Yesterday was a really difficult day for me. I was devastated at my careless parenting act, my irresponsible nonchalant attitude to safeguarding the one thing my child treasures the most. His beloved Thomas the Tank Engine train. We had gone to a soft play in the afternoon to run off some of the energy that had been building throughout the day. It was very busy, but kiddo was focused. He was happy. And off he went to play. Thomas was placed on a table, as I didn’t want him to be lost in the bottomless abyss of the ball pool. Sensible, or so I thought. Because after the first half an hour we switched tables. And here was where my nightmare began.
As we sat on our original table my stress levels were on the increase as I was unable to have a clear view of the exit gate. Any parent of a child with autism knows that sight of any exit is essential. Kiddo’s understanding of safety is less than minimal after all. So when a table became available we briskly moved across the crowded room to stake claim on the table and chairs. And there I blissfully sat as the kiddo played. I could see him. He was safe. And I became lost in my cup of tea and relaxing chat with my mummy friend (let’s call her N).
Time passed, kiddo was excited and free! I was so happy to see him embrace the play, and so so proud at how he managed the onslaught of screams and shouts as other children danced around the jungle of joy.
Then home time came, and my world came crashing down. For thomas was no where to be found. I could feel the panic rising within me, my face went numb. My child cannot survive without this toy. He simply can’t. The world would be too much for him to bare. N and I searched high and low. Her children obediently searching the soft play as I dived through each ball pool, searching in vain. But nothing. Not a trace.
I felt hot tears start to swell. This was my fault. Mine. How could I have been so careless? I lost the one thing my child treasured more than anything else in his world. Eventually the search had to end, and it was time to leave. I felt sick with apprehension. Would kiddo notice that Thomas was no longer with us? I went straight for distraction and moved proactively, for a reactive parenting approach would yield no results. For this I was sure of. Kiddo was distracted with his tablet. And off to the car we went.
I could barely speak to N as we walked. Inside me a glimmer of hope flickered that perhaps this had all been a daydream, and that Thomas would be sat in kiddo’s seat in the car looking back at me with his set identical smile that I was so used to seeing each day. But as I approached the car I was hit with a feeling of emptiness. For in the car he was not.
So far the kiddo hadn’t noticed. This in itself was simply shocking. As we drove the winding roads back from the coast I struggled to keep my composure and tears started to fall. Was it my incredible sense of failure as a parent? Or my predicted reaction that kiddo would display when he finally realised his prize possession was no longer a member of our family? I didn’t know. I simply drove as the tears kept coming.
Upon my return home I was warmly greeted by kiddo’s dad, with a hug that wreaked of consolidation and an appreciation of what we had lost. I couldn’t speak. But kiddo could, he was still perfectly happy!
At this point you are probably thinking that my reaction was well and truly over the top. And I would have to agree with you. We sat silently at the dinner table, my eyes staring into the middle distance. “It’s like someone has died” exclaimed my husband, with the bitter tone of disappoint in his voice. “I know” I replied. But I just couldn’t figure out why.
I took to my toolkit of beauty products to attempt a make over on an identical train. The original thomas hardly had any eyebrows left. Nail polish remover should take care of that. I precisely carved into thomas’s eyebrows and gave a shabby chic makeover to bring the Thomas imposter as close to the original as possible. But kiddo was not fooled. He examined the face with a Sherlock Holmes approach, searching for every detail to confirm whether or not this was his true friend. Rejected. You can’t fool a child with a photographic memory.
As bedtime approached a tornado of anxiety started to build inside me. How could this child possibly sleep?? How?! I vowed to sleep on his floor to ease his pain, to make up for my careless act. But the stress of the last few hours had really taken its toll on my body, and as I lay on the hard unforgiving floor (and it was what I felt I deserved) I fell asleep, leaving my happy kiddo chatting to himself in his nice warm bed.
An hour or so later my husband woke me and moved me into our own room. The nights slumber was filled with nightmares and my feet began to cramp, the stress I was feeling was so intense.
This morning kiddo rose with a happy spring in his step and I finally asked myself why on Earth I had been feeling so distraught? And then it hit me. I was overwhelmed with the kiddos ability to handle such a devastating blow, yet I had been thrown into absolute turmoil. He was growing up. He was developing his ability to handle and experience our world. His skills had grown and his resilience had flourished.
I’ve always been of the mindset that kiddo would need me all his life. Yet here he is at the age of 3 showing me his progress, dealing with a situation in a more mature manner than a 33 year old! I gasped at my realisation and then peacefully accepted that the loss of Thomas has been a huge turning point for us. For me. Because kiddo has survived a major knock. In fact, I’m not even sure he has registered this major knock. He’s going to be ok in life this one. The past two years of being knocked down and getting back up again has given him a strong willpower within to survive whatever our world throws at him. And just maybe my realisation that he won’t be my baby forever, autism or not, was what I was truly experiencing yesterday.
If Thomas is ever found I will be over the moon! But in my memory cupboard he will go, and only brought out if kiddo should need him. Until then my boy, I can’t encourage you enough to embrace new experiences using nothing but your own inner strength. You super star. I love you.
Thanks for reading,