Last week, I shared a post about our family’s summer vacation. Despite the short business trip that took my husband away for a few days and that exhausting night that Ronan stayed wide awake until 3am, it was one of the best family vacations we’d ever had. I got to sit by the sea, the kids reconnected with friends they’d made last year, and Ronan ended up enjoying himself while we were up north.
I’m always glad that Ronan is able to adjust to the major changes that come with a road trip. The long drive, the new scenery, the drastic changes to his routine - it’s encouraging that he can adapt. It isn’t always an easy transition going from our home to staying temporarily at someone else’s house. With Ronan being able to adapt last week, like he did on a previous vacation, it keeps me hopeful that we’ll continue to be able to go away as a family in the future.
We should all be away again this weekend. Our oldest niece is getting married. But a back-to-back road trip just wasn’t in the cards. Autism helped destroy that plan. We could’ve certainly tried to get all 7 of us there, but a 12-hour car ride with Ronan on Friday plus a 12-hour return trip on Sunday didn’t make sense. That, plus having to spend two nights in a hotel instead of in the comfort of a friend’s house (who absolutely understands and doesn’t mind children with autism staying up until 3am) was not possible.
Ronan hasn’t stayed in a hotel in years. The last time he did, things didn’t end well. Not only did he stay awake till all hours of the night, he’d stayed up and laughed most of the night, too. After the evening shenanigans, it was no shock that he’d be exhausted and miserable the next day. Signing “no” to the proposed activities or “home” when we asked what he wanted to do were clear indicators that he was ready to beat feat far away from the fun the rest of us were trying to have. Not wishing for a repeat of that weekend away, which was similar to two other trips that required hotel stays, we brainstormed different options for this weekend.
After going back and forth with ideas for several weeks, we knew that our options were limited. We discussed all of them and every single potential scenario we could think of. With how formal this weekend would be – the church, the ceremony, the vows, the reception, the professional photos, we were left with one option – split up. Since it was a niece on my husband’s side of the family getting married, we decided that he’d go to the wedding. Flying was out of the question, so we planned for him to head south with some of the kids with him. I’d stay home with Ronan and the others. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, especially because some of us would be missing out on a monumental occasion, but it’s what our family had to do.
It isn’t the first time the family’s had to split up. We do that weekly for Sunday Mass. We do that for Ronan’s siblings’ sports and school events all of the time. But this weekend is one that we’d hoped that we could all be together to witness and to a bride and groom begin a new life together. As much as I’d like to be there with husband and extended family to celebrate, it’s my turn to stay home.
As my niece promises to have and to hold her husband from this day forward until death do they part, I’ll be tending to Ronan’s needs and his wants. His needs are great, and his wants are simple. He doesn’t want to sit in a church. He doesn’t want to sit still and be quiet. He doesn’t want to wear a starched shirt and tie. He doesn’t want to stand and smile for photos either. I’d love nothing more than for him to be able to do all of that and to also want to do all of that. But Ronan prefers to be home. That’s where he is most comfortable. It’s where most of his need
s are quickly and loving met. Sure, he can have fun elsewhere, and yes, he proves time and time again that he’s capable of participating in some outings and some formal events. But lately, those moments are few and far between. To ask him to be on his very best behavior so far from home after just coming back home could be too much.
Just as my niece will make her vows, I, too, have made a promise. Mine was made to Ronan and includes keeping him safe and healthy and happy. I’d like for all of us to be elsewhere and together, but that promise will be carried out this weekend here at home. Sacrifices aren’t always easy to make, but the ones that are made with Ronan’s best interest in mind and fulfilled only with love are the best kinds to make.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.