It was a dry and mild spring evening, the sort you want to make the most of and get out of the house. So we packed the kids in the car, the changing bag, a few little toys and grabbed the leftover loaf of bread on the way out to feed the ducks at Lanark Loch. The park at the Loch has recently been rebuilt and we thought the kids might enjoy some time on the swings, climbing frame and slides after feeding the ducks and swans. We ‘thought’ it would be a relaxing evening. We ‘thought’ we could enjoy some quality family time together. We thought it would be ok. I never for a minute thought I would be writing about that evening days later with the emotions of it all still raw in my mind.
Naomi loved feeding the various animals and was so excited as they approached her eager to enjoy the food she was providing them. Isaac had other plans. So we did what we so often have to do in these situations and resorted to our tried and tested method of parenting these days “divide and conquer”. One parent takes the daughter and the other the son. A simple smile and nod to my ever understanding husband and he recognised the cue that I was heading off with Isaac, hopefully to the swing park. Never try and second guess someone with autism! Unpredictability should be their middle name!
It never occurred to me to check I had the essentials all special needs parents must carry at all times. In our case a watch, the car keys and a mobile phone! As I chased after my flapping, wobbling, vocal four year old who has an absolute love of water my first thoughts were along the lines of ‘will he keep his clothes on today’, ‘how deep is that water?’ and ‘even the swans have got the right idea to get out of his way!’.
But he never headed for the water. He was setting off around the loch following the path of so many dog walkers, romantic couples and runners before him. His eyes were squinted at the edge of the bushes tracking their path as they steered right around the waters edge. Totally in his own world. Totally oblivious to anyone around him. Just engrossed in an imaginary line that only he seemed able to see. I could certainly benefit from the exercise and had no choice but to follow this fascinating child who was off exploring.
He was looking at the bushes. Mum was looking out for obstacles at his feet, uneven tracks that he would never notice with eyes fixated on a peripheral imaginary line only seen by him. I was apologising to fellow walkers approaching in the opposite direction assuming this little one would move out of the way of their dog, pram or running path. But Isaac wasn’t even aware of them as he half walked, half ran in his trance like state. I was saying polite hellos to strangers. My little one more interested in the shrubbery than in people.
As he continued along and I got into his groove my thoughts began to wander as much as he was: ‘Will dad and Naomi have any idea where we are?’ ‘Are they having as much ‘fun’ as me?’ ‘Maybe after all this walking Isaac might actually sleep tonight!’ ‘wow, this place is beautiful. I’m so glad I am getting to see so much more of this place tonight.’
And then he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks! Why, I have no idea. And he screamed this ear piercing scream, a broken-hearted, confused, disorientated look on his face. And real tears. He can’t talk but his face said it all. He finally knew I was there. And he needed me. He had just walked half a mile (.75 km) in an absolute trance and suddenly reality hit and he had no clue where he was and how he got there.
“It’s ok, I’ve got you”
Half a mile is easy to walk in the cool of an evening with only the weight of your own burdens upon you. But with the weight of a 4 and a half year old, a heavy heart and all his disorientated frustrated burdens as well as your own, it is a very long way indeed. And it was right around that time that I suddenly realised I had no phone, no car keys and no watch on. Oh dear. We were alone. But we weren’t.
“It’s ok, I’ve got you”
I kept reassuring him as God was reassuring me of the same thing.
“It’s going to be ok my precious child”
He was hearing me through his tears. And I was listening through my tears too.
“We’ll get through this together.”
He needed to know he wasn’t alone. So did I.
“Look at that duck Isaac! Can you hear that dog bark?”
Sometimes we need to be distracted from our own worries.
We made it back safe and well together. I learnt that night that sometimes we can walk alone in life but at other times we just need held and carried and told by someone “It’s ok. I’ve got you.”