A therapist once told me that it’s important for Dar to continue to try new things. Last weekend was one weekend where he did, thanks to my friend Steve’s wedding in Los Angeles. Road trips are mostly terrific with Dar. The upside is that he loves watching the world go by, and we get to see him happy for hours. The downside is that he keeps tapping his Mom in the passenger seat while she’s trying to relax. Despite his importunements, he really doesn’t need snacks and drinks at all times. I believe he simply uses the fact that he can get her attention any old time and she can’t walk away.
On this blog, I don’t believe I’ve written often enough, or perhaps ever, about the massive amounts of vacay time wifey watches Dar while I chill with our neuro-typical kid. In other words, I get to have all the fun while Moms does all the work. I’m slightly over-stating. Probably some of you wonderful readers would love to walk around tourist sites with a kid who asked you fewer questions. Sure. When I do switch with wifey, there’s a bit of relief that I can now check my phone and not have to think for a few minutes. Sure. But as a rule, wifey is the saint.
Vacay meals are an example. At restaurants, wifey tends to sit next to Dar and “box” him in if possible, keeping him from running around the restaurant and touching other patrons, something he absolutely would do without her. (We love booths.)
Last weekend, while in town for Steve’s wedding, we went to Huntington Gardens in Pasadena and wifey did her usual saintly work. The main difficulty is pulling Dar away from fountains. Occasionally wifey also had to pull Dar away from people. Very rarely did wifey have to deploy the “sorry, he’s autistic and non-verbal.” I may have said it more than she did; I said it once that day, to a father who promptly replied, with a head nod to his kid, “oh, my son is autistic as well.”
Steve’s wedding website said, “CAN I BRING MY CHILDREN?: Unfortunately, though we love yours, the venue is not suitable for kids.”
So we had three choices: a) skip wedding; b) go to wedding, but leave kids at home in Berkeley with someone; c) go to wedding, but leave kids somewhere in LA with someone. (a) was never an option; we love Steve! (And we also feel great affection for celebrities and Southern California.) We have no grandparent help in California, so either (b) or (c) stood to be considerably expensive. But then lo and behold, my friend Daniel (sexy name, there) saved us. He and his lovely family stepped forward to watch our kids while wifey and I partied at the nuptials. And Daniel went even further by housing all four of us at his house in central L.A. for three nights! Dar even got his own room! Daniel and his family are saints.
Regular readers of this blog remember that Dar has made progress with potty-training, but he’s hardly all the way there. I won’t get into more details here, but I’ll just restate something: Daniel’s family consists of saints.
At the wonderful, magical wedding, I was on a dance floor break when I heard the groom hustling everyone to the floor for what he was announcing as the last song. As soon as I heard the first few seconds of drums, I knew it was Paul Simon’s “The Obvious Child,” to which I smiled wryly. Steve no doubt had his own clever reasons for choosing this song, but I had my reasons for dancing and lip-synching “Why deny the obvious child? Why deny the obvious child?” The song ended, I pinged Lyft, and we were back at Daniel’s house 20 minutes later, around 11:15.
And Dar was wide awake, with Daniel and wife watching him. Ugh.
I tried a few tricks, but the one that worked was sports. I told Daniel to put on sports, he put on ESPN showing a closeup interview of some athlete at the post-game mic. I said no, no, Dan, we need sports, like players playing a game. He found hockey. Lovely. Dar watched intently and nodded off within five minutes.
The next day was beach day, and we couldn’t have chosen a better one. Something like 90 degrees inland, yet with cool breezes on the coastline. Wifey always puts water wings on Dar. I think they look silly on a seven-year-old. But this way she (we) needn’t worry that he’s going to fall in. The thing is, he won’t. He loves manmade water fountains, but he’s intimidated by the actual ocean. (Way to know the difference, Dar!) He just wades in up to his ankles, and watches with fascination the ebb and flow of the tide.
For this reason, Dar at the beach (especially in water wings) really equals turning off our brains. It’s like spending the day binge-watching a show. We know he’s happy, we just need to keep everyone sunscreened. And we got to see some great friends as well. I actually drew the short straw by having to accompany Dar’s brother to the rides on the Santa Monica pier (his happiness not being as predictable; “why can’t I do that?”-sort of things), but it was all at least good.
We saved Monday for our drive back to the Bay Area. Dar was fine, though touching wifey too often. We had had this dream of taking PCH/Highway 1 all the way from L.A. to the Bay, but our dream was dimmed by a) fog for miles, b) a weird turn inland at Oxnard (the hell, Oxnard?), and, uh, c) a Saturday landslide that closed Hwy 1 just south of Big Sur. As we drove into a fog-covered Pismo Beach, I was bummed. This would be the final glimpse of the ocean before taking 101 for four more hours to our house. And the day before in Santa Monica, I had been too busy with the second child’s whining to jump into the waves, and now the water would be too cold. And it’s (almost) always too cold in Northern California.
Because I’d/we’d never seen it, on a lark we decided to take a four-mile detour to check out Avila Beach, the local choice of San Luis Obispans. Behold and lo, the beach was beautiful and sun-drenched and empty (pictured in all of this post’s photos). Dar was laughing as we parked. Laughing! And disrobing. And running to the surf. And I was right behind him, switching the usual kid-watching duty with wifey. (I eschewed his water wings this time.) Dar got his feet wet and kept laughing. I got my whole body submerged and kept laughing. It was a perfect last taste of Southern California. It was so perfect, in fact, that Dar didn’t even mind 20 minutes later, when I walked him to the car. (At other such times, he’s pulled his hand out of my grip and scrambled back to the water feature.)
Maybe I should switch kid-watching with wifey more often.