Monday, August 17, 2009

In which I set the stage for failure.

The world conspires against you when you're stupid enough to let it.

Around 1pm I announced to Ryan that we were going swimming. While I was searching for my keys, he fell asleep in the stroller.

So, around 3:30pm, I announced that we were going swimming. I should have taken Ryan's slow response and general grumpiness as a cue to pursue some other activity, but dammit, we both still had our bathing suits on from before his impromptu nap, and I was determined.

After 40 minutes of Ryan's stumbling around, I finally got him out the door and down to the garage. He was walking slowly, eating grapes from a plastic cup. One grape fell on the floor in the garage. "Aaaah!" he whined, pointing at the grape. "It's ok, you have others, that one's dirty, let's leave it alone," I suggested. In protest, he dumped the rest of the grapes on the floor, then wailed "Grapes! Grapes!"

I should have aborted the mission at this point. But sometimes I'm a daredevil. We got in the car.

"Grapes! Grapes!"

As soon as we got on the parkway and were well surrounded by slow traffic, my dashboard started flashing the word STOP. That's never good. Another coolant leak. My car has over 95,000 miles on it, and the last 5k have just been one problem after another. I've seen this alert enough times to know that I can safely get to the pool before topping off the coolant.

Of course, while staring at the blinking alert on my dashboard, I missed the exit I should have taken. Another delay.

By the time I park at the pool's overflow lot, it's nearly 5pm - Ryan's witching hour. Usually around 5pm he's cranky, and I end up letting him watch tv while I make whatever he's going to reject for dinner. The 5pm Ryan has thin skin. And I'm stupid enough to be starting an outing now.

We started walking up a long hill toward the pool. Ryan barked "Wunch," which means "I'm hungry." While I was pulling an apple from my bag, he fell off the sidewalk, scraping his knees. He cried more pitifully than the booboo warranted. I wrangled him the rest of the way to the pool. We looked through the gate: it was totally packed. Teens screaming on the water slide, kids laughing in the wave pool, babies crying, whistles. Sensory overload.

"Walk away now," my brain told me. But then I heard Ryan chant "Pool! Pool!" and I tuned out that pesky brain again.

We got to the entrance, where, to my surprise, there was a long line of people waiting to go in. It was almost 5pm - I figured everyone would be leaving around then. The doors were shut because a search was underway for a lost child. The administrative office was also closed, which was fitting because I had intended to renew my county park pass there today. Since there was no way to tell how much longer it would be until the doors opened, and I didn't have a valid park pass anyway, I admitted defeat. I told Ryan the line was too long, and we could try again tomorrow.

"Pool!" he cried. I tried to ease his disappointment by distracting him with a shiny red apple. Hey, I'm a sucker for shiny things, why shouldn't my kid be?

When I suggested we stop at the playground that was next to the parking lot, Ryan lost it and launched into the kind of tantrum you would expect of an autistic almost-4-year-old at 5pm on a hot day when he has been denied a promised trip to the pool. He threw himself off the sidewalk and down a rocky hill, cutting his leg open with a wide, deep, long scrape. The apple rolling down the hill and toward the playground was the last straw. He wailed, "Apple! Apple!" with all the exasperation of the afternoon and all the pain of this second boo boo sustained in the last half hour.

We sat on a bench and I held him for a while, cleaning the wound with baby wipes and cursing myself for being dumb enough to leave the house and start this adventure so late in the afternoon. I strapped him into the car and told him to hold a wipe on his leg while I dealt with the coolant leak. I pulled the spare coolant from the trunk and popped the hood, at which time I discovered that the mechanism that's supposed to keep the hood propped open is not engaging. So I'm holding up the hood with one arm, opening the tank and topping off the coolant with the other. Ryan is wailing.

As soon as I pull out of the parking lot, the wailing grows louder. He's saying something, but he's too worked up to make sense. Several blocks later I realize he's saying "Wipe," meaning he dropped the magical healing baby wipe he had been holding on his leg, and he wants another. I fish one out of my bag and he settles down. The damn cut is still bleeding. He dabs at the blood with his Bear.

I carry this cried-out mess of a child up from the garage. He clings to my neck. Even after I've set him up for failure and disappointment, he still loves me and does not appear to hold a grudge. My sweet baby.

Maybe we'll try again tomorrow.

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