I am going to describe what we walked into, and my friends with children with autism, I can already feel you cringing:
- The main dinning room was pitch black with star lights on the ceilings and loud animal music going.
- The walls were covered with electronic animals that moved and growled.
- About every ten to fifteen minutes, a rainforest storm would break out. The lights would flicker, the thunder would boom, and all the animals (gorillas, lions, elephants) would go crazy with the storm.
- What was intended to be the most exciting part of all-when the animals go crazy, the kids are supposed to get up and run around their tables, beating their chests like gorillas or roaring like a lion. Has anyone read Lord of the Flies lately? Jack could have come running through the aisles with Piggy’s glasses and a spear ready for Ralph’s head.
- Now for the final effect, here is a picture of the place I saw on the mall site. Here is what I should have looked at with more detail.
My daughter calmly told me she needed to go potty. We followed the rainbow (no joke) to the restrooms. Once we were in there, she turned to me and said, “Yeah, I’m not leaving this bathroom. I’ll eat lunch in here.” In the mean time, I can hear her brother jumping up and down like a wild man going “Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m a tiger grrrr.” Lovely.
I talked her into sitting on my lap and holding her ears. She screamed bloody murder until her father, who wanted to be there as much as someone wants a root canal anyway, took her out. The manager brought me free drink cups and the waiter offered to help me to the car. The place was ridiculously expensive so I hope my Lord of the Flies Litt’lun enjoyed his time on the island because we aren’t going back.
You guys know I’ve been waiting for John Quinones to catch me on What would you do? Instead of my man John, Saturday I was waiting for “The Autism Police” to come get me. I have decided that there must be a group of “Super Hero” type people in the Autism world that will come slap you with a fine for doing something you sure as hell know better than doing. I always thought I had a little common sense. I would never take my child in a Chuckee E. Cheese. We haven’t gone to a movie theater yet. I THOUGHT I was going to do my part for the rainforest, not commercialism. But it happened and my child was hysterical in a situation that could have been prevented by me. I knew the “Autism Police” were going to get me just as sure as the time she ate four Popsicles full of high fructose corn syrup and went berserk. (She needed to have one of every color-leave me alone, but in my defense I now make Popsicles with good juice and organic yogurt). Fortunately I learned my lesson and did not receive a visit from Temple Grandin, Holly Robinson Peete, or Augusten Burrough’s older brother.
Sunday rolls around. I have had a birthday party on my son’s calendar for a month. We bought the present two weeks ago. He even picked out a Spiderman gift bag. We drove over to the house, a day late. Yes, the party was Saturday not Sunday, probably while we were sitting in the Rainforest cafe with a waitress who thought it would be brilliant to offer my child a balloon to quit crying. The thing with Kenneth is I can’t pull anything over on him. So he looks around and screams, “THE PARTY WAS YESTERDAY!” and bursts into tears. So within 24 hours, both of my older children were hysterical. One for being overstimulated and one for missing the stimulation. Perfect. I’m a quack.
Then one little thing clicked. I turned to Kenneth and said, “Do you know how you and I feel right now? Upset we missed our friends? (I was looking forward to talking to other moms so I was just as put out as he was.) Well, this is how your sister feels when she has to be in a crowd, or be in a big noisy group. This is why she cries sometimes and we have to help her get ready for something.”
The thing about my middle child is that while he will wet his pants so he doesn’t have to miss a television show, the wheels in his head do turn for other things. I think he and I both got her in that moment. He quit crying and said, “It’s OK mom. Let’s go give *Billy* his present.”
I’m sure I’ll screw up again before all of them are on their own. I just hope the “Autism Police” will let me off with a warning this time.