This morning, Philip and I met my parents, two of my aunts and four cousins at the local Masonic Temple for the last pancake breakfast until the fall. I came prepared with one of Philip’s plastic forks and a bagful of distractions for when he finished eating.
I got a plate for Philip with scrambled eggs, sausage and a slice of French toast. I managed to get Philip to eat one forkful of egg before he moved onto the sausage. Next time, I’ll make sure that I don’t have the sausage on the plate until Philip eats some more eggs. On the upside, he used his fork to eat the sausage. Sure, sometimes he picked up the sausage with one hand to place it on the tines of his fork in his other hand, but he was still feeding himself with a utensil.
After Philip finished the sausage link and rejected the eggs, I cut up a few bites of French toast. Philip didn’t want them. I assumed that he was finished and decided that what was left on the plate would become my breakfast. I grabbed the syrup and poured some on the French toast.
I was cutting off a piece of the French toast when Philip grabbed my fork. He took the fork and ate the French toast. With syrup. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know whether I’ve always assumed he wouldn’t like the texture of syrup or if I had once tried serving him pancakes or waffles with syrup only to have them rejected. All I know is that he proved me wrong once again, and I’m not complaining. He ate about half the slice of French toast. Hurray! We can add another food to the repertoire!
After breakfast, we stopped at the playground across the street to get out some energy and kill time until the library opened. My dad had to go to work, so Grandma joined us. After a few minutes of play, we went to the library, dropped Grandma off at her house and then went home.
Since the weather was sunny and warm, I decided I would take him to the local spray park.
I had considered taking Philip to the spray park last summer after we moved here, but I never got up the nerve. Despite knowing how much he loves water, I was too afraid to take him. I worried that he wouldn’t play safely and appropriately around other kids. My biggest concern, though, was that he might run off. I kept thinking that maybe my mom and I would take Philip, but suddenly summer was over, and I had missed the chance.
The spray park opened up at the beginning of the month. The opening weekend was much too chilly, and my schedule just didn’t work out last weekend. But I knew this was something I just needed to try.
I put Philip in a pair of those diapers for swimming and his swim trunks. I grabbed sunscreen, towel, snacks and juice, loaded Philip in his stroller and walked him to the park.
Yes, we live within walking distant of the spray park. The return trip is uphill, but it only takes about fifteen minutes each way. The weather was clear and the humidity was low. No more excuses.
When we arrived, I parked the stroller by one of the chairs set up around the water equipment. There were only a handful of other children and parents there. That made me feel better. I took off Philip’s shirt, slathered on sunscreen and let him out of his stroller.
He ran away from the spraying water.
I was momentarily stymied until I realized that he had spotted some murals along the walking path where we had entered. He wanted to look at them closer.
I let him examine the paintings and then guided him back to the water. He squealed with delight watching the water splash nearby.
He was smiling and laughing, and he hadn’t even got into the water yet. In fact, it took him a while to actually work up the nerve to touch the water.
I stood by, anxiously watching. Soon, I realized that he was too pre-occupied with the water to think about running off.
He did take a break from the water to run a few laps around the one area. I heard other parents scold their children for doing the same saying, “Don’t run.” Me, Mom of the Year, I was thinking, “Good, run another lap. Wear yourself out before nap time.”
I eventually relaxed enough that I actually sat down on the edge of one of the chairs. Philip also got braver, standing a bit closer to those buckets that slowly fill with water until they tip. He did not, however, get brave enough to stand beneath the buckets. I heard the water was cold, so I can’t say that I blame him.
I eventually reduced my vigilance enough that I could sit back in the Adirondack chair. I still kept an eye on Philip, especially since the park was getting more crowded as it got closer to noon. Many families were arriving with a picnic lunch to enjoy while at the park.
As I leaned back, I noticed that Philip looked just like any of the other kids at the park. Every once in a while he would rock, but he played and had fun just like the other kids. I did worry about the fact that he wasn’t trying to keep an eye on me. At our autism diagnosis, the psychologist noted that his lack of “checking in” with us as parents was a symptom. I let this bother me for a moment, but then I watched the other kids. Most of them were too busy playing to see if mom or dad were watching, too.
I’m thinking that, when the weather cooperates, I’ll start taking Philip to the spray park on Saturdays after our library trip. Now that we’ve had one successful visit under our belts, I don’t want to waste any more opportunities.