Sunday, June 3, 2012

Leaving Her Behind

I know you haven't heard from me in awhile.  Every May, my husband and I take a little trip, a mini-vacation, to Las Vegas.  We go to celebrate our anniversary, to relax and reconnect.  We have gone almost every year that we have been married.  We usually go by ourselves, but we occasionally have family that will go as well.  That might sound extravagant to you, but it is vital, almost necessary, for the two of us.  My husband works very hard at his job, and so do I.  We work opposite shifts and opposite days.  Our "free time" is spent attending sporting events, church activities, and running our kids all over town.  We really don't have the opportunity to spend quality time with each other.  That is where Vegas comes in.  We decided to make it a point to get away, to escape from our crazy lives, if only for a few days.

When Katie was little, we used to try and sneak out the door when we were leaving for Vegas.  We would bring her over to my parents house (my parents always watch our kids when we go on vacation), and drop off the kids supplies, try to distract them, and ease outside.  More often than not, Katie would catch on, and be at the door crying as we pulled away.  Not the best way, or most relaxing way, to start a vacation.  I would spend the entire time worrying about her and how she was behaving, and how long she cried for.  Then one year, Katie spied our suitcases out and asked us where we were going.  I was so caught off guard that I told her Daddy and I were going to Vegas.  She asked me, "Who am I staying with?" and I told her grandma and grandpa.  She said, "OK" and never again gave us a hard time.  That was the biggest lesson I ever learned from Katie.  If you tell her the plan, she is more likely to accept it and go along with it.

Leaving behind any children when you are going on vacation is nerve racking.  There are so many things to consider, and to plan for.  So many things to pack, so many scenarios to run through.  When you have a child with a Autism, that list multiplies.  You have to think about their medicine, their feeding schedule, their sleep schedule, their eccentricities, their entertainment, their emotional well being, their propensity to flip out at a moments notice, and their attachment to you.  Fortunately my parents are willing to take it all on, along with my other two daughters, and make an adventure out of it.  But I still have to over plan and map it all out, have multiple discussions with them about the plans for while we are gone.  What seems like a normal, well-adjusted kid can turn into a nightmare when she is hungry or tired, or if her sisters are picking on her. 

I called my oldest daughter my first night on vacation, and she felt the need to tell me that Katie had not slept the night before.  I later found out that this was a huge exaggeration, as she had been up late, but did sleep.  Not knowing the truth, I myself had a minor meltdown, in Vegas, thinking that Katie was going to be overstimulated and a mess without any sleep.  I was envisioning major temper tantrums, chaos of all kinds, while I was on the other side of the country unable to do anything about it.  My husband calmed me down, and reassured me that my parents were not only capable of handling Katie, but they enjoyed doing it and that everyone would be fine.  I know this, I know this, I know this, but the rational mind and the emotional mother do not always walk hand in hand.  The next time I talked to my daughter, I informed her that I did not want her tattling on her sisters while I was gone, because I was unable to enjoy myself if I was worrying about them.  The bottom line is, my parents are loving, doting grandparents, are fully Katie qualified, and have been for years.  They have seen her at her worst, and they know how to get the best out of her as well.  Nothing is going to happen to her or her sisters while I am gone, that would not happen when we are home.

Leaving Katie is one of the hardest things that I do.  In my heart I want to put her in that bubble, to protect her, and keep her safe next to me.  I also want to protect others, or to not burden them, concerning all the difficulties and baggage that comes with caring for Katie.  But to be the best mom that I can, and to be the best wife that I can, I need to take some time out for me and my husband.  I also need to let Katie form some independence and learn how to manage without us.  It does get easier as she gets older, because I can see how much she enjoys her little vacation over her grandparents.  Grandparents let you eat a lot of ice cream, stay up past your bed time, and run around without your shoes on.  It is nice to let her go be spoiled, nice to nurture the bond she has with my parents.  I have to admit, however, when I go on vacation, I miss my Adventures in Autism. 

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