We were on vacation and my mom and I decided to go out shopping. It was a drizzly day and not very conducive to lounging on the beach, so we hit up the local shops. Browsing around one boutique, we heard what we thought was the air conditioning kick in. And then we looked out the window and saw it was raining. But it wasn't just a regular rain shower. It was a torrential downpour. And then it came down even harder by the minute. It wasn't a large shop, and the AC actually wasn't working very well, so it was getting hot and muggy––fast. We tried prolonging our browsing, but we were done and just wanted to get back to the house. The car wasn't far away in the small parking lot, but it was far enough. The rain pelted the ground, like it was angrily trying to break up the concrete. Of course, we were in sandals, and it was like a giant puddle from the shop to the car. We did what we had to do and made a run for it. There was no trying not to get wet. It was an inevitability we just had to accept. By the time we made it inside the car, we were both soaking wet from head to toe, with no towel to dry off with.
There are days as a special needs parent when the rain pours down so hard, it will feel like it's trying to hurt you. As if it's trying to sweep you off your feet and carry you downstream. You look out the window to see what's happening, and you know you have no choice but to run through it. You know the inevitability that you will get soaking wet, and the likelihood of having a towel to dry off with is slim to none. You know those days, those times when the storm clouds form quickly and darken ominously. You see things happening that will likely cause a meltdown and you're just so tired. You feel anxious about going to that event. You go over every "what if?" possible, preparing yourself for literally anything. You know that suggesting anything other than McDonald's is futile, but you can't eat one. more. Big. Mac. And it starts to rain.
When Sam was a baby, he LOVED the water. He splashed in the tub so hard, there was no containing the water to the bathtub. And he reveled in it. He absolutely delighted in water hitting him in the face and running down his baby cheeks, plump with contagious laughter. That changed a little later on though. With the diagnosis of autism also came incredible sensory issues that seemed to come out of nowhere and change on a whim. One day he loved water and couldn't get enough of it, and the next, he hated it with a-vengeance. He had OT therapy at a local zero-entry pool. Just getting him to stand 6 inches away from the lapping water took weeks. Getting him to allow the water to just barely touch his toes without instigating a meltdown took another couple of weeks. Giving him a bath was an absolute nightmare, so we put ourselves through that only on an absolutely as-needed basis.
Over the years, his fascination with water took over and became stronger than the hold his sensory sensitivity to water had over him. Therapy was immensely helpful with this progress. Since then, he has relished in lifting his beautiful face to the sky just to feel snow on his tongue and cheeks. He has ventured into and played in the ocean, (carefully) splashed with his brothers in the pool, and matured from taking baths to taking a shower, even though he still doesn't quite like the feeling of it splashing on his face.
When he joined cross-country, one of the meets required that he run through a creek. Inside, I was terrified. I didn't think he would do it. I knew he could. I just questioned if he actually would, and if so, would a meltdown ensue?
He ran through it.
He has run through multiple creeks and puddles as part of cross-country practices and race courses. He joined track for the spring season, and my husband texted me from the meet as I was with our other kids. It was raining there (not quite a torrential downpour, but it was substantial), but apparently, it didn't even phase Sam. He had been conditioned with cross-country and track practices that they run in any weather, unless it's lightning or dangerous for any reason. So there he was, this child that at one point screamed at the thought of touching any part of his body to water, running in the rain.
I cannot adequately describe to you the incredible pride and joy I felt when I saw this picture. I know what it's like to run in the rain—hard rain—knowing there's nothing you can do about it. Knowing you're going to get wet, and really not looking forward to it. I don't think he particularly likes to run in the rain, but when he has to do it, he seems to do it with ease.
I don't know that I run the race with such ease when circumstances are difficult. When dark storm clouds gather and loom over us, threatening to break at any moment, I sometimes look out the window with anxious hesitation that I have to go out there. Maybe I have to take away the computer, or force him to pause a game because it's causing him great difficulty that is going to lead to worse behavior, but I know that taking away the computer or forcing him to pause the game, even if it's just for a short break, might mean a meltdown and lots of yelling. Maybe the conversation he's having with his brothers is becoming heated, and I know I have to step in to engage and direct the conversation to avoid him saying something that will hurt his brother. But that means taking the hit myself because he won't understand what I'm doing and will get mad at me. Sometimes it means doing damage control after the words have been said, or actions have been taken, and a family member is hurting from it.
But I look at this picture of him running in the rain for a sport he doesn't care for as much as cross-country, and I see the progress. I remember the screaming and crying in therapy that led to this moment. I remember my own screaming and crying as I fought the rain that poured down my own reddened cheeks after dealing with another meltdown. And I see the progress I've made since then too. If you do something often enough, you tend to get used to it, even if you don't like it.