Summer vacation is always full of surprises, good and bad. Our trip to California was off to a great start! All girls sat in their own seats on the airplane, and take off and landing went very smoothly. We were shocked at how well things went.
Then we were struck with a series of unfortunate events. A grocery bag broke on Day 2, shattering a glass bottle of olive oil that cut my husband’s foot. After a short ER trip and a tetanus shot, we were off to our next destination: Venice Beach. We stop to buy groceries, and of course the girls have to use the restroom. We walk into the back storeroom of Ralph’s, open the women’s restroom door, and find a drunk homeless man with his pants down. We ran as fast as we could out of that store!! After that, the girls were anxious about every stranger that walked by. The third (and hopefully the last) of unfortunate events was in a charming Italian restaurant in Santa Monica. After a lovely trip to the beach and pier, we stopped in for a bite to eat. The food was delicious, and all girls actually ate (the all-carb diet: bread, pizza, and pasta!). At the end of the meal, we stand up, and my husband discovers he had been sitting in a spot of tar, which ruined his favorite pair of shorts. Poor guy.
Most adults can manage these ups and downs, albeit with a little anxiety and frustration. But for our children with SPD, just a small change in routine is enough to stir up a whole host of emotions. For example, my youngest with SPD has had a hard time adjusting to being in a new place – she has said repeatedly she is ready to go home. The morning routine, mealtimes, and bedtimes are completely thrown off. The feel of the sand on her feet was uncomfortable at first, and we had to carry her until she was able to enjoy the warm, grainy feeling on her skin. The ocean waves (music to our ears) were too loud for her. This sensory overload resulted in frequent meltdowns. In addition, she has become increasingly anxious in social situations, and does not want anyone to look at her. This makes meeting with relatives and friends very challenging. She seems to have a visceral response to this painful self-consciousness, which often results in her hitting and kicking us. It takes her about an hour to finally climb off our laps and begin to engage with the other children.
Traditional discipline methods do not make sense in these situations (even time outs!), as we are keenly aware that she is experiencing intense emotions that she cannot manage. We have to put our own emotions and reactions aside to allow her to have hers, which can be extremely challenging. Sometimes I’m ready to pull my hair out, if she hasn’t already! Making sure she has plenty of sleep and keeping her tummy full are also key to helping her through this.
Sometimes I question whether spending a small fortune for our annual vacation is worth these difficult times. But these are the memories that make up our lives together, both the wonderful and the challenging moments. Now in the fifth day of vacation, our daughter is finally adjusting and enjoying the beach. This is not to say we are not bracing ourselves for the next unexpected event – just that we are breathing a sigh of relief, for now.