Dare to Compare
A few weeks ago my family and I went on a trip to Southern California to escape the frigid winter. It was the best trip we've ever taken together. It was also the first vacation we had been on since finding out about the twins' Autism. We had been on two other vacations with the boys before this one. Neither of those trips were a walk in the park. I am not saying that this last trip was easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was completely manageable. This is all I could have asked for because manageable is a huge improvement over the hell we have endured in past years. It was also a great measurement of how far we have come as a family since being properly introduced to the world of Autism. It allowed me to take a mindful look at how wonderfully the boys are doing. We are working together super well these days. It's taken an enormous amount of hard work to get us to this place. Not only do we seem to have it together, but we actually have it together. This is positive progress. The therapies are working. We have a schedule that we can thrive around. We have the most amazing support team. The pieces are totally falling into place and we are killing it as a family unit. That being said, it is never easy to be us. Things are seemingly getting easier because we are working harder. That's the secret. Do more, expect less, and never settle for mediocre results if you can help it.
We spent one of our vacation days on Coronado Island. The views there are beautiful, and I wanted some family pictures taken on the beach before we went home. I also wanted to allow the boys some time to play. The water on the west coast is cold, in general, and since it was December I had hoped that the boys would only want to spend a limited amount of time in the ocean. Meaning, they would get out of the water on their own, without a fight. It was a good transition plan. When we arrived at the beach the boys were in their trusty double stroller. As part of our family safety plan the boys go into the stroller and stay there as long as possible when we are in public. This plan serves many purposes. It keeps the boys safely strapped down, and provides shade and comfort. As they have gotten older and become more independent this plan has had to be modified. Since, you can only go so far on a beach with any stroller we parked ourselves near a palm tree and unpacked the kids. This is where things get tricky! Letting the boys go to run and play freely on the beach is fine if they stay close, but letting them run freely near the water was a huge concern. It wasn't an option to skip any part of the experience that this day had to offer. I refuse to accept that my sons' experiences will be limited because they have Autism. So, this is what we did. We used toddler leashes.We put the boys in bathing suits and put the leash around their waists, as it was designed, and strapped them to our wrists. You can see in the picture above how this worked out. The boys were able to run around in the surf without us fearing for their safety. Big Daddy, and I took turns with the boys so that the other could get some pictures. It could not have worked out better. We all had a great time running and playing together. It was a really special day for my family. I was proud of how it went, but at one point in the day I overheard a family harshly criticizing the toddler leash situation. I get that it looks different, so I tried to ignore it, but it bothered me that another family saw fault in our parenting. Especially, on a day, when things were going so well.
I know that I was doing my best for my kids, and in a perfect world I would have been able to stop this family and give them some education on why my boys were wearing these toddler leashes. I would assure them that the situation was thoroughly thought out beforehand, and given a short lesson on Autism. The family would have been appreciative of my explanation, and would tell me "good job" before I let them go on about their day. It would be magical. This is not a perfect world! I heard the criticism, and it reminded me that we have limitations other families do not experience or understand. It reminded me that there are people ready and willing to judge my every move as a parent without realizing that we have these limitations. It reminded me that we have to work harder than others to have the kind of day that we had that day. I was reminded of the loneliness that I experience as a special-needs mother. It bothered me, it truly did, but it will never deter me from giving my kids an extraordinary childhood. I am sure that there is more judgement on its way as the boys get older. It is probably going to hurt my feelings, and cause me to question myself. But, I dare those with criticism to compare themselves to my family. I am certain that my kids have amazing parents who care a whole lot. I am confident that my family is not falling short. And, as long as my kids are happy I could care less about how my parenting looks, even if our best days draw outside criticism. We are doing amazing regardless of the judgement.
The Millennial Twin Mom