55: It Is, Because I Said So

55: It Is, Because I Said So

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum

It Is, Because I Said So

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.

~Ovid

In late June, we decamped. My husband, our typical ten-year-old, Aidan, and I left our comfortable, familiar home to spend a week in lovely Chestertown, Maryland. We had signed up our thirteen-year-old son, Conor, for his first, real sleep-away adventure at a five-day camp on the eastern shore of Maryland designed for individuals with special needs. (In addition to autism, Conor has Tourette syndrome.)

Actually Conor’s first sleep-away adventure had been the summer before, a five-month stay at an inpatient behavioral unit designed to help my son control his out-of-control tantrums. It’s sad and uncomfortable (and more than a little embarrassing) to admit, but it’s important to know so you can understand how BIG a deal this camp adventure was . . . for all of us.

That year, Conor had been hospitalized twice, for brief periods, but the long-term inpatient unit was an intensive and necessary intervention. Thankfully, his behavior and medical team slowly got the tantrums under control, enough so that my husband and I were willing to try sleep-away camp eight months after he was discharged.

(My husband thought I was crazy to try. I blame the wine.)

We rented a beautiful waterfront home about ten miles away from the camp so that we could check in every day and make sure he had his sweet potato and his complex behavior protocol followed and take him on his earned community outings and blah-dy blah blah.

You know, all those things we helicopter parents do. My husband and I, we can hover like nobody’s business.

I spent so much time preparing for camp, and then supporting him at camp, that I neglected some things on the home front. Little things like bills and taxes and birthday gifts. And my hair. My God, my hair was a complete and utter disaster. I looked like a street woman pushing her cart. (Except my cart-pushing was usually in Target and not downtown. But still.)

In any case, at the end of four days, we declared sleep-away camp a success. (If we say it, it must be so.)

My husband, Aidan and I got some time off, a much needed respite. It was enough of a break that I was able to read two really terrible books and get a migraine from too much sleep. Honestly, I think reading sentences like “Their bond was as strong as titanium, sheathed in diamonds” contributed to the migraine. (I know, really. I shudder to think of it, even now.)

At camp, Conor made a friend, a boy who loved shooting hoops in the searing 100-degree heat as much as he did. A boy who didn’t mind that Conor tackled him during a short-lived game of catch with a football. A boy who talked Conor’s ear off and hugged him in the swimming pool and held his hand as they wandered around.

We briefly adopted his one-on-one aide, as we often do with the good ones, an affable chap from Plymouth, England, just out of university. (He’s British, so I can say “affable” and “chap” and “university.” So awesome.) We were so smitten with Ted, we had him over to the rental house on Friday and taught him how to pick Maryland blue crabs steamed with Old Bay. Followed, of course, by a cold beer. (It should have been warm, though, shouldn’t it have? His being British and all?)

It was Ted’s first taste of blue crab. “Brilliant,” he said. “Delicious.” (See? He’s a keeper.)

Conor rode a horse during a therapeutic session at a local farm. He looked right at home, tucked up in the saddle. Poor Ted stepped in a pile of horse poop and spent some of the session trying to regain his dignity.

Don’t judge. It happens. Everybody poops. Let’s move on, then, shall we?

While Conor was busy sitting atop a pooping horse, my typical ten-year-old son (in typical ten-year-old boy fashion) wanted to do nothing but fish. He fished from the dock and he fished from the rocks and he fished some more. (He took a break one morning to play golf with his dad and his grandparents. Then he came back and fished.)

So . . . Conor made a friend. He had a great one-on-one aide. He rode a pooping horse and shot hoops. He did arts and crafts, navigated a ropes course complete with zip line, and swam in the pool. He slept through the night and the rest of the family got some R&R. We fished, I read, they golfed, I shopped. We ate too much, didn’t drink nearly enough, and we all survived.

Oh, he did have one tantrum at camp. But not until the second to last day. Since he came home only one night early, I deem sleep-away camp a success.

It is, because I said so.

~Alisa Rock

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