I have to admit it.  A lot of the time lately, I don’t see autism.  I just see a happy little six year old boy, playing, learning and growing.  In a lot of ways, I’ve become complacent.  And so, true to form, that complacency has bitten me in the behind, in the form of karma.  I make the wrong choice.  And the choice ended up causing my son angst, which then, in turn, made me feel awful.

Wednesday, as everyone in the world knows, was Halloween.  Last week, I posted photos of my son’s costume choices.  He knew Halloween was coming.  He knew there was trick-or-treating involved.  He knew it so much that I figured he was okay with it.

Yeah, neither hubs nor I could do this…

He talked of Halloween all year.  His costume choices were varied.  He went through phases where he wanted to be a car.  No, not a race car driver, but an actual car.    Have you ever looked for a “car” costume?  Not available. I’m no Karla or Allie so definitely not available.

Then he went through a phase where he wanted to be Elvis.  That was do-able.  And I thought it was adorable!  But then that phase waned and he wanted to alternate between being Elvis, and being a “cheerleader.” He had repeatedly watched an episode of Batman where there were cheerleaders and he liked how they shouted rhymes, spelled things out and shook these awesome things called pom-poms.

As we headed into October, he decided he wanted to be a shark.  He was determined so I bought the costume.  Then I found the puppy costume he did not get to use last year because he was sick (And, truthfully? Thinking back on last year, I was relieved to avoid the whole Halloween meltdown scene…)  So, we alternated between the puppy and the shark.  Then, at the last minute, I saw something on clearance that I could not resist.  A tiny part of my brain was thinking of Toots’ comfort.  No mask.  No tight fitting or heavy, hot costume.  It was perfect.

He practiced trick-or-treat at our office.  He did it with ease.  He was ready.

I wasn’t worried.  During the day, he was at school for half the day.  No one was allowed to wear costumes.  But as one of the Wednesday school volunteers, I made up treat bags full of delicious candy and brought them in for Toots and all his classmates.  While this seemed a bit out of sorts for Toots, he handed out the bags with the help of his tutor and I, and managed a few “Happy Halloween!”s without making eye contact with anyone or anything.

This should have been a clue.  But it wasn’t.

How funny! Toots and his swim instructor wearing the same swim trunks…

Before it got dark, we headed off to Toots’ second swim lesson.  He was so happy at swim.  So relaxed.  There were not many kids there.  I even remarked on that fact.  Still, complacent.  The plan was to attend swim and then do the usual trick-or-treat at the mall.  The same trick-or-treat Toots has done for four of the six years of his life at the same place.  With the same people.  Routine.  Routine…

It never crossed my mind that trick-or-treat might not go smoothly.

So after swim, Toots was dressed in his “good” vampire costume.  “Good” vampires do not drink blood.  “Good” vampires drink clear Kool-Aid.  So, the “good” vampire and I headed to the mall where he was going to meet his friend, B to trick-or-treat as they had done together for four years.

When we arrived, there were hundreds of children all over the mall in all forms of costume.  Every store had a line to get a treat.  We went to three store front lines to get candy before heading upstairs to meet B.

Tootles cannot stand still.  He cannot bear lines.  Tootles is upset by crowds. So, obtusely, I took him to stand in lines, asked him to stand still, all amongst crowds of people.  And not just any people – costumed people.

Tootles was freaking out at the bizarre costumes which he seems to have noticed for the first time ever – this year.  Everything was scary and loud.  I could see the panic setting in.  Foolishly, I thought that once Toots saw his friend B, he might settle down and trick-or-treat as he has in the past.

Toots (age 3) with B

Now, I have to give B credit.  B has been through four years of Toots’ Halloween meltdowns.

Toots (age 4) with B.

This year, B was dressed as a clown with a wig ala Madagascar III.  It was not scary.  It was cute.  It was funny.

Tootles did not see it that way.

You might not be able to tell but Toots is running away from B here.

Tootles did not want anything to do with his friend.  In fact, he ran away.  He began to say – “Stop talking” but he knew that was not what he wanted to say.  It was the crowd around him.  He was circling.  Looking all around and seeing scary faces.  Oddly dressed people.  His own friend looked bizarre.  There was nothing routine about it.

He jerked away from his friend to tried to pose with his arm around Toots’ shoulder.  Tootles just wanted to get away from it all.  I knew it.  I asked him if he wanted to trick-or-treat or if it was too much.

He said it was too much.

I was actually a bit surprised that he was able to tell me what was upsetting him.  He said “Scary!” and “Too much!” I told him it was okay and we’d leave.  But then, he asked to shop.  He knows we go to the mall all the time and when we do, we shop.  He wanted to shop.

We shopped.  We ignored the trick-or-treaters.  We left.  We went home.

Complacency is a state of mind that exists only in retrospective:                                           it has to be shattered before being ascertained.  Vladimir Nabokov 


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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7 Responses to Complacency.

  1. Lisa says:

    I’m sorry that Halloween didn’t go well.:( Maybe next year…

    Tate doesn’t handle lines and crowds well, either. I have fallen into the same complacency trap…and it stinks to know it causes our kids discomfort. But on the upside, T could tell you he was overwhelmed… and he knew the shopping routine, which brought him comfort eventually. Hugs, my friend…

  2. Mary says:

    There was one Halloween where Freckles was terrified of all the Spidermans. 🙂

    We usually do the downtown merchant trick or treat, but this year that was “for babies.” So we walked around our subdivision in the cold and the rain. She even kept most of her costume on. Ok, I ended up with the helmet and she eventually agreed to the coat and mittens. It was freezing out there.

    We don’t really like to be in the mall for long on a good day so I can only imagine how Freckles would be trick or treating in a mall full of costumed creatures. You are braver than I!

    • solodialogue says:

      Thanks Mary. It’s not so much brave as routine. The mall has been a staple of Tootles’ life. We’ve had plenty if meltdowns there but tons of progress. He loves going there and looking in all the shops but more importantly riding those escalators and elevators, you know? So, of course, we rode the elevator on the way out. What can I say? It made him feel better.

  3. Mary says:

    I almost forgot! The best part was that she said “Trick or treat” and “thank you” with very little prompting!

    One of the teachers has been working on pushing her to speak when she gets out of the car in the morning so maybe it’s getting better.

  4. Wow, way to express his needs! Halloween is a little too much for me to- I’d much rather be shopping. 😉

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