Flexibility in any family is critical to the cohesiveness of everyday life. Beyond the usual daily routine such as meals, chores and activities, families will carve out time for special events – and thus begins their own brand of special traditions. Traditions are made and continued by the very rituals and rites orchestrated by the family leaders. Participation is sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not, depending on the family, the depth of passion and the heart of the group.
We didn’t exactly loose our momentum in regards to family traditions. However, after our son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum – we just instinctively developed our own unique group of “rules”, “regulations” and “procedures”. The “rules” form the foundation of structure that defines how our life as a family of 4 plays this game of life.
Take Santa Claus for instance. He’s pretty much innocent of any wrong-doing with most of the “believers” who visit him annually for a picture. You know them, the mass of humanity who descends upon local mall, to pose for one ridiculously expensive Polaroid shot with the big guy in the red suit. But when we attempted a visit and picture for ourselves – modestly taking our son to the local shopping center in the ruthless pursuit of a tradition? Absolute chaos….our first son’s pictures depict one little boy, terrified witless, and one VERY sorry SOB who had the bad fortune of showing up for work that day.
So it begins, the rule making – the official family charter for survival:
Holiday Rule #1:
THERE WILL BE NO FURTHER INTERACTION WITH THE MAN AT THE MALL PRETENDING TO BE SANTA. (EVER!)
Well, what about Halloween you ask? Oh goodness, those first costumes were soooooo cute! Lovingly sewn by hand, Grandma made them with all the love she could pour into the project. She included all the details; logos, fringes and patterns and whipped up the most darling pig and cow outfits for the boys. Harmless little farm critters they were – complete with tails, horns and enamel buttons. What fun it will be to take them “trick or treating”! The reality – those cute little get ups didn’t make it past the front door.
Holiday Rule #2:
DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR ON HALLOWEEN WITHIN THE VISUAL PATHWAY OF THE OLDEST SON TO ANYONE WEARING A MASK, BLACK OR A COMBINATION OF BOTH. (Someone will go down.)
Besides Holiday rules, there are the everyday parameters we must abide by, for our autistic son to be part of the crowd and allows us to move as a group:
• IT CAN TAKE ONLY 10 MINUTES OF BEING OUTSIDE FOR A SWARM OF KILLER BEES TO ATTACK ANYONE, ANYWHERE. (Don’t dally getting out of the car and into the store.)
• IF YOU STORE VODKA IN THE FREEZER YOU ARE AN ACHOLOIC. (Wine and beer are cool, but hard liquor crosses that imaginary line.)
• LILLY WILL POOP. (Don’t feed the dog any snacks after 8:00 am or the little white dog will have an accident and that is unacceptable.)
• HE WILL MISS THE BUS. (The universal pardon for the eldest that accommodates his desire not to lift it off his chair in the morning for any other reason besides leaving the house.)
• CONSERVE THE ICE. (While it is okay for our oldest to enjoy new ice with every drink over the weekend, we are limited to one or two cubes at a time, until they melt. We must be courteous and not exhaust the ice supply on high demand days.)
• NEVER WALK NEXT TO THE RAILING ON THE SECOND FLOOR OR TAKE THE UP ESCALATOR AT THE MALL. (This one is mine, high anxiety set in when the boys were little, and I’m STILL sure someone will take a dive from that un-survivable height.)
• SESAME SEEDS ARE THE DEVIL. (Supposedly an allergy, but actually a sensory issue of our autistic sons – when translated bans all hamburger buns, and the restaurants that serve them, straight to hell.)
Sometimes, looking back, I realize JUST how out of balance my personal flexibility meter truly runs. Take these family rules and regulations, they save our sanity on a daily basis. Seriously, if you just KNEW that breaking one of these little gems would result in a subsequent “incidence” of biblical proportions – would YOU piss around, unnecessarily, instead of just getting out of the car and getting into the store? Really, there is the absolute threat of a killer bee flyby, it is June you know! So you just do it. You get out of the vehicle and walk with purpose to the door. You open the door; step inside the building and sigh with abject relief you survived the journey.
These rules ensure our families survival, out there, in the jungle of life. And with Autism involved, it’s the survival of the fittest. So be like Gumby; flex, stretch, leverage the help of good friends, use your words and most importantly, watch out for the Blockheads……they too are the devil. ~ Wendy Frye
“A whole stack of memories never equal one little hope.” ~ Charles Schultz