Boo's Mom works for a franchise of a nationally known tax preparation company. January 2 through April 15 (17 this year) things are very busy in our household. Especially this year, after all the pneumonia, amputation, and cancer decided to show up right in the thick of things and complicate our carefully constructed schedule. At the end of each season the owners of our franchise treat all the employees to a pizza party after we close the office at 8pm. This is one of the things we all look forward to every year. Except that it is late. And Boo does not go to sleep without his mommy!
We were in a bit of a quandary as to how to handle the evening. Daddy has been working odd hours this week and he has to wake up at 3am, so even though he was home at the time of the party, there's no way I could ask him to stay up that late to watch Boo. He is a driver. It's not safe for him or anyone else for him to be so tired. So the question became, leave Boo at Mammo's house so late and pick him up after the party, or have Mammo bring him home (which he HATES, simply because it's not the normal routine) and attempt to get him to go to bed. If we try the latter and he protests loudly, we risk waking Daddy. What to do....what to do....
Our friend K just has a two year old son and a newborn. She works in my office too, and though she is on maternity leave, she came to town for the day and intended to stay for the party. The afternoon was dead at the office, no clients, and K and the boys didn't really have any plans for filling up the last couple hours of the afternoon. So I suggested that we all go over to Mammo's house and let the boys play and the moms relax, and then I could just take Boo with me to the party. I knew this was risky. The party was held at a restaurant that is not on Boo's tolerable list. It was unfamiliar, full of strangers, and unplanned. But with his recent success at another new restaurant, and the comfort of having his friend there with him, I decided to throw caution to the wind.
I might as well have spit into it.
As we left Mammo's house Boo was protesting that he does not like the restaurant we are going to. But I assured him that it would be fine. We arrived and it was LOUD. Full of people seated at several long tables, their multiple conversations talking over one another created a din that even annoyed me. Boo was instantly hyper-stimulated. He couldn't hear my instructions, wouldn't stand still, and refused to sit down. He wanted to sit by his friend, but there wasn't a seat left there. Some of the other employees suggested that we bring another table over and add on. We did, and he was mostly happy. Except there was no acceptable food to eat. Boo loves pizza, but only cheese pizza. He wouldn't even consider anything else! Upon arrival, I had placed an order for a personal cheese pizza for him, but of course it was taking a long time to arrive. I tried to occupy him with playing with my phone, but he wasn't interested. Thankfully, he was interested in the condiment/paper towel holder in the center of the table which he could spin like a lazy Susan. That, and chatting up some of the ladies kept him busy long enough for me to scarf a couple slices. Then they brought out a large cheese pizza and Grandpa (who was there because he works with us too) suggested that Boo eat some. He ate almost a whole slice. He was still "sooo hungry" but he had eaten the last slice of cheese pizza. When his personal one arrived he refused it because he wanted a big slice. He was ratcheting up, and my muscles were in knots. Ironically, as you autism parents are used to, no one else in the room seemed to sense what was so obvious to me. They all were complimenting how cute and charming he was. (which he is, of course)
Minutes later, Boo was very upset that I wasn't ready to go yet. He was wandering around, refusing to sit, refusing to listen. It was late, he was tired, the situation was confusing to him, he was hungry, he was surrounded by strangers and the noise level was intense. He was weaving in and out of the tables, running around, and following his friend wherever he went. At one point, he climbed into an empty booth and then crawled under the table. To everyone else he looked like an undisciplined kid acting up. But I knew he was at the end of his rope, looking for an escape and finding none. I needed to get him out of there. But on the outside he was smiling and laughing, striking up conversations with people he'd never met. I let it go on too long, because I deluded myself into thinking he was fine. And I selfishly wanted to enjoy this celebration with my friends and coworkers, many of whom I will not see again till next January. He was like a body of water with a strong undercurrent that was about to pull him in, but I let myself believe in the calm surface and think we'd be just fine.
Then he wanted to go to the bathroom. Cool, let's go. He went into the booth alone for privacy. But then disaster struck. He noticed a tiny brown spot in his underwear. This was the breaking point. I knew instantly that I was in trouble. I had spare clothes, but they were in the car. I couldn't leave him alone in the ladies room in a public place in the middle of a fit. I got down on my knees to talk to him and tried to explain the situation. Boo, we don't have any other underwear honey. We have to either take these off and go without them, or pull them up. "NOOOOOOO!!! There is POOP on them! I CAN'T!" I tried everything I could think of. He finally allowed me to take them off, but then refused to put his shorts back on. I told him he can not go out into the restaurant naked, it's not allowed. And he can't sit in the bathroom all night. He was wailing. He refused to listen to me at all, or consider anything I suggested. Every time I tried to speak he just screamed louder, as if the sound of my voice was physically painful. I held him close and squeezed him tightly. He kept lamenting "I just don't know what to DOOOO." My heart was breaking because I knew this was my fault. I pushed him too far. I didn't heed the warning signs he gave me. He was past the point of what he could cope with.
I finally was able to calm him enough that I could step out the door and wave a pleading finger at my cousin (who also works there!) and she came to my rescue. I sent her to my car to retrieve the spare clothes. She brought them to the bathroom and we put the clean undies on and the world was at peace once again. But I certainly made a hasty retreat after that. We said our goodbyes and left with the personal pizza in a box. (which he ate within a few blocks)
He fell asleep in the car and slept soundly all night. I was emotionally exhausted too. Sometimes it feels like I'm trying to help him battle enemies that are attacking him, which I cannot see or feel, and which he cannot explain. And I do not like it. Not one little bit.