Welp. all praises to tiny baby Jesus that Christmas is over. Next year will be different. I can’t change that my autistic daughter loves the holiday, and associates it with travel and visiting people…and seriously I should be thrilled that she has any happy memories considering all I can remember from her childhood are the endless ‘pick up/drop off” arrangements that every divorced family grapples with. I remember telling everyone that I felt like a party planner for my three kids because I was always arranging transportation, planning food and snacks and ensuring that contingency plans were in place because I still had to work, after all. But that was my bucket of woe. As it turned out all of that work and planning didn’t transfer over to my autistic kid as much as the typically developing ones.
Turns out that my typically developing 24 year old was totally content to spend her holiday completely alone in her apartment far away from her family. Did I do something really right or really wrong with that kid?
I was harboring a lot of negative feelings about traveling against my will over the holiday and thankfully my now husband not only offered to go (which is really not easy for him as he is knee deep in a new position and really didn’t have the time) but he drove the whole way up and back so I could read and chat. He even played the filthy and highly entertaining Gilbert Gottfried podcast which made my autistic daughter laugh just because other people were laughing. He was tolerant of my very rigid bathroom break schedule (only two breaks for a 575 mile trip) and my general crabbiness over the sheer amount of white culture we have to experience when driving through the otherwise gorgeous Appalachians.
And I kinda forgot that I really do like Ohio. I miss my favorite pizza place and my favorite breakfast spot. Columbus really let me down in so many ways, really I let myself down in so many ways when I was there. And the Midwest isn’t a place to reinvent yourself. It’s hard to go back, I haven’t fully forgiven myself for so much.
At some point, when I was alone in the car with the 24 year old adult child who is really a five year old who was the only reason I was there in the first place, I told her that I didn’t like being there and it made me sad. I decided that it may help me if I just said, out loud to her, the real feelings that I had about feeling obligated to go home. I cried just a little and without any anger or resentment I simply stated that I didn’t like going home for Christmas but I understood that she wanted to go and I accepted responsibility as being the best most practical person to take her. She probably didn’t understand my words, or even the intention behind them but she did understand that I was crying and probably sad. She expressed as much sympathy for me as I have ever seen her express which was a pat on the shoulder. When I hugged her and told her that I loved her she told me that she loved me. I’ll never know what is going on in her head but I have no idea what any of my kids are thinking, not really.
I got a weird pang when I dropped her off in her apartment where she will still spend a lot of her time alone. She could go to a day support but she can’t deal with the ever changing transportation and her residential provider does their best to keep her calendar full but she’s not motivated to do much more than eat and watch endless You Tube videos of commercials from the late 1990’s that imprinted on her 3 and 4 year old brain for some reason. I kept thinking “this is her life, not yours” but trying to disentangle your kid’s lives from your own is really, really hard.