At the Playground

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.

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  • Oh, that must have been stressful. And disappointing. But at least your friends stepped up and helped a bit. I know how I felt with just Oliver, I can’t imagine being in that scenario with twins. After Sami was born there are certain places I stopped going to altogether. It just wasn’t worth the stress. But I also have to say: it does get easier. One day you will have earned the right to sit on the bench too!

  • How stressful–I’m sorry it was like that.

    Ironically, my son (who has Asperger’s and is terribly, terribly anxious) DOESN’T wander off but my daugher (3) does–all the time!

    It’s nervewracking.

  • Ugh! I am so sorry. All I can think to say is that I think it does get easier.

    There is just an age (between 2-4) where I do not know how people can take their children out IF/WHEN the kids outnumber the adults.

    Now, I think it is important to take them out but we always stuggled with it having to be one on one. And truthfully even today I don’t take both boys out by myself much. Both of mine would run off in opposite directions and I wouldn’t know what to do!

    Kudos to your friends for helping out. As parents of twins they should atleast understand that you can’t be both places at once! Hang in there. This age is rough and you have a double dose!!!!

    I’m in awe of the things you guys to get out and do!

  • I know that out-of-control feeling (and deciding which one to chase first).

    I believe the day will come for both of us when we’ll get to sit on a bench and relax while the boys play. But for right now, it is often really, really difficult.

    Even though my boys are funny and loving and wonderful, I still have my days of getting overwhelmed (and crying in Target).

    Wishing you the best.

  • Yes. Going to an unenclosed large park…..I scouted them all out before hand, made flash cards, marked them out of ten, access to loos, parked in relation to park, ones with water to avoid…….as for chatting! More like a work out – glad to hear that you pals pitched in.
    Best wishes

  • I had days like that last summer (2006) – all the other moms are chatting on park benches and I’m looking at all the death-defying stunts their children are pulling with no supervision and shadowing Bub like a hawk (do hawks shadow people?). This year was better – it was a wonderful thing the first time I saw him turn his head to look for me and call inquiringly, “Mama?”

  • I know how difficult it was (and still is sometimes) watching those “other moms” shmoozing while I had to shadow SB and keep my eye on him every second. It was very difficult for me to make friends because regardless of the setting (park, restaurant, someone’s house, a birthday party, etc.) I never got to be part of the socializing. Things are much better now but it’s still not the same. You deserve a lot of credit for doing it times two.

  • I hear you. With my three I’m always doing a head count. And Jack does tend to wander. Today he was hiding under a structure on the school playground. I think he gave all the teachers, other parents, and the school director heart attacks before they found him. Fortunately the playground is enclosed so it was unlikely that he could have slipped away, but it gives a whole different meaning to “supervision” when you have a child that’s a wanderer.

  • Thank you for your site.

    We just found out today that our 2yo-7mo twin boys are “on the spectrum”. (Don’t you hate that diagnosis?! Sounds like they should be riding rainbows…)

    Anyway, I KNOW what you mean about taking them to the park. Heck, who am I kidding…taking them ANYwhere. I don’t do it alone anymore after I lost one at a company picnic and panicked until we found him. If I don’t have a helper, we don’t go. We tried the harnesses, but they don’t work on the big slides.

    I have one wanderer and one follower.

    I’m going to take everyone’s word that says, “It gets easier”..uh-huh

    I’ve bookmarked your page, as I will be checking in. Pop over sometime on mine; I’m going to be writing a lot more about our insanity, I mean JOURNEY. lol

  • It’s so nice to have you all to commiserate with. Thanks.

    Le anna, welcome and thanks for coming over. (I tried clicking on your name to visit you, but I think you need to make your profile public or some such thing before we can find your blog.)

  • We will never be the moms with the lattes and the books and the chit chat on the bench. Because for as many years as our children will be interested in going to playgrounds they will need us to shadow and supervise. We are spotters, interpreters, bodyguards, and social facilitators. We run triage on the blacktop.

    I’m so glad your friends were able to help out and so in awe of you for navigating this with two.

    I’ve been catching up on your posts this afternoon. Looks like I need to bookmark your site!

  • Our 5-year-old son is on the spectrum. We have this very long driveway, but fortunately we live out in the country where there is not a lot of traffic (1st blessing), and in a new subdivision on a street off of (2nd blessing) the 45-mile-per-hour (people are really doing 65mph) country road, and there are few homes built here so far (3rd blessing). Our son is non-verbal. He will just start running down the driveway toward the street, so our ABA consultant did a program with our tutors where the tutor would let our son start walking/running ahead of the tutor, and the tutor would say, “Kevin, stop!” They would repeat this simple program with him, over and over again, and reinforce him if he stopped, or turned and stopped. (Kevin will look at us if we call his name, so I guess the first program would be to get their attention when calling their name.) My wife and I would practice this program with him also, when he would run down the driveway toward the street, even if there were no cars coming down the street, and we would reinforce him as well, for stopping. It works pretty well. If both your kids get “loose”, you can call out to one of them to stop, and then chase after the other one, or yell for both to stop, etc.

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