As my confidence grows and my search for a weekend therapist lingers on, I have embraced each weekend as a chance for new adventures. Barry was sick last weekend, so I heroically offered to let him stay in bed and rest on Saturday while I managed the kids. After hearing Zoe complain that she was bored for the 15th time, we called a friend of hers and invited her to the mall for lunch and walking around. Yes, I took 3 typical children, 1 child with autism and a dog to the mall BY MYSELF. That is how cocky I am getting. And, you know what? It went beautifully. Sure, the girls bickered and Gray asked (on his iPad) to be taken to the bathroom multiple times, but when we left, I felt no more frazzled than any other parent who takes a group of kids to the mall. The day was a huge success: the kids had fun, we burned a few hours, Barry heralded me as the best wife ever for letting him sleep off his cold and I felt good about the world.
So, as you would expect, I was looking forward to the carnival at Lena’s preschool on Sunday. We had already done a carnival at the elementary school, the weather was beautiful and Barry felt well enough to join us. What could go wrong?
Within moments of arriving at the carnival, the girls ran to the petting zoo and Gray ran for a bounce house. Barry and I split up: he had Zoe and Lena while I took Gray and Hope. As we traveled from activity to activity, I made little mental notes of questions I never thought to ask during my training with Kati:
Is it wise to put a dog in a bounce house? (I didn’t, of course, but the idea was amusing.)
What to do when Gray enters the bounce house (alone) and jumps right out of his tether belt so that I have nothing to hook him to when he comes back out? (A: Ask a preschooler who has just barely mastered the English language to go in the bounce house and “get that black strap over there in the corner…not that corner, over there…no, not there…YES, YES! That strap there! No, don’t put it on, bring it to me, please.”)
If Hope goes in the petting zoo, does she become one of the petting attractions?
What is the best way to load a boy and dog who are tethered together on to a tractor for a hay ride?
Yes, the day was great fun and everyone was enjoying the carnival, until…a kid got in the bounce house wearing glasses. Gray is obsessed with ripping glasses off of people’s faces. It’s a charming habit. As soon as I saw that kid get in the bounce house, my stomach dropped. Gray lunged for the glasses and pulled them off that poor boy’s face before he even realized he was under attack. The kid screamed and tried to grab his glasses back. I tried to reach my arm through the webbing of the bounce house “window” to get hold of Gray’s arm. I yelled for the kid to wait and let me get the glasses back for him. I knew that the glasses would not hold any interest for Gray now that they were off of their owner’s face. I knew that, if the kid would just relax a second, Gray would drop them or give them to me. Of course, this 4-year-old now missing his glasses was only slightly more coherent than Gray. He was clearly panicked to get his glasses back and started a game of tug-of-war that miraculously ended with him rolling over backwards with his glasses in his hand. I only took a moment to celebrate the glasses remaining intact. Now, Gray had snapped into full-blown mania. He started laughing hysterically and dropping kids to their knees with pinches or hair-pulling.
Hope and I leapt over many small bodies to run back to the front entrance of the bounce house. I thrust Hope’s leash into the hand of the bewildered attendant at the entrance and told her to hold my dog while I saved those kids. It was like a scene out of a bad comedy: Gray was moving lightening-fast among his victims and small children rolled around crying for their moms inside the mesh barriers. I dove head first into the entrance and caught Gray by an ankle. As I dragged him out, other parents looked at me with confused and horrified eyes. I don’t know how many times I apologized. I really think I just kept repeating it like a mantra, “I’m so sorry. He is autistic. I’m so sorry. He is autistic.”
As I pulled him free of the bounce house and got him to his feet, I turned to gather Hope and re-attach her tether to Gray’s belt. That’s when Gray sank his hand into a lovely mop of curly hair. The girl with the lovely hair shrieked and I whipped around to start untangling Gray’s fingers. I began my mantra again, but the mother was clearly unnerved by how long it was taking me to get Gray to let go. I tried to explain that it would take me a minute to get his hand unclenched, but she did not seem to understand what I was saying. I finally freed the girl and left her to cry in her mother’s arms as Gray and I escaped the scene.
I saw Barry across the way, and I just pointed to the car and yelled, “we will meet you there!” He nodded and started to gather the girls. When we finally made it back to the car, I could not wait to get Gray locked down in his car seat. It wasn’t until after I got him untethered and into the car that I realized: In all the excitement, he had soiled his pants and it had run down his legs. I now had it all over me and the car seat. I buckled him in and put Hope in the far back of the 3rd row so that she would not become another casualty. I cursed my glove box that only held dried-out wet wipes. I even withheld my sarcastic remarks when Barry arrived with the girls and said, “Wow, it smells terrible in this car!”
So, believe it or not, I think that the event was more or less a success. I mean, we had 90 minutes of family fun before disaster struck. If only people would stop bringing their glasses-wearing kids out to places like this, it would prevent problems like these from ever happening!