Fast Food Follies

This last Easter weekend, we hopped in the car for the 7 hour drive from the Twin Cities back to Bismarck, ND to see the ‘rents. Our little guy was such a good little champ in the car for all of those hours, but we had to stop for a little lunch along the way. Now, it used to be our tradition that we would stop at a place called the “Pizza Ranch” for a great buffet spread, but Josiah’s on a strict diet these days and we didn’t have a lot of options. So, we thought we’d try Perkins for some eggs and fruit. That was Stop #1.

 We got into Perkins and Josiah was not about to sit in a high chair or in the booth beside me. He was pulling the old “go limp and twist” routine, and he wasn’t being too loud or naughty, just “contrary.” That’s when I started feeling the eyes staring over at us. I don’t know if I’m just sensitive or projecting things on to people now, but you start to believe people are thinking that I should just pick him up and make him mind. Who’s in control here–the kid or the parents? I can’t blame them, really, because I’ve thought those things about unruly kids before. I scooped Josiah up and we decided to just go.

On to Stop #2. Burger King. Playland. This should work, my husband and I were thinking. He can at least eat the fries and a little grilled chicken and he can tool around the room. The scene that unfolded there was just heartbreaking for me. There were kids running around being rowdy, funny kids, and the whole situation totally stressed Josiah out. He started whimpering and went over to the emergency door, laid his head up against the glass and just checked out. He didn’t want to be held or comforted. Even some fries wouldn’t pry him away. The room started closing in on me. I saw parents around me watching their kids have a blast in the playland; I saw little boys showing each other their cool toys. “This should be fun for us, like it is for all these people,” I thought. I again felt the eyes of other parents staring over at our situation. We scooped Josiah up, threw our food in a bag and got in the car. Josiah was fine again.

I guess we’ve gotten into a groove at home. We don’t go to restaurants anymore. We bring the food home. Josiah’s either at home or he’s at his little school; we go to the mall and grocery store, and he’s cool with those routines. But as he gets older, we see some of the quirks of autism continue to emerge especially when he’s outside of his comfort zone. While much progress has been made, it seems like other things that we haven’t dealt with before show up. I’ve got to admit that I have a hard time thinking what other people might think who don’t know his situation. He looks like a typical kid, and to the casual observer, he’s being willful or naughty and I don’t have control. It’s not like I would want him to look different, but then people might give more of a pass. This whole experience has definitely made me more compassionate when I see other parents struggling with their children. You really never know if there’s more to the story.

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3 Responses

  1. We don’t do restaurants with Matty either. It is just too much. And I don’t want that stress on him, us, or the other kids.

  2. […] going to write about our experiences traveling home for Easter, but my wife has already done a superb job with this, so I thought I’d pass along some interesting autism-related links that I’ve […]

  3. We were told yesterday that my 12 yr old with Asperger’s likes to break into dance in the hallways at school. He’s a happy kid. People laugh and he thinks they’re happy too. Why is it right to have to tell him to hold his joy inside instead of making himself a target? Shouldn’t he be allowed to be himself? (I guess not when you’re heading to jr high school). *sad*

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