Having a young child with special needs tends to slow a family down. It takes time and bravery to pick and choose appropriate activities that can actually be accomplished, as well as enjoyable. Between therapies, school, doctor appointments, processes and procedures – there just comes a time when it is almost critical to recreate as a family.
Recreational activities, you know – the real ones most families enjoy at their leisure, usually after breakfast lasting ’til before dinner. Likely culprits include sledding, skiing, biking, or simply taking a walk. For families like mine, recreation used to fall under “Too Complicated To Conceive”, especially when our eldest, the one diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, was very young.
Our family sled has seen only 5 minutes of use. The Cross Country skis? Mothballed under the porch. Camping equipment, utilized for less than 24 hours. Multiple bikes have been sold at garage sales, never knowing the pavement after Christmas morning. The horse, tack and saddle were sold after an anaphylaxis reaction at the barn. Considering our track record, it is justifiably deflating.
Well, when our disability services caseworker suggested joining the local, new and nearby YMCA, let’s just say I tried not to laugh out loud for very long. It was a sincere appeal, passes provided with the hope of a little family fun. Okay, I surrendered, again.
For this, in the middle of winter, we tried to prepare. Anticipating every item necessary, for we were going to be swimming inside when it’s 20 below outside. Lugging in a preposterous amount of gear, we waddled ourselves to the pool area. THANKFULLY, a family dressing room provided an adequate battle ground to prepare for poolside war.
WOW! Not just one pool, but two, complete with a spiral SLIDE! Maybe this won’t be too bad. I thought about getting comfortable ( actually – as comfortable as possible in a bathing suit, out in public, wearing the palest version of pale!). Husband took one child, I took the other and we split up. We figured we needed even odds if we were going to kill, blind or maim one or both of the children. I know, I know ~ but you’d be pessimistic too!
Hauling my eldest son to the top of the ladder, the plan was to jump in and go big. To the top! The top of the spiral water slide! My son on the spectrum was, well, suffice to say he was a little bit apprehensive. Me, I have a “dare-the-devil” gene in me, somewhere. Taking him down, like a wrestler, to sit on my lap was my only choice. There was no turning back to try going back down the stairs like a wussy.
Masking his terrorized screams with my screaming laughter at the sheer delight of going SOOOOO fast – we made it to the bottom! Awesome, we did it! I pulled him out of the water and was greeted with a big, watery smile! My son, he too loved it! “Let’s do it again!” we would say in unison!
After two many more trips down, even taking my youngest with us once (Dad at the bottom of the slide for potential damage control) we seemingly (and suddenly) hit our limit. While having more fun than is legal, we may have pushed the eldest a little too long. Exiting the pool, turning to the left, he lost his dinner in the lap pool.
There was no disguising it, he had done the unthinkable. “Will everyone please exit the lap pool immediately for maintenance.” was heard THREE TIMES over the intercom. The signs were placed by the walkway stating the two hour closure to shock the pool. Sullenly, we made our way back to the dressing room and ultimately home.
Poor kid, he was young, overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and unable to control his reaction. Worst parents in the world over here. Considering the trauma, we thought for sure it was going to be another wasted investment for an activity we couldn’t manage. But we were wrong. Excitedly, and not too late after, came the request to return to the pool. Well then, knowing our limits now, calculating the amount of time for proper digestion prior to arrival, we headed back to the scene of the crime. And executed several more trips down the slide, laughing like hyenas and cackling like fools. We, as a family of four, finally found recreation.
“Let’s GO!” ~ Wendy Frye