The setting: a neighborhood playground and a group of women that I haven’t seen in over a year — two with twins like me. None with autism like us. I slowly approach and notice that they’re talking to each other, their kids milling about free, laughing. I study their faces (as much as I can from this distance) and I don’t detect any alarmed faces. Aren’t they worried that the kids will wander off?
What is it like to know that your children will naturally stay close by? What is it like to see them check in with you and listen when you say “Come here”? What is it like to not feel tethered to your children, to not feel that your child is just waiting to dart into traffic, for real, if you lose contact with his little hand?
My friends wave. Smiles. But Sam begs to be let loose to the glory of slides! while John wants to go! now! in the opposite direction. I follow John of course, my perpetual wanderer — glancing back as Sam runs up and down and around the equipment. I feel hopeful that he will stay right there. Until he doesn’t. Until he raises his head and spies the bigger slides at the other end of the playground and takes off.
Before I agreed to come, I made sure that the playground was enclosed. I never imagined that the size of it would rival a football field or that to see from one end of it to the other would be impossible. I never imagined that the panic would rise so immediately, like a one-two punch, within minutes of arriving. I never imagined that I’m still so freakin’ fragile, that the tears would come unbidden and stream like a betrayal down my face as I chased first one and then the other. I never imagined that I could still feel so out of control.
In the end, my friends were great, keeping an eye on one while I followed the other. I actually got to do a little talking to (after I strapped them both in the stroller for a snack). But I’m not liking this out-of-control feeling. Not at all.