One of the more difficult parts of having an autistic child is that there are no guarantees that extended family will understand the situation.
We often host family members here at our house. Part of that is because we are lucky to have a spare room we can loan out. The other part is the fact that Adrian limits our travel. Family has to come to us or we don’t see them at all.
Recently I got a call from my grandfather though. His 90th birthday is coming up and they’re having a big party, of course! They want us to come.
If only it were that easy.
They live nearly 5 hours away. We’ve had problems with Adrian on a 2 hour car trip. And by problems, I mean him banging car windows, trying to escape the car, hurting others in the car, … ya know, really bad stuff. The kinda stuff that makes it unsafe to drive but you don’t dare stop cause you’re just so desperate to get him home and end the nightmare.
Then there’s the fact that it would require an overnight stay. Um, I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to be able to get away. I love hotels. I love vacations. I love road trips (where the afore-mentioned nightmare doesn’t occur).
But hello! We can’t do hotels with Adrian. We have tried. We’re lucky they didn’t kick us out. And that was long before his man-sized tantrums began. Before the aggression, before the holes in the walls and destroyed property. We simply can’t take him to a hotel.
And then there’s the party. Adrian can’t attend. Not only would he be disruptive but he’d be miserable… and guess what his behavior is like when he’s miserable? He can’t handle crowds or noise. We can’t even take him to a restaurant without significant problems.
So where does that leave us? Well, it’s not looking good. But they really want us to come so they offer suggestions. “Can’t Chris stay at the house with him while we’re at the party?” “Can’t you can the other kids come?”
Um, no. See, Adrian experiences a lot of anxiety when I’m gone. And can you guess what his behavior is like when he’s anxious? Every moment Adrian isn’t in school, I’m the primary caretaker. I have to be.
Couple weeks ago I left my husband home with Adrian for an hour and a half. I came back and Adrian had put a new hole in the wall, broken a window screen and was physically fighting with my husband. It’s not my husband’s fault. Adrian’s anxiety when I’m not around pushes him over the edge. My husband works and so he spends much less time caring for Adrian and can’t always see the signs and catch him before he’s gone over into tantrum land.
Besides all that, there’s some sorta testosteroni thing going on there. Adrian tries to get my husband going. He will do things purposefully that he knows will anger my husband (hitting me, for instance) and laugh, as if to say, “What you gonna do about it?” It’s not a good plan to leave these two alone right now.
Again, I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to get away for a couple of days. I spend a crazy amount of time daydreaming about just that. But right now, it just can’t happen. It’s not safe.
So that leaves us with what? Well, Adrian isn’t going anywhere and since I have to be with him, I’m not going anywhere. The only option left is to send my husband with the other 3. Yeah, he’s married into this family, remember? That alone makes it weird.
Add to it that he’d be leaving me and Adrian home alone. Again. Yeah, I’m not gonna lie. I cried last time that happened. It’s really hard to have to be constantly left behind.
Most of this was explained to my grandfather and his wife over the course of the phone call. They say they understand but you can feel it, they don’t really. They want us to come and they can’t quite wrap their brains around the possibility that there is no way.
I love my grandfather and I wish things were different. I want to be the granddaughter he wants me to be. But I can’t do that and also be the mother Adrian needs me to be.