Ronan had a spectacular Fourth of July this year. Because his day was good, mine was too.
Instead of being disappointed like I was this time last year, we, meaning me, had already taken it down a notch as far as holiday expectations were concerned. In past years I would have wanted to cram as much fun as possible on a day off. This year, we picked one thing that Ronan could do and that he could do well.
Our family had a few options— play tourist in the big city looking at the sights, hang out with friends across town, or stick around in our own neighborhood joining other families down the street for a block party. All were equally exciting opportunities for us, but we decided that staying closer to home would be the best option.
Being steps away from the amenities of our own home (and all of Ronan’s ‘must-have’ like his iPad, allergy-free foods, favorite movies and such) gave us the chance to celebrate our nation’s birthday with ease. Being well prepared for whatever situation presented itself once we arrived to our neighbor’s house, and the fact that Ronan was willing to do something different, played a big role in the success of our day. Ronan had fun. He played in the pool with the big kids. I had the freedom to actually sit and visit with people. Ronan was melt-down free. He ate a full meal without any fuss which means I ate a full meal with hardly any interruptions. I even had a few conversations with neighbors that I was able to start and finish. I didn’t need to pull out any of our Plan B, or C, or D tricks because Plan A was working so well!
Off to celebrate! Ronan had his headphones, his safe foods and a means to get there and back without tiring.
I always have an escape route mapped out in the back of my mind when we go out—even for our usual spots. But there was no need to scoop Ronan up and bring him home early because of a behavior or misunderstanding as we have had to do at other gatherings.
I knew the time we were able to stay would be shorter than other neighbors would, but the time away from home was stress-free and fun. When the festivities were over, Ronan needed to be redirected away from the neighbor’s pool, but he left without the major tantrum he’s capable of. Once we got back to our house, Ronan quickly got back into his routine as his siblings prepared for the next event—joining other neighbors for fireworks. As much as I love them, I was okay skipping the fireworks this year. Ronan isn’t yet able to handle those. Keeping Ronan home is a safer and better options. So home is where I needed to be too.
Changes and different schedules can cause unfortunate disruptions, but this weekend was upbeat and positive. There were no challenges, only moments that I’ll remember fondly. I can’t predict that every holiday will be like the one we just had, but I’ll hold onto the memories we made as a reminder that good things can and do happen, even on days when I least expect it.
Ronan, looking happy in red, white and blue.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.