I’m an elementary school teacher. I work outside my home 40 weeks of the year. Then for the other 12, I become a stay-at-home mom. I wish I could say that summers are all fun and games, sleeping late and hanging out at the beach, traveling and spending carefree days sipping frozen drinks. No, I can’t say that. No, I’ll likely never be able to say that. Yes, I’ve accepted it. No, I don’t necessarily like it. OK, truth is, I don’t like it at all. Being a mom of an autistic child is hard. It’s harder on more levels than people can ever, ever realize unless they are in the same boat. This summer (like most summers) we are taking daily “staycation” trips. Today, my family took a day-trip to a local South Florida attraction. Seems like an easy enough trip to do when you have 6 adults and 5 kids. Truth be told, it wasn’t such a bad day. M was pretty well behaved despite the horrendous heat and lots of walking. So I had to take him to visit every single ceiling fan in the park. I’m used to it. So I had to repeat the same phrase 1,000 times right after he said it (called a vocal stim). I’m used to that, too. But when the day was over and all the kids were deciding what to do tomorrow, then the frustration set in for me. They all want to go to a water park tomorrow. Again…..not a big deal, right? For typical elementary aged kids, not a big deal at all. But for me, the stress began to set in. You see, in South Florida, water parks are invaded every single day of summer by summer camps. Loud, pushy, teenager-on-their-cellphone-supervised summer camps. THAT sends me into panic-mode. My husband says I stress too much. Maybe he’s right. But anyone who is raising a special needs child – correction – any MOMMY raising a special needs child will agree with me. (Sorry to all you daddies, but you guys just don’t stress like the ladies do —–ladies won’t you agree with me???) M has this uncontrollable need lately to “say HI” to every single little girl that he sees. His idea of “saying HI” is putting his hand on their shoulder or back or hand. Some of the older girls don’t mind it — they seem to get that he has issues and often smile and say “That’s OK” as I offer an “I’m sorry” and hurry him off. But the part that breaks my heart is when he gets the occasional odd stare or rude comment from a child or a parent such as “HEY!” (with a pull-away gesture) or a “STOP IT!” or a comment from a nearby friend such as “Who was THAT? Do you KNOW him?”. Yeah, it’s not fun. Now imagine a water park where kids are everywhere……….not being supervised, pushing ahead to go on a slide, running on wet surfaces. ((((SHUDDER)))) So the lot was drawn……….we’re going to the water park tomorrow. On the flip side of the coin, is it really fair of me to take away the fun the other kids are looking forward to just because M might stress mommy out? No. I know it’s not fair. Particularly to M’s brother. I hate depriving C of the things he wants to do because of his brother. And right now, he wants to have fun with his cousins at a water park. That’s not an unreasonable request of a 7 year old. If you haven’t noticed, I just spent about 30 sentences explaining the thoughts that entered my head today over going to a freakin’ kids’ water park tomorrow. Well, those are the types of things that I have to ponder when our family wants to have a fun day together at a potentially crowded location. I ponder much of this to a lesser extent when going to a grocery store, mall, or other errands. It’s exhausting. It really is. I told my husband today that I’m so jealous of people who can go places with their families and RELAX while the kids are occupied. We’ll never be able to go to a vacation spot that has a “kids’ club” – those cruises and resorts where you can send your kids to a day-program while the adults enjoy themselves. Never going to happen. EVER. It makes me sad sometimes. And yes, I’ve been known to throw an occasional pity party for myself (like say, maybe, this particular post?!?). Many years ago, I went through a horrific experience that took a long, long time to get over. During that time, I wrote letters; letters I never sent to that person for whom they were intended. But writing was unbelievably therapeutic for me. Getting my thoughts into some semblance of order is so helpful. I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I’d like, but I’m glad the outlet is there.