I will never forget that day. It was June and it was hot. My son Ryan was seven, almost eight years old, and we had just finished a couple of errands after school. I thought for a treat we would have an ice cream — “You mean before dinner Mom?”, Ryan said surprised. “Yes, just this once”, I said. “You are the most awesome Mom in the world!” Ryan said.
So into Baskin-Robbins we went. Ryan said “Mom, can I have Capt. America ice cream?” “Check it first buddy” I said. You see in addition to having Aspergers and ADHD Ryan has a peanut allergy. He’s had a peanut allergy for as long as he can remember. If someone offers him something and he doesn’t know what it is he always asks “Does this have peanuts?” and if the answer is “yes” or “I’m not sure” he always says, “no thank you”. But not this day. This day he wanted Capt. America ice cream.
You know what happened next, right? Meltdown. Full on, over the top, screaming, kicking meltdown — in a Baskin-Robbins full of people. Not because of the peanuts in the ice cream but because this is how a child with Aspergers reacts when it’s all just too much but he can’t tell you that. Ryan had been diagnosed about 18 months earlier and I hadn’t experienced this intense a meltdown before and certainly not in such a public place filled with people. I can do this I told myself. I have to do this I told myself. He’s my son and he needs me. In my head I kept repeating, stay calm — get him out of here, stay calm — get him out of here, use a firm but quiet voice, don’t get in his personal space, you can do this. And this all worked, until it didn’t, and Ryan tried to lock himself in the bathroom. I say tried because just before he slammed the door I wedged myself in to stop the door from slamming. I knew if he got in there I would not get him out. I also knew we were past the point of no return and I had to get him out of there fast no matter what it took. So I picked him up, arms and legs flailing landing anywhere they could on me and teeth looking to sink into any piece of my flesh he could find. Did I mention the Baskin-Robbins was full of people?
When we got to the car Ryan relented just a little and then it came. As I was fighting back tears and trying to calm my over stimulated son, there was a knock on the window. My heart sank. Was it someone from Baskin-Robbins coming to chastise me for how I dealt with my child? Worse — had someone called the police to report me?
Slowly, through tear filled eyes, I turned to see a woman smiling at me. She asked me to roll down my window and said, “I just wanted to tell you what a great job you did with your son. You were terrific even with all those people just staring at you. I could never do what you just did. Your son is lucky to have you”. “Thank you” was all I managed to squeak out.
There have been more meltdowns but there have been even more magical moments. There have been set backs and victories, both large and small. There will be more of both. There has never been another “Baskin-Robbins lady” but there doesn’t need to be. One was all I needed.