Pumpkin Patches and Mezcal

Autism acceptance doesn't magically turn Leo's or my life into sugar-topped cakewalks, just so you know. (Allow me a smidge of irritation over how often Pollyanna charges gets leveled at us.)

I accept that many things are hard for Leo because he's autistic, that I can't understand why they're hard if I approach those roadblocks like a non-autistic person would, but that if I try to see and understand matters from his perspective -- his unique autistic perspective -- things get easier for both of us.

But I can't make everything in his life about being autistic either, because that means I end up underestimating him in other ways, specifically regarding how much he is maturing. Oftentimes, I'm the one who's lagging behind, in terms of adjusting to the sometimes decreasing amounts of backup Leo needs to navigate this world.

An example: last week, after several days of promising Leo I'd take him to a jumpy house pumpkin patch, I finally managed to get him and Mali to the closest one. And after all that build up, after all the yays and the "we're here!," and the walking between and pointing at the inflatable slide and the jumpy house, and declaring how proud I was that he didn't grab any candy from the bins scattered all around the check-in area...

...the woman manning the gate told Leo he couldn't go in, because he was too big, and because there were lots of little kids. She wasn't nice about it, either.

Reader, I almost died. How could Leo not have a meltdown (not a tantrum, a meltdown), given how excited he was, and how long he'd been waiting to go, yet things didn't go as planned?

I was paralyzed. I hadn't considered the possibility that Leo would be barred from a pumpkin patch -- it's never happened before -- and I had no back up plan to help Leo deal with such a huge disappointment.

Image: A snifter of mezcal, and some orange slices.
After a few sputtering beats, I paraphrased what the Grinchy gatekeeper said -- told Leo I was sorry, but that apparently the pumpkin patch was for little kids right now and he he had grown so much since last Halloween that now he was too big, and I hadn't known he could be too big. That I knew he really wanted to go, but maybe he could settle for ... (crap) a trip to the forbidden halls of Dairy Queen instead?

And you know what? Leo didn't protest or complain once. He agreed to go to Dairy Queen for a small plain vanilla cone that he's really, really not supposed to have but, you know, desperate times; he ate the cone with delight, and we went home and passed an uneventful evening.

(His mother, on the other hand, took several hours to recover from the what-could-have-happened adrenaline rush of having her happy, expectant son being denied admission to a favorite place, eventually resorting to a double shot of reposado mezcal with orange slices, once the kids were to bed. Is it Leo or is it his mother who had the better set of coping skills, do you think?)

I was still determined to get Leo to a &!!%*! pumpkin patch. And a few days later, I was not only successful but found a patch ten times better than that silly run-of-the-mill place that wouldn't let him in. This place had inflatable human-size hamster balls that float on water! Leo was ecstatic, and I was amped up on joy for my dude (and his little sister, and her friend).

Boy (and Girls) in the Bubble(s)
[image: white teen boy kneeling inside a transparent inflatable bubble, in
large inflatable wading pool. Two other bubbles with kids inside are behind him.]
All Hail the Floating Bubble!
[image: white teen boy lying inside an inflatable bubble,
arms raised, in a large inflatable wading pool.]
No mezcal needed, that second time. It was the best time ever, for all of us. But I might need another snort right now, after reliving that first nixing. (Bitch.)


  1. Yet you do not share with us the location of this magical place?

  2. The magic happens daily in Menlo Park, at the corner of El Camino & Valparaiso.

  3. Way to go mama!

  4. They had the hamster balls at the San Mateo County fair and boy were they fun.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.

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