Everything about Friday should have been disastrous. Both on paper and based on the knowledge I have of how my non-verbal son handles certain situations at certain times, the entire outing seemed like an exercise in frustration waiting to happen.
After all, his class had been on a trip to the movies that morning and, in his whole ten years of life, Lucas has been to maybe three movies. Prolonged time in a darkened room with expectations of quiet during a booming film isn’t exactly up his non-verbal alley. The few times that my little man went, he was good, but he usually fell asleep. That Friday, he had endured a class trip to movies and, by the time I picked him up, I assumed he’d be in no mood for anything.
For that reason, the plan that I and his friend’s mother made to take them to the Christmas display at Hicks Farm on Long Island was nuts. He shouldn’t have been able to handle it. My instinct just a few years ago would be to politely decline. I was worried before I even arrived to get him from school.
However, I said accepted. We were all going to Hicks and, as I often say, I just need six pictures to register it as a viable memory. Even if he can only take the fun and games for 15 minutes. The plan for his Friday was six pictures and a movie.
A lot has changed over the last few years. Even having a friend is something new for my boy. He’s known Christian since preschool and the two of them are very similar. When I first came up with the idea of getting them together for playdates, I was told by people that it was a waste of time. “He doesn’t care about that stuff” was the reason I was given.
Yet, here we are now and I’ve learned that he does. He does care about that stuff. He might not care in the way that others show joy, but he cares. I know it and I see it. I’m proud that this chapter of his life has been introduced.
The drive out to the farm wasn’t too long, but not too short either. Used to getting an iPad the moment he comes out of the school doors, Lucas wasn’t given one. He and Christian sat in the backseat, playing with handheld Leapfrog toys and periodically putting them down to stare out the window as the scenery drove by. It was peaceful and sweet. The entire ride was the opposite of the assumption one would make given his overwhelming “need” for iPad time.
The truth is that my son just needs to get over the initial speedbumps. He might throw a complete fit over wanting a device or even just transitioning from school to home, but that lasts for one minute if you don’t react right away. Letting him get his emotions out without tossing whatever he wants at him in a fit of fear, always sees him settle down. It’s pretty remarkable. If you survive that minute, you are good to go.
The ride up was a dream, but once we pulled into the parking lot, I braced myself. The exit from the car in a strange parking lot was always cause for concern. Visions of meltdowns danced in my head as I walked around to open his door and undue his buckle. The bracing, I soon learned, was unneeded.
Maybe it was maturity. Maybe it was his mood. Maybe it was seeing his friend walking calmly by his side. Either way, Lucas got out and went in. What followed was a wonderful hour inside of a winter wonderland.
Sure, I was occasionally flashed the “iPad” hand gesture, but he was totally fine when I returned the “wait” sign. There were more hugs than whines by a mile and the pictures added up to many more than six. The day was a ridiculous success.
We walked through the trees, bought some fudge, and shook the giant nutcrackers (the boys’ idea). When a giant blow-up dog popped out of a chimney display right next to him, Lucas kissed it on the nose. Yes, the germ-freak in me was grossed out. The dad in me couldn’t have been happier.
At the end of it all, we had an unforgettable day that, a short time ago, would never have happened. It was beyond his comfort zone and, as a special needs father, would have felt like I was dragging him out for my own benefit. After all, “he doesn’t care about that stuff”, right?
Well, he does. If you never take him to do it, you’ll never know. Even when you do take him to do it, if you handle it the wrong way or don’t pay attention, you’ll never notice. Luckily for him and me, we did take him, we did pay attention, and we did notice.
Days like this are the most magical of all because they could so easily be missed. I’m glad they no longer are. We’re lucky for the opportunities we’re given and smart for making the decision to take them.
DOES MY NON-VERBAL CHILD KNOW ABOUT SANTA CLAUS?
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