Here is what I learned last week on vacation: at the beach, my family is invisible. We blend in. We don’t stand out one bit. Rejoice! Again, I say: Rejoice!
I fully expected to come home from a week at the ocean with enough fodder to write a long post about traveling with an autistic child; about the sensory problems, the behaviors, the judgmental stares from strangers. It was mid-week, though, as I sat on my beach chair in Observation Mode, when I realized that piece was not going to be written. The story had changed. Drastically.
I realized that I had gone half a week without apologizing for my son’s behaviors, without stressing out about disturbing others, without worrying about the messes Peter makes. Why? Because for once, every other family was in the same boat as ours.
Noisy, screaming, messy children? There were plenty of those on the beach. Peter fit right in. Mostly he was screaming with joy, though, because he loves the ocean and the pool. In fact, other children seemed to “act out” a lot more that he did.
Tired, cranky parents? There were plenty of those, too. We had our moments, but mostly we had a great time enjoying the ocean, the pool, the bike paths, and even (for me) a morning on the tennis courts!
Crazy, disfunctional families? No shortage of those. I’m happy to report that we, in fact, were one of the more, um… mellow families. This is not something I get to claim often!
All of this made me realize that for us, the beach is the Great Equalizer. While there, we were not an Autism Family. We were just a family. We did not stand out or attract attention. This was completely fine with us.
Yes, we are exhausted as we head home, and we probably need a vacation from our vacation. But this is no different from the thousands of other families heading home from a beach vacation up and down the coasts of this great country. We are all a little tired, a little sunburned, and a little sad to be leaving. But also, deep down, maybe a little happy to be heading home.