I guess I was riding on a euphoric hugging high when I decided to take the Roc and Guinness to the local dog park. I envisioned the Roc and Guinness frolicking among the dogs, the Roc smiling and laughing, giggling as the dogs met and played, reaching out to pet a new dog, at ease in the huge outdoor enclosure, exclaiming to me “look at all the dogs Mommy!”
What can I say? Sometimes I let Autism and all it’s complications slip my mind.
I know, I know. What was I thinking?
I should have talked to the Roc about where the park was located, what it looked like, what the fencing looked like, that we would be going to the dog park before going to the playground and to see the pond fountains, and that there are 2 gates to enter the dog park. I should have told him that all the dogs are off leash inside the enclosure, that there are people at the dog park and many dogs, that the people go with their dogs, and that the people may want to talk to him or his mother, about our dog. I should have explained to the Roc that some dogs will run to him, that some dogs will jump on him, and that some dogs may bark at him. I should have told him that Guinness wouldn’t run with him like he does inside our house, that he would be too busy sniffing dog tushie and would most likely chase other dogs, and not him. I should have warned him that if he threw a ball all the dogs may run after it, not just Guinness, and that Guinness may not be the dog to get the ball and bring it back. I should have set the rule for no screaming, for any reason, unless it involved blood. I should have described the consequences for throwing a tantrum at the dog park.
I should have.
But I didn’t.
Like I said, I kinda forgot about Autism for a minute…
and then we paid the price. Autism doesn’t like to be forgotten.
The Roc seemed excited to go to the dog park, but I should have prepped him. Right away he had a list of complaints: the dogs were too big, there were too many people for him, and they tried to talk to me and him, and then someone laughed when a little fluffy dog barked at him and he got scared. The Roc doesn’t like to be barked or laughed at. Guinness wouldn’t run after him, and he wouldn’t go get the ball the Roc threw for him, other dogs were willing, but that wasn’t good enough. Things were going down hill fast, and I just couldn’t turn it around.
We were there less than 10 minutes before he completely melted down. Guttural screeching, a tomato red face and stiff arms. Everyone averted their eyes, but not before I caught the pure disgust on one woman’s face. I immediately announced that our time was up, hooked on the leash, and drug the Roc and Guinness back to the park entrance. He screamed and flailed, and the poor dog was so confused. I had a hard time wrangling him and it was taking me awhile to get him to go where I wanted him to. A woman waiting for us to move cooed to her little dog: “shush, it’s okay baby,” while I struggled to get the Roc through the gate without letting anyone else’s dog out. I felt the eyes of disdain on my son. I felt the judgment passed on me. I wished things were different. I had had a vision of a fun afternoon at the dog park and then the playground.
But it was not fun.
The Roc hasn’t had a public meltdown in awhile. I forgot how ugly it can be. As I struggled to get the Roc into the car, the cooing lady walked past, and I hoped she noticed the “Autism Awareness” magnets on my car. I try not to care what other people think, but it’s hard not to when it’s directed at my son and my parenting abilities.
The Roc screamed and threw himself around in his car seat when I informed him that we were skipping the playground and the fishing dock that goes out over the pond. He wailed like I was killing him. And he continued a good 2 miles down the road until I turned around and screamed for him to “STOP IT!”
Oy. I always want to immediately suck my scream back as soon as it exits my mouth. But he stopped his terrible screech, I think it’s the shock, it can be like a switch sometimes.
I told him that we had to ride home in silence and I would not talk to him until we got home. He wasn’t silent, but as soon as we pulled in the driveway he said, “Mommy, are you ready to talk now?” and added, “You need to talk nicer to me now,” for good measure. And so after we got inside we talked. We had the discussion we should have had before we attempted the dog park.
I think we’ll wait awhile before making our second attempt, and I’ll make sure to do my prepping homework next time.
I won’t forget about Autism, but I won’t give up on my vision either.