.5 FM on the phone through an app called Radio Pup. The app allowed him to listen to his favorite local radio station even though we were in a different state. Greatest invention ever!
Chris remarked how wonderful it was to sit in a restaurant and eat a meal together. I agreed. It’s the little things.
I took some family pictures. They were absolutely terrible.
He stood in another dining room and pointed at the elevator. He loved seeing the doors open and close. We almost got run over by the wait staff, so I urged him to sit down in the corner with me. A few people stared at us, which is nothing new.
I texted Chris. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Wednesday, March 16
7:00 am - Me: Isaac, did you put your deodorant on today?
Isaac: No. I love Mom.
11:45 am – We left the waterpark after swimming all morning. Isaac vacillated between wanting to stay and wanting to go. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He said, “Waterpark Thursday.” In the next breath he said he wanted to go to Hy-Vee tonight with Dad at 6:59 pm.
4:00 pm: Chris and I drove almost four hours home. Isaac never got out of the van because he didn’t want to lose his front seat passenger status. When we got home, he didn't get out of the van to unload the suitcases. Why? Isaac knew we needed to pick up organic ground turkey sometime between 4-6 pm. Isaac wanted to go immediately if not sooner. So while Chris and Isaac drove to pick up the frozen meat, the other boys and I unloaded all of the suitcases and got everything back to normal, whatever that means.
6:59 pm – to Hy-Vee
Thursday, March 17
6:30 am – Isaac started the first load of laundry.
10:00 am - One of the boys downloaded malware onto my computer. OMG!
4:00 pm – Our respite provider didn’t show up. Isaac cried and kicked and screamed. I cried and kicked and screamed. The sudden change in plans pushed him over the edge. I called four other people to see if anyone was available to work. In my desperation, I promised to bake a pie for one person if he could come over. Unfortunately nobody was available.
I changed my plans and drove Isaac to Target. I summoned all the Zen and calm I could muster. We sat in the parking lot listening to country music. He told me he loved me. He knew I wasn’t supposed to be there, and he wasn’t supposed to be there, but I took him there to help him calm down. We walked into Target, and he put away all the carts. I stayed nearby in case someone was mean or rude. We looked around and bought a few things. Afterwards I entered the McDonald’s drive thru. I ordered a Shamrock Shake even though I had never had one before. I hoped it would bring me the luck of the Irish. I sucked it down before I drove into the garage.
As a friend later told me, the Irish would have been drinking by now.
6:59 pm – to Hy-Vee
Friday, March 18
8:30 am – Surprise! Electricity in our neighborhood was turned off. I called the utility company. The very nice woman on the phone said the outage could last one hour. Isaac wanted me to turn it on. Autism nightmare!
Noon – Isaac asked to eat lunch at Burger King. It was the last place in the world I wanted to go, but we went because our electricity was back on and we could open our garage door.
We went to Target. I noticed a flask that spoke to me, but I resisted the urge to toss it in our cart.
4:00 pm – Respite provider showed up and took Isaac to the YMCA. Noah, Henry and I watched The Peanuts Movie.
6:59 pm – to Hy-Vee
Saturday, March 19
Isaac was involved in a group respite program, which made him very happy. It made us very happy, too. I walked four miles with a friend, Chris painted our closet, I took the boys to a birthday party at the bowling alley, and life marched on as usual.
3:30 pm – Chris took Isaac to Hy-Vee for weekly shopping.
6:59 pm – to Hy-Vee
Sunday, March 20
4:00 pm – to Hy-Vee
7:00 pm - We watched the UNI men’s basketball game on TV. In what we can only consider a miracle, Isaac was happy to leave the TV turned on. Usually he doesn’t want anyone watching sports. He was upstairs during the first OT and the second OT, and he snuggled up to me on the couch for a moment, and we all watched it together.
Monday, March 21
7:30 am - “What was the best part about spring break?” I asked the boys as I sat in the living room wrapped in my blue robe.
“The best part was going to the Wisconsin Dells,” Henry said.
“What do you think was the best part, Noah?” I asked.
“Going back to school,” he said, without hesitation.
8:20 am - Isaac’s bus stopped in front of our house, and he stepped outside. He waved to me as the bus pulled away.
8:30 am - Henry, Noah, and I climbed into the van. School would be starting soon. I just needed to drop them off at school.
Spring break was officially over.