Every Saturday is a fail. They used to be my favorite days. I looked forward to that one special day I could spend quality time with my kids, not trying to recover from the previous work week or preparing for the next. Saturdays were by far, my happiest days! Autism turned my Saturdays into 12-hour anxiety attacks and unforgettable embarrassing moments. Autism is always hardest on Saturdays. If you are a regular reader, you already know that the triplets have Autism. I focus most of my attention on all the things they can do and rarely over-concern myself with the things they can’t. Nonetheless, trying to keep them safe, while out in the world, on an busy day, with no help, puts me in a panic.
I rarely see my kids compete in their soccer games on Saturdays.
My oldest son, Antonio, now a Gold competitive player, has been playing soccer for ten years. Before the triplets were born, I would never miss a game. Now, I barely watch him play. My second son Pedro, started playing competitively last year. I’ve always been the mom who cheered the loudest and showed up the most. I couldn’t understand those moms who never saw their kids play. When the triplets can handle waiting out a soccer game, I’m in a constant state of panic and don’t actually get to watch my other kids play. I’m trying to make sure Kaitlyn doesn’t run up to and off with a stranger, because she has no sense of stranger-danger. At all. She will even spontaneously run up to people in their vehicles and try to get a hug or a high five from the random people she decides to take an interest in. I’m chasing Enrique who bolts every chance he gets. And, I’m trying to calm Andres, who struggles with every little transition. I’m not watching the game. Most of the time, it’s just easier to keep the little kids in a less crowded area, or even in the van, occupied with stories or an iPad. Now I’m worse than those moms, because I’m that mom. I’m that mom who runs toward the field at the end of (not watching) the game, shouting, “come on, come on, we gotta go!” We’re always in a hurry. Yet, it takes us forever, to do anything. Today, it took us about forty minutes to make a three minute walk with the triplets. I might have broken down into tears, but I was too angry. I was angry that it’s so hard sometimes. I was angry that people were staring at me. Actually, I was angry that I was too busy dealing with the longest three minute walk, ever, to give the onlookers a good piece of my mind.
We don’t have routines on Saturdays.
Today we had four soccer games between my two oldest sons. One of the games was cancelled, just as we were arriving. The day started at 6:00 a.m. with a 7:00 a.m. arrival time for the first game of the day. It’s often late Friday night before we have confirmed game times for Saturday. We figure it all out on-the-go. Whatever we figure out usually changes constantly throughout the day. Often, Antonio and Pedro aren’t even playing in the same city. Sometimes my husband will take one and I’ll take the other. Sometimes Antonio goes with teammates. Sometimes, I just stay home with the triplets and my husband is able to take the older two. Tonight, they had the unexpected chance to work the snack bar at the local college with some of their teammates, during the college’s football game. I knew they’d love it, so I let them. I dropped the babies off at home with daddy and put them to bed. I picked up Antonio and Pedro. We got home just after 10:00 p.m. That’s a sixteen hour day that revolved around soccer and constantly changing plans. I planned to cook dinner early in the day. Instead, we ate sandwiches we packed to take along, and drive-thru meals later in the day.
We don’t do what other families do on Saturdays.
So many families take advantage of the freedom Saturdays bring. They go out into the world, gather with friends and loved ones, attend crowded places like parks, museums, and local attractions. They shop. They try to fit as much fun and activity into their day as possible. We avoid crowded places, try to limit transitions from one activity to another, and rarely gather. The older kids long to turn every Saturday into a day of fun and spontaneity, outside of scheduled soccer games. Sometimes they resent that we are not like other families.
I feel most alone and guilty on Saturdays.
On Saturdays, I can’t help but to notice that we are different from the typical family. We’re a unique kind of “blended family.” We have “typically developing” children and children with special needs. All children have needs. As a mom, it’s difficult to prioritize the needs of your children and give higher priority to one over another, because you love them all. You want them all to be happy. You want to meet all of their needs wants. The guilt eats away at me on Saturdays. I feel like I’m not enough. I feel like I can’t make it right enough for all of the kids, like I’m always letting someone down.
Saturdays are the days normal families do normal things.
Whatever. Who cares about being normal, anyway? We have spontaneous triplets, without the support of fertility treatments, family history, or any other logical explanation. That is rare. That is not normal. It’s even weird. But, it’s amazing! I wouldn’t trade it for all the perfect Saturdays in the world. With three children with Autism, one of them is usually responding to something that triggers an autistic-like response. It could be the noise, the people, the transitions, or just their lack of impulse control, which can be very dangerous. It’s not just one child. They’re three. It’s literally triple the effort, stress, and fear to keep them safe and happy while going about our Saturday business.
We still try to make the most of our Saturdays.
We find secluded places to hang out.
We can turn any moment into a party.
Alone time with the kids makes for the best quality time.
We still have fun in our own strange ways.
By: Alicia Gonzalez