This past weekend, yours truly, the official “girly-girl,” roughed it in the woods of Allaire and went camping. By camping I mean REAL camping, without a heated tent (someone had one, was so jealous!) smelly port-o-potties (two for seventy-five people,) and no running water. Did I mention this was a Cub Scout event, so no “Mommy juice” allowed either.

What we won’t do for our children.

We survived, and parts of the adventure we even thrived. I learned that Zach can only handle so much unstructured time on one of these trips, and I’ll plan accordingly next year (yes people, this is a “one-night-a-year” affair, I have my limits.) I figured out that assembling/dissembling a tent is beyond my skill set (along with cooking and various other tasks,) and yet managed to find a way to get my “tent needs” met (thanks again Bob, Angie and Ty!) I learned that my son doesn’t feel the need to say the Lord’s prayer if he’s sleeping with his mommy (which I found so adorable I really wanted to celebrate with the chocolate I forgot to pack.) I learned that even with three pairs of warm socks my feet will be icicles from the ankles down (I foresee a pair of “camping Uggs” in my near future.)

Most importantly, I learned to let go and have fun.

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While this will sound somewhat less important than learning how to meet my camp housing needs, I assure you it’s not. For years I labored under the illusion that if I just had enough information I could control the outcome of any event involving my two autistic kids. After a number of birthday parties, holiday dinners, and hell, just trying to get them to eat something, my stubborn little brain finally figured out my inner control freak would not win in every situation. Eventually, I slowly let that little goal (along with having skinny thighs) go by the wayside. The anxiety regarding things that were supposed to be fun (but often, let me tell you friends, were not) lingered however, and for years I found myself dreading taking my kids places that for 98% of the population were enjoyable.

Okay, maybe kids’ birthday parties are not that enjoyable, but you get what I mean.

This weekend I put all my autism-related anxiety aside and just had some good old-fashioned (unfortunately teetotalling) fun, and went with the flow. When my boy had some social issues and wanted to go home I didn’t automatically go to my freak-out place, and managed to calmly talk him out of it. When the offer of a night hike was something less than alluring to my son (who’s not a big fan of the night to begin with) I got him to go anyway.

He later said it was his favorite part of the trip (next to sleeping in a tent with his mommy, yes he earned extra technology time with that one.) When I realized at 2:15 AM my frozen feet would be keeping me up for the rest of the night, I actually just relaxed and made a list of (SPOILER ALERT!) of how many ways the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy pissed me off (really Mer, you forget to call Der’s sister the neuro-surgeon to the scene as a just in case?)

I went with the flow. There was both yin and yang to this trip, but my boy woke up Sunday with a big smile and a proclamation that he wanted to do it again (2016 my dear, 2016.)

He had fun. We overcame obstacles that even two years ago would have done us in. I banished my worry companions to the woods, and for me anyway, relaxed. It’s taken over a decade, but I’m finally learning how to live more in the moment and acknowledge that even the unpleasant ones don’t last forever; that just on the horizon something better will usually come along if I just wait.

I had fun (and a big glass of Pinot Grigiot Sunday night with the accompanying “make-up chocolate.”)

I’ve been in the woods with autism a long, long time. And I just now feel like I’m starting to come out of them.

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