“Yun Hi Chala, Pura Parivar Version”
August found us on the road. We felt A was ready, in that he is better able to manage and entertain himself when there is a free flow to his routine.
He enjoyed the long drives tremendously. There aren’t a lot of interesting radio stations when the mountains keep cutting off whatever you’re listening to, but country music made him very happy. R groaned every time one more rendition of “Chicken Fried” came on. But there was something pleasingly cheeky about a brown American/immigrant autism family enjoying the rural sights and amusing ourselves in whatever manner suited us. Now if we could just find dosa places and vegan restaurants on the I-80, all would be perfect. What about teahouses? I would plan trips around such options, truly.
My husband has some amazing cousins+spousal units. Whatever they are putting in their chai to make them so woke with regard to special needs, everyone should be asking them for their masala recipes. We all talked wistfully about living closer to one another. My heart felt lighter after years of feeling so cast away. I can go on about all the ways they accommodated A and helped us feel supported—really, they put no neurotypical pressures on him, and enjoyed him for his quirky, nosy self, which allowed us in turn to relax our vigilance and actually breathe a little—but they were also generous about expressing how our family dynamic touched them.
I guess we rarely think about that: How do we come across to people who look upon us with love. It was moving to hear the words of support spoken out loud. We often hear only what people think we SHOULD do, or what they think we are doing wrong, and especially what comparisons they are drawing to other autism families they know. This was a total breath of fresh air.
One aspect of autism life is that siblings are often the only peers who will play with the autistic child. For R, this trip meant that his two awesome cousins, who have visited before, and are as loving as their parents, eagerly snatched away some of the sibling adoration for themselves. If you are able to step into A’s world, there is so much humor and impish affection to bask in. These two kids understand that without difficulty. Like three laughing sentinels, R and his cousins drew A effortlessly into every moment of play. At the pool, they fished him out of the lap swimming lane with unwavering good nature. The lifeguards didn’t have to intervene even once, so watchful and patient were they. They understood instinctively what the prize was—being the ones who could make A shed his sensory wariness and throw himself with abandon into the moment. He played like a seal pup around them. Confident in their friendship. No need to parallel play when your tribe claims you.
The prizes go to them too, these children with hearts of gold and softness. Some of us are thrown into Autism Land. Some have to be led there reluctantly. Some never make it in the door. It is what it is. But the fourth category is made up of those who burst in the door exclaiming, “I’m on the invite list too, right?”
You are. We could not make such a happy tribe without you. You are the tadka in the dhal. The kesar in the lassi. The extra richness is you.