The other day my wife and I decided, at the spur of the moment, to take the family out to dinner. This usually requires a bit of advanced thought and planning. But we figured we could just wing it and everything would be ok.
We started to head out the door and realized that our tablets (my son watches his tablet while he eats, and it keeps him calm) were barely charged. But we still decided to move forward with the plan. We packed all three kids into the car and headed to a local restaurant.
At first, all was well. The kids were happily coloring. But soon everything fell apart. My son’s tablet died. Then he had some food go down the wrong pipe which resulted in him vomiting everywhere. The other two kids got a little tired and a little bored. They started getting a little whiny. And of course, this was the day that the restaurant was short staffed. Which meant that the food was taking a long time to come out.
By the time we got done with our meal, my wife was sitting in a completely different part of the restaurant with our other two kids. I was cleaning up my son. Everything was pretty dang disheartening. But as my wife and I drove home, we laughed about it. And also wondered whether “spur of the moment “was off the table for us forever.
Yet in hindsight...no it’s not. So much of parenting a child with disabilities is about circumstances and environment. Taking care of those two things can result in everything going better. And the truth is that we didn’t take care of those two things. Going to dinner was our second outing of the day when we know our kids are typically only good with one outing. It was our fault that we didn't check the battery level on my son’s tablet before we went. We can absolutely do “spur of the moment,” but the timing has to be perfect. And that time it wasn't. And that’s just how it is.
As difficult and stressful as things seem sometimes, some of it is really predictable. It’s not that we’ve lost the ability to be spontaneous, it's just that we’ve lost our margin of error. The more spontaneous we want to be, the more on point we need to be in our planning and preparation. That may sound contradictory, but the more we do it, the better we’ll get at it so it will finally be “spur of the minute.”
There are other ideas for planning outings in Parenting Children with Disabilities.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.