This has been the summer that I've let my big kids go. My son went to Europe with my mom - and we all know the experiences that they went through there! - one daughter flew to Texas to visit my dad - and she had a phenomenal time and can't wait to go again - and today I sent another daughter off on a trip with her friend to New York. They return the day before I leave for Blogher. Also in New York.
Today I went to the water park with my kids. I bought them season passes for Christmas at a reduced rate and it was the best thing I ever did. My kids love to go there and I've seen great jumps in both swimming ability and confidence.
When my spectrum kiddo was in therapy, it was all about making her do the things that she didn't like. It was about forcing her to face the actions and activities that caused her to scream uncontrollably, bang her head and bite her fingers until they bled. I watched the therapist force her in tubes and down slides, cover her with sand and coat her hands with shaving cream.
While at the water park, most of my kids begged to go on the rapids ride. As these things go, it's fairly tame. I'm not a rider of rides at ALL, and I do ride this one. It goes from a pool down a slide and repeats a couple of times as you ride in an inner tube. It ends by going under a short waterfall.
It's a fun thing to do, but going to the water park as the only parent with four kids means that I have to make some tough choices. I can't do everything I want - namely, lay on a chair, read a book and nap - I'm easy to please. It stands to reason that they can't do everything that they want - especially when going on said rapids ride entails an 80+stair climb. I can't get up to the top with the other kids and turn around with the reluctant rider and try to meet up at the bottom.
Today I was really in the mood to ride that ride, though, and I forced her to go on it. Yes, it's Riley I'm speaking of, and I'll tell you why I forced her, when I'm not typically that type of parent. She's very, very stubborn and if she doesn't want to do something, she won't. Fine. Whatever. I don't eat beets and I don't ride roller coasters - she can have her own borders. I'm cool with that.
But I really wanted her to try it. If she tried, and didn't like it, I promised I'd never ask her again.
So we went and at the end of every slide, when we bottomed out in the pools, I'd turn to her in the tube and ask excitedly, "Isn't this fun?" to which she'd cry, "No!". And my heart broke for her, for I'm not typically that parent. I flashed back to therapy, when she was forced to play with play dough and eat applesauce, blow bubbles and pick up beans in the sand. She hated all of it but she did it and now she does those activities. Loves play dough, stings beads for hours, makes the biggest, messiest messes possible.
We exited the ride and my other kids begged - again, again. She cried and begged not to go, and so we split. I climbed into the pool with her in front of the ride exit so I could watch for the other kids and held my hands up to her. She jumped in to me and instinctively, I pulled her into the cradle of my arms. She nestled her head in the spot below my chin where she used to rest her head years ago, a spot that she's almost outgrown. She jockeyed for position for a minute and I teared up - just a little - knowing that this was one of the last times I'd ever hold a little one like this. I rested my head on hers and thought about life. Pondered being a grown up and feeling verklempt.
And then she kicked me in the crotch to get me to let go and, laughing, swam away in her little float vest.
"Watch me! Catch me!"
As if I could ever stop watching. As if I could ever catch up - this summer, they are all moving farther away from me. I'm not ready.