I slowed to turn left into the church where the Harvest Festival was being held. As I noticed all of the people and the lines, my heart sank and my stomach turned to knots. I knew waiting in line for Lincoln was still a huge struggle. I thought about turning around, but remembered Lucas’ face at previous events when I’d changed my mind. He would be heartbroken, especially after we had talked about it all morning. I reminded myself that Lincoln had come so far, I was just being negative and too presumptuous. I reminded myself of scripture and began praying over him that he would be calm, that he had the mind of Christ and we could do anything we set our minds to. Nothing was impossible, not even a simple trip to a fun event.
I got out of the car, fixed Maddi’s hair that she had taken out and put her boots back on. I went around to the back of the car to get the stroller. As I opened the hatch, I realized I only had the single stroller and it was a 2-year-old’s size, not Lincoln’s size at age 4. My heart sank again. I strapped Lincoln in the pink stroller with his feet hanging very close to the ground. I looked at him and said, “Lincoln say, ‘I have the Mind of Christ.’” In his adorable little voice, he said, “I have the mind of Christ Mom.” I continued with, “I can do anything I set my mind to, I am peaceful and I am calm. I know how to listen, I know how to wait.” I went through the whole list adding in all of the scriptural-faith-confessions I could think of. He repeated everyone. I felt better when he loudly exclaimed, “Let’s go Mom!”
We made our way through the parking lot. I met my friends and we walked to the area where the event was. Lincoln started pointing and saying, “This way, Mom” as soon as he saw the moon bounces. We were quickly approached by a volunteer asking us to register first. We made our way to the first of many lines. As we waited, Lincoln grew impatient and practically stood up in the stroller, dragging it with him. I decided to let him out so Maddi sat in it instead. I tried to hurry filling out the form. It asked for everything from the kid’s ages to our address and if we needed prayer.
Lincoln went running across the lawn and I dashed after him calling out to my friends to please watch my other 2 kids for a minute. By the time I caught up with Lincoln he had cut in front of twenty kids and was making his way across the obstacle course moon bounce. A lady started yelling at him that he needed to listen and there were rules. I thought to myself, “Yeah we will see how far that gets you.” I finally caught up with her and grabbed her arm long enough to interrupt her yelling and I said, “Ma’am, he has autism….he’s not going to listen to you.”
I cringed as the words came out because I hate confessing that over him as I am a faith believing, super positive, get results kind of girl. I don’t want people to define him by that or use it as an excuse. But sometimes, like this time…it just is what it is. I couldn’t help but think how fired up she was to be monitoring a kid’s moon bounce. It was very obvious that she was a stickler for the rules. Her demeanor softened as she helped me get him out of there. Lincoln greeted me with a huge smile. He was obviously not worried about the rules.
I grabbed Lincoln and when he realized we were done with the moon bounce, he began to flail and kick. I met my friends and fought Lincoln to put him back in the stroller. My friends offered to take Lucas and let me handle Maddi and Lincoln. I was relieved. I decided to let Lincoln have a clown make him a balloon. I thought for sure that would be easier. The girl in front of us had FIVE balloons made. I couldn’t help but notice that this volunteer wasn’t a stickler for the rules like the other lady. Lincoln was quickly losing the little bit of patience he had found. By the time she finished his balloon, he had already noticed the rubber duckies next to us that I had been trying to shield from his vision. He went ballistic, screaming, “I want duckies, I want duckies.” He threw his balloon on the ground. I tried to talk him down, all while smiling as I pushed him and trying to ignore the people that stared. Looking back, I’m sure we were a sight to see; Maddi dancing like a ballerina in her tutu and pigtails oblivious to her brother’s tantrum and me in my heeled boots fighting my 4 year old son into the pink stroller. I felt like we reeked chaos.
I let my friends know that I needed to go to the car, that Lincoln was done. They kept Lucas and said they would catch up with me in a few. Maddi began running across the parking lot so I had to chase her, then carry her while I pushed Lincoln. He screamed the whole way back to the car. Once I got the stroller and Maddi loaded, I just put him in the front seat as he continued to scream, “I want duckies!” I loudly put on some praise and worship music and cried my eyes out.
I cried because that day I was tired of the struggle. I cried for all of the times I hadn’t been able to cry before. My heart hurt for me and it hurt for my kids, all three of them. I just wanted to have a normal day of fun watching all of my children play. I wanted Lincoln to conquer this day. Yet here I was, missing Lucas ride a pony and not getting to have Maddi’s sweet little face painted, all because Lincoln couldn’t handle it.
As I continued to cry, I noticed Lincoln was completely calm. We exchanged eye gaze for a moment and then he got right in my face and said, “I sorry Mom” and he wrapped his arms around me. There was no denying that he understood what was going on. I felt like I was seeing him in a totally different light free from the barriers of autism. I told him I was sorry too. Then I cried for a new reason. He may have not conquered waiting in line that day, but I had just watched him conquer something entirely new, empathy and emotions. That made the entire, hard day totally worth it.
**This was a writing assignment for the "Autism Oklahoma Writers' Club."