“Every one else gets to go places. I never get to go anywhere.”
In writing, these words seem like a petulant teen’s complaint to restrictive parents. In that case, they wouldn’t be a convincing argument.
In reality, these two sentences were spoken by my husband, and they were enough to change my mind.
It was back in July when my husband, Peter, first suggested a trip to Niagara Falls. Back then I gave several reasons why it was a bad idea including that the car ride was too long for our four-year-old autistic son, Philip, and that he might not enjoy the experience once we got there. Then my husband brought it up when we put some more money into car repairs-his “why spend all this money if we never drive this car anywhere?” argument. I pointed out that we had just spent money on the car. Peter persisted, asking when I would have some time off from work. I was hoping he would forget about the whole idea by the time I started my vacation during winter shutdown.
It’s like I had forgotten how stubborn he can be.
I thought my plan for “let’s pretend he never mentioned it” was working when my vacation began a day early due to illness. Philip and I have both been sick for most of my vacation. In addition, we’ve had snow the whole time. I believed it was highly unlikely that Peter would bring up a four-hour drive north in this conditions.
It’s like I don’t even know my own husband.
“What are you planning this weekend?” Peter asked me on Friday.
“Oh, I’m taking Philip to the library on Saturday and the grocery store on Sunday. Why?”
“Well, I was thinking we would drive to Niagara Falls,” Peter replied.
I trotted out my reasons again why not to go: the snowy weather, problems keeping Philip entertained in the car, our lingering sniffles. I didn’t voice my other concerns as the mom of a child with special needs: Where would I change Philip’s diaper? Would Philip like the trip? What if something went wrong when we were 274 miles away from home?
That’s when Peter said those words: I never get to go anywhere.
Suddenly, I realized that, against all instincts, I needed to stop thinking about my son. I needed to think about his father, the man who volunteered to be a stay-at-home dad without realizing we wouldn’t have a “typical” child. The man who often by choice, but mostly by circumstance is at home all day, every day. The fiercely independent guy who relies on his wife for the household income. The man who, like me, hasn’t been on a vacation since the summer before I got pregnant.
I decided that Peter needed this trip. He was only asking for a day, and I decided that I could give him that.
My stomach was in knots for the first ninety-minutes of our drive. I hadn’t known there were flurries in the forecast and the interstate was slick at the start. But Philip was in a good mood and the roads and sky cleared as we drove through Pennsylvania. He enjoyed looking at the sights until he fell asleep on the outskirts of Buffalo.
It was cold but beautiful at Niagara Falls State Park. Philip had a grand time kicking through the snow. In fact, he was almost so distracted that he didn’t look at the falls. When we finally got him to look their way, my sensory-seeker giggled at the roaring water and chilly spray.
We only stayed in Niagara Falls for a couple of hours. This included an hour at the aquarium. Philip had a great time since I first let him make a quick lap at his own pace. After that, he was ready to take time and look at some of the displays. His favorite part, however, was watching the sea lions swim.
We had taken the trolley from the falls to the aquarium, but Peter decided we should walk back. We ended up trudging through knee-high snowdrifts since most of the sidewalks had not been cleared. I was irritated at first, but realized this was the perfect opportunity for Philip to play in the snow and burn off energy before the car ride home.
The roads were mostly clear for the return trip. Philip only cried once when we were about thirty-five miles from home. A bag of pretzels quickly cheered him up. Other than some brief distress over entering a public restroom for a diaper change, Philip had surprised me by how much he enjoyed crossing state lines for the first time.
As we got closer to home, I asked Peter, “Did you have a good time?”
“Yeah,” he answered in typical understated fashion.
I’m so glad that I finally agreed to the trip. I guess I had forgotten that I trust my husband with Philip’s daily care. He wouldn’t have suggested going someplace or doing something that would be harmful to Philip. And he was right. Peter did deserve to go someplace even if it was only for a day. Moms often are told to remember to take care of themselves. Dads deserve it, too.
And, hey. I got a new t-shirt out of the trip, too.