Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Anatomy of a field trip

2 and a half weeks ago:
Received letter from school informing me that Danny's class was going on a field trip. The plan was to take a school bus to a town about 1.5 hours away so the kids could play at a children's museum. Then, after lunch, they would ride the bus to a theater to watch a children's version of "The Wizard of Oz."

Danny enthusiastically told me that yes, he did want to attend the field trip.  We counted down the weeks on the calendar so he could visualize when the trip was taking place, and I made a mental note to watch for the letter requesting volunteer chaperones.  I definitely wanted to accompany him on this trip.  He had never been to a play before, and I worried it would be too over stimulating. If I were there, I could mitigate the sensory overload.

1 week ago:
Still no sign of volunteer chaperone request.  I decided to call the teacher to inquire.  Before calling, though, I had the impulse to talk with Danny.  I asked him what he thought about the field trip and he answered excitedly that he couldn't wait for it.  We talked a bit about what a play is like and then I told him that I wasn't sure if I'd be able to attend.  I asked him, "Danny, would you still want to go on the trip if I couldn't go?"

He flipped a page in his new LEGO catalog, paused and said, "Yes, I want to go!"

Then, I asked him, "Do you want me to go with you, or do you want to go alone?"

Danny answered, "No, mom, I don't want you to go with me."

I had to beat down my inner overprotective, crazy mom persona with a stick, but finally I answered, "Okay, I won't go," I said.

3 days ago:
We talked a bit more about the field trip, in passing.  As he has been having a very stressful week, I decided to broach the subject again.  I told him that if he felt like he needed a break, he could stay home with me and skip the field trip.

No dice.  "Mom, I want to go on the field trip!"

As soon as Danny got in the van after school, he informed me that he needed to wear red to the field trip.
I was flabbergasted.  He almost NEVER passes on information from school.  I never know when Hawaiian Day or Mixed Up Sock Day is unless the teacher sends a note home.

After therapy, Danny typically flings his shoes, socks, and clothes all over the house as he climbs into his comfy pjs and goes off to play.  This day is different:  Danny immediately runs to his room and looks for a red shirt.  He lays it out on the kitchen counter in preparation for the next day.  Then, he tells me he wants to pack his lunch for the next day.

This has never happened before.  Ever.

With great care, Danny selects his chips, juice box and helps me make a peanut butter sandwich.  Yeah, a peanut butter sandwich--the first sandwich he has eaten all year.  That's how cooperative he's being.

When I tell him he can't wear his beloved Crocs on the field trip, he gamely answers, "Okay" and retrieves his gym shoes (the shoes that he normally refuses to wear) and places them carefully by the kitchen door.

Later that night:
I toss and turn, worrying about all the things that could go wrong on the field trip.  Would he get lost?  Would the play overwhelm or scare him?  Would anyone sit with him on the bus?   Holy crap, I forgot to review his phone number with him.  What if he wanders to the bathroom while everyone is loading the bus and they leave him there?  Would he even know what to do if that happened?

This morning:
I silently pray and pray and pray that everything will be okay.

I make sure Danny's lunch is in his book bag, and I give him a substantial breakfast.  I think to retrieve an index card and write the following on it:  "My name is Danny.  I have autism.  This is my phone number:  555-1123."   I hope that no one will use this information to hurt him.

I put the card in Danny's pocket after explaining to him what it's for, that he should give it to an adult if he gets lost.

Then, after explaining again what the play will be like, I impulsively pull out half a pack of gum.  I give it to him to put in his pocket and make sure to instruct him to save some for the play, as it might get noisy.  I also tell him not to play with it or show it to the other kids.

I drop Danny off at school with an extra big hug and kiss, telling him to have a fantastic time.

Later today:
I spend a lot of time praying.  Begging God not just to keep him safe and help him listen to directions, but I ask God to let my son have a total blast on his trip.  After all the stress this year has brought to him, he deserves to have one terrific day that delights him.  I tell God in no uncertain terms that He owes that much to Danny.

Then, I feel slightly guilty for telling God how to do His job, but not guilty enough to take back my words.  I really do mean it, and I think God understands.

I try not to worry as I watch the clock to determine where he is at this moment.  Did the noise on the bus bother Danny?  He should be at the museum now--he's been there a couple times before, so I'm pretty sure he'll have fun.

What I'm most worried about is that play.  A musical?  Really?  Why did they have to choose a flashy, noisy, sometimes scary musical?

I spend too much time on Facebook to distract myself from the thought of Danny and his trip.

3:15 this afternoon
I pick Danny up from school with my stomach in knots, wondering how Danny will be.  Will he be totally crabby and overstimulated?  Will he be upset and have a stress headache as he's been doing in recent weeks?

Dan gets in the car and I ask, "How was the field trip, Danny?"

"Pretty good.  Hey, Charlotte, wanna play Angry Birds when we get home?" Danny responds.

Danny finally reveals information about the trip.  Here's his review:  "The museum was a lot of fun, but the bus ride was waaaaaay too long. Mom, we were in the bus FOREVER and it was very, very noisy!"

"What about the play?" I ask.

"I didn't like it.  People SANG, mom.  I thought it was going to be like a movie.  I had fun playing at the museum, though."

I realize--not for the first time- that I am a crazy, slightly obsessive lunatic when it comes to Danny.  I resolve to work on that.  Later.

I take a deep breath, the most relaxed I've been all week, and thank God the day is over.  Danny had a good time.  And that's all that counts.


Susan Lindgren said...

sounds about right. Anxiety it's a funny thing sometimes.
I told my kids today a friend was picking them up from school and they had like a million questions. I told my friend "They were all anxious I don't know where they get it?" My friend knowing me just laughed.

lazymazei said...

Field trips are always my nightmare. He had one to the beach last year that gave me many, many sleepless nights until it was over. Just like with you, it ended up going very well. And what a great thing that he was so motivated to do this on his own!

You are not a crazy over protective mom, you are a mom of an autistic child. Big difference.

AutismWonderland said...

YAY YAY YAY!!! How wonderful - I know you must be super proud of Danny!

But if Norrin were to say "No mom I don't want you there" I would find a corner to cry in. :(

I guess at some point, we have to just them go. And hope. They really do keep surprising us


Stimey said...

You know what you did? You listened to him and you gave him the tools he needed and he rocked it. Good for him. Good for you. Such a great post to read tonight. Thank you.

Lizbeth Cole said...

You are a better mom than I...I would have been velcroed/bungee corded/whatever to that bus without him knowing. Sounds crazy all written out like that, eh??? Anyway, you did great. There is nothing worse than that fear--of everything that could go wrong. The possibilities are endless. But you held on, let him fly and he soared. Well done!!!

gretchen said...

This just broke my heart! I was right there with you! Good for Danny - sounds like it was a big step. And...I think God understands too.

Lexi said...

You have a lot of faith. I would have gone. If he didn't want me, I would have followed in the car and lurked and jumped out at the moment he started to show any signs of freaking out.

Good for you. And Stimy is right, you gave him the tools he needed and he rocked it!

You live 92 miles from my sister. So I could live right in between you and it would be fabulous.

Mom2LittleMiss said...

Wow. You are absolutely amazing - you and Danny BOTH rocked this field trip! You have so much to be proud of :-)