Knowing how much work it takes to keep Ronan happy and safe, my sister's family is more than patient with us when we visit. They are more than generous, too. Before we arrive, they've stocked their shelves with safe food items for Ronan to eat because they understand that sore tummies are not easy to deal with. Knowing he's a kid who's prone to wander, they promise to help keep an extra eye on the doors with us when he’s in the house. Fully understanding that Ronan needs some quiet space, one of the cousins takes time to clean up his room for Ronan and offers to sleep on the floor in another bedroom. It's a lot of work to host us, but we never feel like we've overstayed a welcome when we're at my sister's house.
Overloaded with excitement, the siblings were beside themselves with joy when we began to pack our bags to travel to family for Christmas. I was excited, too. I was until a diaper exploded in my sister's washer. If you've never experienced a full diaper exploding in a washer, consider yourself lucky.
Having completely forgotten about it by the time I got to wash a very full load of linens Ronan had peed on in the middle of the night, I was embarrassed. The gel beads from the diaper and the pull up he wears over the diaper each night were everywhere. In his pajamas, all over the full-size afghan throw, and in his socks that I'd washed, it would take 45 minutes to find and remove every single bead. Trying to find the positive after dealing with that mess, I told my sister she now had the cleanest washer in her neighborhood. We laughed because what else can you do in a situation like that?
That wouldn't be the only accident he'd have while we were away, but it would be one of the messiest. Ronan had already peed out all over a living room chair the night before. We've been working on toilet training and have happily made some progress at home, but with the hours of traveling, with the extra snacks and drinks he'd gotten during the day, and with how happily distracted I was visiting with family when we'd arrived, his diaper filled quicker than it usually does. Up went Ronan to the shower to be cleaned up and into the washer that wet mess went.
There was no time to sad or frustrated. Soon, it would be Ronan’s birthday! Turning 15, he was surrounded by extended family the entire day. Later that evening when he saw his birthday cake, his smile lit up the room. Unable to blow out his candles on his own, his siblings and cousins did the honors. What a treat it was to see them step in so quickly to help.
Leaving the house can be difficult, especially during the holidays, but when we get the opportunity to go make memories elsewhere, we can't help be run toward that opportunity. Having people welcome us with open arms, like my sister does, gives us the chance to enjoy being away. Even with the huge messes we end up making, we feel welcomed because we are welcomed.
Christmas is tomorrow, and there's no place I'd rather be than with family. I know that others may not have the support they need during this time of year, but I hope and pray that you are with the people who love you most today. If you are, be present with them for they are who help make you you.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.