I had this grand idea to go to the Zoo with my children today. It was grand considering how one of my kids loves the Zoo. Not for the animals but for the train rides. We actually go to the Saint Louis Zoo just so we ride the train around the Zoo. We went two weeks ago and it was a hit. I made my appointment for today, got the kids ready, arrived on time, parked and hoped for a glorious day. All of that came to a halt the moment we went through the entrance and I asked for our train tickets. Trains were canceled for the day. My son had a massive meltdown. You mean no train? I said yes. But why? The weather maybe? But I see the train tracks? I know. Maybe we can actually look at animals since we are at the Zoo. We proceeded to try to see whatever animals we could find along the River’s Edge portion of the Zoo. I prayed for elephants or anything along the way through Africa or Asia. But the entire time we walked, my son cried. Not little sobs that you could maybe reason with, but loud meltdowns that are destined to make anyone think we have no control of him. He screamed, he shouted, pleaded for the train, apologized for his tears, all in between weird stares for strangers at the Zoo. Our trip lasted 10 minutes. Thank God for Zoo membership with their free parking. We turned around quickly for nothing along River’s edge could appease him. Not the black Rhino we managed to spot or the cute little warthogs along the way.
Every step we took back to the car, was full of meltdowns and pleading to stay, pleading for trains, pleading to want to stop crying. All of it not sinking into the brain. No amount of stating and restating that trains were canceled seemed to get through. We walked briskly to the car, got in, and drove past the Zoo, past the highway, all the way to the ice cream shop in hopes to calm the tears. It helped for awhile, chocolate sundae with sprinkles and no cherry on the top seemed to do the trick for awhile. The day was still young and so we tried to look for other things to do. Then I got the bright idea to be adventurous for the day. If we cannot get on the train, how about a boat. My other kids said sure, let’s go. My son still wanted his train. I tried anyways to give them an adventure. We got life vests, and a paddling boat for the Boathouse at Forest Park and proceeded to paddle all his tears away. At first, it seemed like the worst idea ever. Two adults in front to paddle and three kids at the back, one on the spectrum. We went around in circle. The kids loved it all. We managed to straighten the boat and went in deep, past the rocks, past the daffodils, past the tears, past the meltdowns.
Adventures with kids on the spectrum are a trip on their own. Though the day started with trains, we ended up with boats which seemed to do the trick for awhile until it was time to end the ride. Of course my son didn’t want us to stop. We tried to take in the moment for awhile, to bask in the beauty around us, to ease the fears, and please the brain’s love for noise. All of that helped. And slowly, we made our way back to the boathouse. To be a parent of an autistic child, is to be prepared all the time for life’s adventure. Of course they never go as expected and it can be tough when the brain wants its way. But I am learning to appreciate the brain’s love for duality. If you can’t give me train, then fine, boats will do. They did for us today and now we have a new desire to return tomorrow for another boat ride. And train if we can plus the Zoo of course. For him, we will try to keep life’s adventure going, wherever the journey takes us. The memories too are blissful. Keep adventures always, whether with Zoo, trains or boats.