How do we as parents of Autistic children connect with other parents like us? Primarily Facebook has been my vehicle of socialization, and not that I don't love each and every one of those connections, meeting in person is something I crave. I really don't have that many Autism Mom friends that I could just call up and meet for coffee. Now that I think about it, not any. (at least not without some MAJOR planning, and lets face it I'm SUPER lazy when it comes to working hard for myself. Other people? Sure! I'll work myself into an early grave but something for me?....eh..)
Lead in accomplished, I was driving to the grocery store on Friday evening, BY MYSELF. My sister came and stayed with my kids so I could fill my Yaris to the brim with the seat down instead of the micro trunk it usually has when you cram 3 small humans back there. Plus getting out without kids? That never happens!!
As I was driving, listening to my much denied NPR, I sort of glazed over the car ahead of me. I live, eat and breathe Autism Awareness so imagine my surprise when I realized I was looking right at a puzzle ribbon on the back of the SUV in front of me. I had this overwhelming desire to wave my hands at them, and honk. Roll down the window and shout "Look I have one too!," like a crazy person. Or even more lunatic, follow them. Yeah my heart sort of sank when the flipped on their turn signal....OKAY before you judge me, I assure you the feeling was fleeting. Also look me in the face and tell me that you haven't seen a fellow Autism Awareness magnet in a parking lot or on the highway and felt the same thing.
It's encounters like that that make me look at every stranger I pass, scrutinizing every screaming child I see in a basket at the store. Listening to screaming that sounds just like my little guy in the middle of a meltdown, and wondering.
Well today we decided we all needed a treat. We don't go out to eat as a family often, but when we do its pretty much CiCi's or Cracker Barrel(unless you count the random fast food or Uhg Chuck E Cheese) we decided to treat ourselves to Crackle Barrel tonight. When our super nice server came to get our drink order, we hurried and ordered Emerson's Chicken strips and fries, probably throwing her off but the key to a successful dinner is minimized waiting time for the little man. I have to say I think this was our best family dinner outing ever. All the kids were awesome!
At the end I decided to stop our server. Something made me tell her that Emerson is Autistic. Now I'm on the fence about telling strangers he is Autistic, especially when say he has had a good outing and the average person would have no idea. Not because I don't want them to know (let's face it, I seriously want the world to think of HIM when they think of Autism) but because I don't want to tell everyone his business. He is only 5 and still has speech issues as well as comprehension of social interaction but someday he will be self aware enough to understand what I say to people. I want him to be proud of his Autism, but its not my place to "out" him. I'm aware of this even now, though it seems like light years away. Anyways I told her.
I went on to say:
"You really wouldn't know because of how good he has been this visit. I just wanted to thank you for being patient with us and doing such a great job."
She sort of looked at me for a second and said:
"My daughter is Autistic."
Whatever your faith may be, or not at all, that my friends was a Devine moment!! After that I hugged her. I mean what are the odds?(shut up, of course I know the odds but it still blew me away!) Her daughter and Emerson are only 11 months apart. I was not pushy in my hug. It was very natural. Not the hug of strangers, but of allies. Kin. (I may be kind of theatric..but...whatev. Go with it)
We wrangled the kids into the car, and I sent the husband back in with an envelope. In it, a nice tip, a $5 Starbucks gift card and a little note just for her. Hillary, server at Cracker Barrel that I met for the first time tonight, wether you knew it or not, you have a built in family of people like me! Maybe I WILL get that coffee pal after all....