My Special Needs Son Isn’t Why I’m Late, But He’s Why I Might Leave Early

Having a child is like having a built-in excuse for being late. You can roll up to the family event or general function, 20 minutes past the agreed-upon time, and act frazzled as you stumble through the door. The overall assumption, of course, is that the kids are to blame.

Sometimes you can even play into that. You roll your eyes and let out a sigh while motioning in their pint-sized direction. Madison wouldn’t get her shoes on or Jaden wouldn’t buckle his belt. Everyone can relate and appreciate the plight, with only a select few privately suspecting that you’re full of beans. They get it. Having kids is tough. It’s all good. Take your sweet time. We waited for you before we served dessert.

This is true ten times over for a special needs parent. I know this because for three years, it was only my daughter. People were understanding about tardiness, but the treatment wasn’t the same as it was after my son was born and started to show signs of delay

I could show up an hour after birthday cake with an unzipped backpack full of baby wipes and devices and no one says boo. They all assume that my non-verbal child must have been “melting down” or “sensory overload” or whatever phrase they picked up last April. I’m not only given a free pass, but the assumption that my son is the reason I’m late.

Uh, no. He’s totally not the reason.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes he’s the reason, just like anyone else. There are days when he’s being a little fussbudget, crying for food or reaching for dangerous electrical cords he thinks might have iPads attached to them. He’s not always on his best behavior.

He’s also not always on his worst either. Sometimes, it’s my daughter’s fault that we’re late. On rare occasions, it’s mine. Sometimes it’s just an act of nature. Sometimes, however – just sometimes – we don’t even want to go. Yeah, sorry. We stopped at Starbucks and drove around in circles for 45 minutes listening to 90s music on Spotify. We just weren’t feeling it.

in the car

Honestly, there are plenty of times when Lucas is the least stressful part of my day. Sure, he requires care and help for things that other boys his age might not, but he’s also a smile when you need it the most. He will give me a hug or kiss on the cheek for no reason other than the fact that I’m in front of him. He lights up many of my days. Getting him in the car is as simple as saying, “Get in the car.”

Those party-excusers might not know that side of him because it usually happens when we’re alone or in places he’s comfortable with. He’s at his best when he’s relaxed with the people he loves. When out in potentially enticing environments, Lucas’s behavior can fluctuate. The same ones assuming he’s the reason I’m late almost exclusively see him in large gatherings, away from his most relaxing of localations. They make the assumption that he caused my lateness to arrive because, well… he can definitely be the reason I need to depart early.

Social gatherings can get overwhelming for my kid and not just in the ways that people read about in blue pamphlets. He doesn’t cover his ears or scream in pain. Rather, he’ll become very intense with his device or run around manically, fixated on finding food. His face gets red and his eyes look exhausted. It’s at this time that I know he’s a powder keg waiting to blow. I’ll do anything to protect him from that happening. Driving around in the car evens him out. That’s why we have to go. Like now. Sorry. Thanks for the invite. Happy Birthday. Now move.

At home, though, that doesn’t happen much, if at all. Home is Lucas’s place. It’s where his routine is routine and all his stuff lives. He knows where to find his bed, where I keep the Pirate Booty, and which television he wants to watch. Seeing him stomp around like the Lord of the Manor is one of my favorite things. He’s in his element and perfectly content.

People knowing all of this is important to me. It’s why I don’t allow him to be my scapegoat, even if he’s not aware of it to be offended. While I have an incredible bond with him, I recognize that some people might never understand how to get to know him. That being true, it’s my responsibility to present him to those people. If I sign off on him being the constant cause of stress and chaos, that’s how they’ll see him. He’s not and they shouldn’t. So, I don’t.

So, now you get it. But, by all means, don’t wait for our arrival. Show the vacation videos, serve the roast pig, and open the Christmas crackers without us. We’ll be there soon. Just grabbing some lattes and listening to Candlebox. Lucas is sleeping in the back.



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