Let me start with a little disclosure: I have lots of help. During the week, I have a nanny that helps keep my house in order and shares the duties of shuttling my 3 kids around to various activities and therapies. On the weekends, I have had a person who will work with Gray or join us for family outings so that there is an extra set of adult hands. Unfortunately, this person recently relocated to another state and I have not been able to find the perfect replacement yet. Because Barry’s job has been so demanding and stressful lately, he has been working 7 days a week for months. That left me on my own last weekend with 3 kids to entertain.
April is Autism Awareness month. That means that lots of organizations are doing autism-friendly events for families. This past Saturday, the Dallas Museum of Art put on a morning program for kids with autism and their siblings. I decided that an event like this would be my best bet for keeping all of the kids entertained in an environment where people would be understanding.
As we pulled up to the museum, I told Zoe that I was feeling nervous and I really needed her to be a helpful big sister. She said she was ready for the challenge. It turns out that I didn’t need her help at all. The event was lovely. There were craft rooms for the kids, a sketching station with a sculpture as a model, a sensory area and 2 different musical presentations. Gray was not too interested in the craft areas, but the girls really enjoyed them while Gray, Hope and I just walked around peacefully and enjoyed the sights. When it was time for the musical presentation, we all filed outside and sat nicely in the sunshine while we listened to a violin performance. Many parents asked me about Hope and how she is helping Gray. It made me think that I really need to get business cards so that people can read about the two of them here on this website.
As the program was wrapping up, I told the girls we could go out to lunch somewhere. We have become total pros at casual restaurants and I felt sure that Hope and I could handle these kids in a pizza place or somewhere similar. As we left the museum, we exited the building in front of our new downtown park. Food trucks lined the street with a children’s play area just beyond them. Zoe immediately asked if we could have our lunch at the food trucks and then stay at the park for a while. Feeling bolstered by the smooth morning, I told her that we could try, but I really didn’t know how it would turn out. With great ease, we walked to the corner, waited for the light to change and crossed the street to the park. After we identified a food truck that we all liked, we got in line. Gray tried to make a run for the front of the line, but Hope’s tether kept him close and bought me enough time to pull out his iPad and explain that we had to wait in line to get hamburgers. Unbelievably, this satisfied him and he waited with me (head buried in my hip) for almost 15 minutes while the girls played games nearby. Zoe proved to be an excellent waitress as she helped me carry everyone’s lunch to a little table. We settled in, I tied Hope’s leash to the tree next to Gray’s chair and we all enjoyed the beautiful weather and lunch. I kept looking around at everyone else in the park and I wanted to shout, “Hey, look at me! I’m eating my lunch in a public place with my kids and I have BOTH hands free! Look, my son is sitting all by himself!”
After lunch, the kids played on the playground for another hour or so and we headed home. As we drove out of the parking lot, Zoe beamed about what a fun day we had. I agreed. “We did it, Zoe! We don’t need a babysitter or therapist to come with us. We have got this down!”