Many Hearts Day

Sunday being the middle day of a three-day weekend due to President's Day for Charlie (following a week minus two days due to Mother Nature sending an awful lot of snow), and it also being a bit warmer and the sun shining brilliantly, what could we do but go to Charlie's favorite-most place, our favorite-most place?

Beautiful beach, with snow

All the trips we've been taking down to the beach this winter have made Jim and me think, the beach should be a year-round thing. Frankly it's even more heart-breakingly beautiful in the winter, with snow on the sand and some of the gorgeous-ost skies ever.

Charlie woke up Sunday very querulous and unsettled (as we were clued into by lots of low moaning and worried sounds). Jim took him on a morning walk and made sure to mention we'd go to the ocean. On my finding Charlie standing with mournful eyes near the still-open front door, I told him he could start getting ready. Charlie clomped down to the basement, to my puzzlement.

He re-emerged with his blue boogie board and looked at me. "Yes, you can put it in the white car," I said, and he did, then ran upstairs. When he came down, he was holding his blue swim suit and gave me another look. "Sure you can put it on," I said and made sure to pack his long pants and an extra pair of socks.

Even last year I would have told Charlie he couldn't wear his swimsuit or bring his boogie board. Obviously, it is too cold for boogie-boarding. But my suspicion was that Charlie wanting to bring and wear these items was mostly about him feeling the need to have a proper ocean experience. Having swum untold times with him for the past several years, I know he's very hesitant to jumping into cold water.

Or that is, Charlie is hesitant now. When he was little (we're talking toddler and preschool age), Charlie sighting any body of water meant he was going straight in, temperature (and him being completely clothed and shod) be d****d. I think of all the times I've heard someone tell us "autistic children don't change what they do because they can't" or variations thereof. No way! Give Charlie time to process things and space to draw his own conclusions, and you may get the hoped for result.

I don't know why it is that, sometimes (oftentimes) for us parents, that "he or she will never do this/never stop doing this" starts to feel like a refrain we can't get rid of. I have to remind myself, some times are just not the times for Charlie to be able to do some things, even things that he once could do. At the moment, one of these is eating out in restaurants, something that we have done with Charlie since he was little and that, even during tough times, he was still able to do and really seemed to enjoy. But after some flying dishes a few months ago, we've decided eating in and takeout are best right now. Something about the routines of ordering and waiting and eating in restaurants seemed to become too much for Charlie, too much of a ritual that seemed to trouble him. Too, though he'd asked to go to the diner or to get Chinese food, he'd often just pick at his meal and ask to leave shortly after the food was served. 

Sunday down at the beach Charlie insisted on going into a diner where we'd gotten him a burger to go before. Jim and I exchanged glances that said, let's let this run its course. The diner was busy; it's not a place that we come too much, and so not the best place to start re-introducing Charlie to restaurant eating.Charlie waiting for a takeout burger at a diner counter  

Charlie sat down at the counter and took off his jacket. We ordered "to go." Jim sat beside Charlie and paged through a local paper. Charlie took a ketchup bottle and set it in front of him. I unfolded a napkin and wrote:

  • wait for food
  • get ketchup
  • get food to go
  • go to car

I read each sentence out and Charlie took the napkin and placed it between him and the ketchup. (Horizontally, as you can see in the photo.) Jim paid the bill, the food came neatly packed in a brown paper bag, and Charlie got up, put on his jacket, and went out the door.

Just recently, we would have thought it a major dilemma to find ourselves having to talk Charlie out of leaving the restaurant without having eaten. But I know he knows why we've not been able to eat at restaurants now. And like anyone, I would think Charlie would prefer that we explain things and have him walk himself out, rather than us doing hand-holding-and-pulling: It's a dignity issue.

After we'd eaten in the car, Charlie donned his parka and, still in his swimsuit (we offered him his pants, he said no), made his way to the beach. The wind was very strong and he didn't venture too far out and immediately asked for his long pants once back to the car. 

All suited up for the beach in February
Charlie makes his way over sand and snow to the beach
Charlie on the beach, in his swimsuit, in February

We drove around some more in the beautiful light and Jim got out to look at the beach by the house we've rented for some five or so years. Charlie had been saying "no" to getting out in the car, but on seeing Jim get out, he told us "open door."

Being at the place you love the most with your most loved ones: What better way to spend Valentine's Day and open the Year of the Tiger?

Charlie on the beach by our (rented) beach house
Jim on his favorite beach on Valentine's Day
Love is being in the place your love best with those you love the most

8 Responses to “Many Hearts Day”
  1. Hai Dang says:

    Happy New Year to you, Charlie and Jim. I wish your team of three continue to have good spirit and good health in this coming year.

  2. Regina says:

    Things change and not always in one direction all the time. Some of my friends with older kids, and me myself at one point, have considered our teen-aged kids and said,”who ARE you?” (sometimes in admiration that there’s this person who we can see growing into the self they are going to be, and sometimes with some degree of frustration or nostalgia that they are not the little kid we remembered (sometimes with a dash of rose-colored glasses). I have no doubt that the teen years can present as a mixed blessing to parents. You still guide, and are available to catch and comfort, and sometimes there’s something to be said for stepping back and enjoying the show.
    Do you think the written sequence is working out? It sounds like it.
    (That beach looks chilly, but also very beautiful. I’m glad you all had a good trip).

  3. Happy belated New Year! I’ve fallen into the trap myself of thinking that once Patrick can’t do something then he’ll never be able to do it. He proves me wrong so many times. He’s certainly teaching me a lot on this journey. Love the pics of Charlie on the beach. Patrick recieved a new bike for his birthday yesterday and rode it outside in the snow. Then he put it away and is waiting patiently for spring to come. Certainly not something that would have happened last year. Growth, at any pace, is a beautiful thing.

  4. Elise says:

    We go through many ups and downs with our children. One day they can’t do someting and the next day they can. Time sometimes is the answer.
    Gong hay fat choy. Happy Valentien’s Day to you and your lovely family.

  5. Sarah says:

    I am intrigued by the ketchup and the napkin. Is Charlie lining these relevant artifacts one on top of the other to mimic written dining instructions similarly arranged on a piece of paper? Is this a tactic he has devised spontaneously to teach himself how to better track text? I think so. Go, Charlie!

  6. Sarah says:

    I am intrigued by the ketchup and the napkin. Is Charlie lining these relevant artifacts one on top of the other to mimic written dining instructions similarly arranged on a piece of paper? Is this a tactic he has devised spontaneously to teach himself how to better track text? I think so. Go, Charlie!

  7. emma says:

    Quite often it seems, just as I’m beginning to think something will never change – it does. Quite often the path of least resistance seems to help, as in *letting things run there course*.
    The beach look beautiful, I can see why Charlie likes it.

  8. karen d says:

    It sounds like you’ve really found something that Charlie is ready for with the written sentences, the explaining… I think that is fabulous progress and I am so happy for you guys. I am so SO familiar with that “I’m scared he’s never going to” fill in the blank here way of thinking. It is such a relief to be able to go with the flow with the faith that no matter what, it’s gonna be okay.

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