As a kid, Labor Day weekend to me suggested a final barbecue before the end of summer. These days, the thought of proactively adding more chemicals to the atmosphere seems mildly perverse. Besides, Mother Nature gave us West Coasters her own barbecue for Labor Day, not a finale but a harbinger: record temperatures and ashy smoke all over the coast plus Los Angeles’s biggest fire ever. (Good thing we know none of that could possibly have any relation to Hurricanes Harvey or Irma!)

Mother Nature has also given us a screamy autistic child, and as these two systems overlapped – his autism plus triple-digit heat – we thought to improve both by heading to Point Reyes for the Labor Day weekend. As it turned out, Dar still found a way to make us…well, labor.

Wifey didn’t think we’d need layers for the kids, but when we got out of the car near the lighthouse, it was clear that we did. Good old Point Reyes Lighthouse! Bone-chillingly cold during almost every day of my childhood, I see that by 2200 it’ll be like Acapulco. On Labor Day weekend it was about sixty-five degrees with a lot of wind chill. Very pleasant. I think Dar liked it, although it was hard to tell. We ran into his first-grade teacher there, which was especially random.

We drove to a beach called Heart’s Desire, which deserves neither appellation, being neither beach nor desirous. It was barely a sliver of sand, overtaken by half of the residents of Marin County, making it resemble a more Latina Riviera. And it wasn’t beachy, but more lakey, with naught more than the most minor tide from Tomales Bay lapping up against the shore.

One reason to take Dar to beaches is that in theory, water distracts him. But during the previous weekend, taking Dar to Lake Anza suggested a revised theory: calm water doesn’t really distract him enough. At Heart’s Desire, as at Lake Anza, he was happy for about an hour, but then started in with his things.

His things are: sticking out his right hand limply to us as though to say “help me.” When met with any kind of resistance from us, his eyes close and his mouth opens, as though someone is literally twisting his arm to cause him pain. If this isn’t addressed to his satisfaction, he sometimes screams, sometimes flops on the floor (in this case, sand/muck) with more mouth-gaping.

I made an executive decision at 2:00pm: we would leave Heart’s Desire and drive across Point Reyes to an ocean-facing beach. This wasn’t as easy as it sounded. For one thing, it had taken us forever to park nearby, walk to the beach, and find a shady spot. For another thing, Point Reyes ain’t small, and it would take us at least an hour to drive to the new beach, which would also likely be very crowded.

It was a great decision. Limantour Beach was all we ever needed. Turns out that yes, Dar loves big waves and can happily dance in the lapping surf for hours on end. This worries wifey more than me. Dar refuses to get more than knee-deep, and I don’t truly believe that any kid standing on a normal beach has been dragged out to sea from knee-deep position (whatever the parents may have told a gullible media).

So did we solve last week’s car problem? Well…yes and no. Turned out that, over the entire weekend, Dar did eventually tire of ocean waves, and demand to take us all to the car. When we said no, it was back to screaming.

When I say (and say, and say) Dar screams, I worry that you, gentle reader, think “Oh yeah, my neuro-typical eight-year-old screams a lot too.” “Oh yeah, I was at my sister’s the other day, and my kids and theirs were screaming the whole time.” As much as I appreciate you trying to find common ground with me, I have to tell you something: No. Dar doesn’t scream “noooooo!” He doesn’t scream “but I wanted it!!!” He doesn’t scream “That’s not fair!!” Although you and I may sometimes call that screaming, it’s really just shouting.

Dar screams. Utterly gutturally. There are no words in the sounds, not the slightest enunciation of a consonant. It’s time to think of the last ten minutes of a horror movie. The sound is primal, piercing, and prolonged.

How do I know your over-seven-year-old kid doesn’t do that? Because I take my kid to crowded beaches, and his screams make every other kid and parent look at us like WHAT THE HELL. They may well assume that we’re beating the tar out of Dar. Outside of a beating or a horror movie, they’ve never heard such a noise from a non-baby. You can tell by their faces.

And yet we still try. And beaches are better than some options, because the ocean noise drowns out a lot.

I’m not saying we’ve got Hurricane Darwin. The sufferers of Harvey and Irma have it worse.

But we do have…labor. And so the weekend wound up appropriately named after all.

On the other hand, we got this photo on Monday. So it’s not ALL bad. Looks like a magazine ad!


Speaking of labor, the beginning of Dar’s school year has become laborious. Sorry, but that’ll wait until next week.