Children's Festival 2009
Some ladies in my support group invited me to join them at the park for a children's festival last weekend. The outing itself was a mixed bag in terms of success. I was in an unusually emotional state, and constantly having to corral my hyperactive child who seemed completely unable to follow instructions at times quickly took a toll on me. While I definitely enjoyed the company of my very understanding friends and the activities we managed to do with the help of the wonderful volunteers, I still burst into a big, ugly cry when I got home. Maybe it was because it was such a big deal to do something like this on my own. Maybe I was simply overheated, sweaty, and tired. Perhaps feeling everything for once in front of God and everyone was just a really intense experience. I was frightened because I could just barely physically handle my child and keep my frustration in check. I had just enough strength to get through it, but in the end, I just had nothing left.
What took me by surprise was that being on an outing in the presence of these particular mothers seemed to substantially thin the layer of numbness I normally protect myself with, so my defenses weren't as effective as they usually are. At times it was like having open heart surgery without the benefit of an anesthetic. While it was wonderful to feel the ups and downs of being out, the thought of feeling so vulnerable frightened me as our little group made our way from booth to booth. One of my new friends seemed to read my mind and reminded me to tell her if there was anything I needed as we made our way through the celebration. Erik and I were invited to share some crepes the size of Nebraska with my other friend. Her daughter, who is largely nonverbal, looked into her eyes and very clearly expressed her feelings about Erik, followed by one of her brightest smiles. And the feeling was obviously mutual. Erik looked thrilled and laughed that hearty, open-mouthed laugh of his. Pure joy. Being in the presence of two very lovely ladies is a dream come true for my son.
Erik discovered that many of the booths were trailers, which meant they had wheels affixed to them. The couple working inside the snowcone booth stared as Erik caressed their tires for an extended period of time while I stood nearby and very unsuccessfully attempted to look casual. The silence was deafening, and I didn't really know what to say, so I cracked jokes about inspecting things to ensure that vehicle met safety standards. They laughed. After their initial skepticism about us seemed to wane, they allowed Erik to walk behind the thing where they were storing supplies to check out the back tires. I concluded that keeping Erik still and out of people's way was a completely lost cause. I shrugged, laughed, and made small talk with them until Erik began mumbling about lugnuts and moved on to the next booth with wheels. By now, we were looking more than a little strange. Mr. Snowcone stepped out of his cart during a lull in business and stood next to me, watching Erik press his lips to each wheel. He asked me with complete sincerity how long it took us to cross a parking lot.
From there, I laughed myself sick when we crammed ourselves on a rickshaw-type bicycle contraption for a ride around the park. One of my friends volunteered to run along the side of the thing and snap photos, and my face soon ached from smiling. She sprinted after us, waving and cheering, fueled by her wonderful enthusiasm, which was enhanced by the consumption of a little cotton candy. We eventually gained speed and left her behind, but she popped out from behind a tree like a paparazzo on our way back towards the festival.
Erik began to exhibit signs of an impending meltdown soon after our ride, as he was oversaturated with stimulation, and I carried him a short distance out of the crowd as he began throwing a fit. He quickly shook his head from side to side and began to cry. My arms were full of promotional items and prizes, including a rather large stuffed rabbit, but I made it back to the Jeep without losing much. Erik was furious at me but calmed down during our ride home and admitted he had a great time.
In the end, being included in something like this is pretty awesome. Feeling unsure about yourself as a parent and being scrutinized by the outside world, not knowing how to react to the queries of strangers, is so much more bearable when friends who know what you are going through are at your side. I suppose that holds true no matter who your kid is or how many genes he happens to have.