We're on the road again. Not our usual summer trip to LA, but a trip south to the beach to visit with friends.
James was not happy in the car. This is our first long road trip in the "new" vehicle (a Mazda 5), and i think he felt the road much more in this smaller vehicle than our Toyota Sienna van. The heat, traffic, and road construction did not help, either. Makes me glad that from an early age both kids were racking up road trips, otherwise I think there would have been some issues with car sickness.
I'm faced with a familiar dilemma - finding a balance between stretching James out of his comfort zone, giving him new experiences to build his confidence, and not overwhelming him into an anxiety meltdown. As this will be a short weekend trip, I am not too fussed.
The packing and getting ready to go are always the worst part. I am not only packing and doing daily routines, I am cleaning and prepping against the time we are gone so we don't come back to an ugly mess. And frankly, the toughest part of packing is trying to fit the pantry and fridge essentials into the car. Because the kids are such picky eaters and I want things hassle free on vacations, relaxing meals means break open the cooler or bag for familiar foods, rather than eating out. They also tend to eat better too and James' digestive dynamics are that much calmer, as a result.
With the iPads, packing games, toys, and videos are no longer necessary. I have a pack of cards and a mini Connect 4 game and we're good to go. We can always find paper & pen for doodles and hangman. My daughter took over packing lists and oversaw clothes packing for herself and James. What a big helper my girl friend is! I've learned to pack a core cadre of OTC meds: Miralax, liquid ibuprofen, melatonin drops, liquid Benedryl, Neosporin, and a small first aid kit. Baggies are my life-saving friends with this bag.
I make sure James packs his blankies, as they give him a lot of comfort in strange surroundings. The iPad gives him a good refocus point. I try to mix in new activities with some quieter time. Like last night, when we were invited to a block BBQ/4th party.
I encouraged the kids to explore and play with the other kids, trying the jumpy house and trying new foods. James was pretty good, but got tired and walked a little apart from the crowd (see photo above). Then he started to ask when we were driving home. He lay down on a driveway and said things to the sky at large like "Is it Sunday yet?" and "I love you, Mother," and then, finally "I want to go home, please!" I did get him to come over and sit on my lap for a bit, but the kids really were tired, so we said our goodbyes (looking at the ground) and came back to our vacation pad. There we had quiet time, melatonin, and jammies. Both kids snuggled down in their beds while I read them a chapter of Harry Potter and answered questons. They went on to sleep all through the night, which is rare.
Yes, taking the kids out on trips by myself can be a bit stressful, and it feels like I have to pack a ton of of home things, but it is very nice to have a change of scenery. As it often happens, the autism in our lives hammers home some common wisdom: "No matter where you go ... there you are." I hope our trips have helped James to better cope with new surroundings.