Dad took Dr. Doo-Be-Doo down to the optical place at the Downtown Mall today to get his eyes checked and a new pair of glasses. I was in court, so Little Miss rode along with them. The Doctor finished his exam, and he and his dad ducked around a wall display to choose some frames. Dad apparently told Little Miss to wait on a chair inside the optical shop while they looked.
So I come home from court and Little Miss is walking up to our driveway.
Yes. Walking. Up to our driveway.
I climb out of the car, clearly puzzled, and ask her where her dad dropped her off. (We had an appointment after we got home, so I thought maybe he was running late and just dropped her nearby so he could be on time.) She said he didn’t drop her. Her explanation was, “I got lost at the mall.”
So she wandered out of the optical store and realized she didn’t know where her dad was. Her response is TO WALK HOME, a mile and a half away, by herself. Her main comment: “It’s a very long way. I’m tired.”
Besides being blown away that she even knows how to get to our house on foot from the mall (thank heaven we always emphasize ‘which way do we go now?’ when we’re driving!), I’m now putting myself in Dad’s shoes at the mall with a missing autistic child. Holy cow.
I call his cell but he’s apparently on it, calling my office. So I call the optical place, and they track him down, practically delirious, at the mall, where he and the Doctor have been up and down the halls 18 times. So they come home and he’s growling and angry and amazed and grateful all at the same time.
What’s Little Miss’s response to him? Tearfully, SHE APOLOGIZES for making him worry.
I kept reflecting on this the whole time we were at our appointment an hour later, our first family therapy session with her big brother, who’s been in therapeutic foster care for three months for making us all crazy because he only thinks of himself, can’t take care of anyone, let alone himself, and wouldn’t know an empathetic thought if it landed on his head and split it open. Even in that session, he still couldn’t seem to understand what he did that set the household on its edge. And an apology for all the angst and tears? Forget it.
I guess that’s why they call it a spectrum. We sure seem to roll from one end to the other. We have now explained to Little Miss that better practice is to go back to the last place she saw the parent she was with, instead of leaving the facility. Hopefully, it’ll stick. But how can you argue with the safest place in the world being right back at home?