This week I found myself alone in the dark. It was early in the morning (or late at night) & I was standing in the middle of our backyard – an all too familiar scene for me as of late. Standing on the wet grass, fresh from an early morning rain shower, waiting for our sweet baby beagle Finn to do his business – it’s a good thing he’s cute, because in these moments I’m reminded how much easier having a newborn baby is! Ha! Seriously Ad, I don’t want to brag, but I could change a diaper in my sleep perfectly! Now taking a puppy out every couple hours, well that’ll kill your REM cycle in a heartbeat! Putting shoes on to avoid the wrath of the chiggers that have invaded our backyard, and holding a squirmy puppy to ensure no accidents happen as we navigate the stairs, finally getting to the back door and turning the knob… praying that I remembered to shut off the alarm! That is a feat!
Once we’ve made it outside, the still of the night is eerily creepy, and enough to somewhat jolt you awake. Add to that the sound of the wildlife which just happens to be crazy loud – they are probably all gossiping about what a hot mess I am walking a puppy for 20 minutes to do his business because his attention span is that of a flea and every little movement or sound needs to be investigated. Not gonna lie, by the time this entire process is done, I’m wide awake and already overthinking the day!
On this particular day I came in having just swam through the air of humidity and glanced at the weather forecast on my phone - rain. Rain for hours, rain for days, rain, rain, rain. Insert indoor activities for the rest of the for seeable week.
Ok, so seeing that It was now 5am and being up, I started searching online for some sensory friendly indoor activities we could all enjoy.
Ready, set… and nothing.
Yep, I searched every autism website and Facebook support group for the next 2 hours, but there was a big fat goose egg amount of sensory friendly events. Side note: Kind of funny. You’ve recently become obsessed with cracking eggs! Not fancied even in the slightest with eating them, but cracking, now that’s where the fun is!
Now where was I… ah yes,
As I sat somewhat disappointed and a little worried about the potential meltdowns of remaining indoors due to stormy weather, you were now awake and eagerly standing at the window overlooking dark clouds and the impending rain headed our way. You turned around with a face full of nothing but glee and said: “Ms. Mom I want outside please!” Still feverishly searching online, I said: “no no baby it's yucky outside.” Being quite persistent you turned on your skipping record mode and kept requesting to go outside. With only a few sprinkles, I obliged and unlocked the screen door (you’re a wanderer so our house is like Fort Knox) as you happily frolicked through the wet grass and to the swings, which were still wet and hanging over a mud puddle now that the sand was all wet. You dug your feet into the mud, drawing with your toes as you pushed off to swing, squealing with excitement.
I took one look at you and thought, what was I doing? You were telling me exactly what you wanted to do! Outside! Not exactly my cup of tea, I mean extreme humidity and scattered rain showers doesn’t make me jump for joy, but for you, it was a sensory dream!
Seeing that you had no aversions to being dirty or messy (a blessing and a curse) this was exactly what you wanted!
The wet grass, sticky humid air, your soft play sand under your swing now wet and scratchy puddling with water making mud, the breeze as you swung at alarming heights back and forth, smells of dirt rain and flowers, sounds of cars driving by, bees buzzing and birds chirping, the sounds of construction equipment building nearby neighborhoods – all of this. This is what brings you joy. This is what makes you feel grounded. This is your sense of belonging to what feels like a chaotic world. You and mother nature are a match made in heaven with your hyposensitivity to touch (being happiest with a multitude of textures), and your hypersensitivity to sound (not having some 1000 things coming at you at once in unpleasant pitches in confined and acoustically challenging spaces, like grocery stores or auditoriums) all filtered through trees to perfection just for you.
You see Ad, you reminded me that sometimes in this somewhat complicated predictably unpredictable journey, simple is sometimes the answer. I just needed to listen. For so many of your nonverbal years, we grew accustomed to hearing what you had to say through not words but facial expressions or actions. A simple smile could tell us everything. Your face after you had looked out the window told me all I needed to know! Before you even spoke a single “Ms. Mom...” your face told me, Mommy we don’t need to go anywhere, there is a sensory heaven right here in our backyard!
It’s no secret that you like to be outside, with all that searching for sensory friendly events I could’ve saved myself two hours and looked no further than what was right in front of us.
You see Addie, as parents we often fall into the trap of planning our children’s lives, stressing ourselves out along the way hoping the magical day and events we spent so much time planning, live up to their childhood memory expectations.
Why do we do this? Well, there’s probably a thousand deep seeded reasons, but here’s the truth - not every day needs to be master plan of amazingness! Mind blowing right?!
Sometimes I think we as parents forget that a little boredom can spawn the best creativity!
Even chores for children of all ages, with autism or without, can spark an immense sense of accomplishment and joy from the art of following through and completing a project. Leaving a great feeling of pride no one can take away.
So, with this crazy on again off again wet weather, we had a few extra tubbies and our new Roomba (oh my goodness, I love our Roomba) worked overtime cleaning up bits of grass and sand, but life was good right here, at our home.
Just for the record it was not without some tears, your mean mommy did make you wait for a few big storms to pass, much to your dislike. But hey – we had to be safe Ad.
So, this week you gave me a gentle reminder that while the planned outings and events are super fun and are most often a sure fire memory maker in our lives, sometimes the memories are right in front of us, unplanned, unscripted, and effortless.
Thanks for the reminder baby.
I love you.