A French fries on the dashboard. A solitary remnant of an explosive situation. It mocked me as I drove home a couple weeks ago.it reminded me of the last 2 hours of extreme emotions from calm to confused to surprised to scared to embarrassed to frustration to concern. I tool it’s picture at the stop light to make it’s reflective reminder subside until I could find it again and take on a deeper reflection of those 2 hours and how you never know what simplistic idea can result in unleashing a beast inside of rage and despair. And how that beast can turn back to an innocent ladybug with tears and regret.
Thursday afternoon routine is me picking Samantha up from school and heading to any stop for a snack as we gear up for Speech Therapy. This session went well and she happily played on her iPad as reward before we left the waiting room to make our next stop at the psychologist. Some days 2 snacks will get her through these hours of appointments. Other days her speech therapy results in a hunger that can only be met with a more substantial meal. This was one of those days and I happily agrees that we would go through the Wendy’s drive-thru and get her the four-for-four meal that she prefers. She joyfully and emphatically repeated how hungry she was the entire 15 minute drive. I jokingly chanted that we were on our way to Wendy’s and no way to go faster. I figured I was on top of things. I was meeting her need that would keep the peace as we meet with the psychologist every week and talk about the days past and the goals ahead. I was not expecting what happened next.
Staring at the menu I realized I had not eaten lunch myself so I would get a four-for-four that I would eat a bacon cheese burger and get a cheeseburger kids meal because it is made exactly to her liking of only ketchup. I could have a small drink of sprite while she enjoyed her regular size Fanta. Felt like a win-win as I ordered. At the first window and for what feels like the first time ever, the employee repeated the order quite loudly and Samantha understood that her four for four was not going to have her cheeseburger with only ketchup. There was no turning back. She screamed instantaneously as the employee finished repeating the order. She was infatic that the cheeseburger in the kids meal was smaller than the cheeseburger that came with the other meal. I calmly asked Maya the Wendy’s employee to reassure us that the cheeseburgers were the same size. Her response, as my daughter screamed louder and louder was that she did not know since it was her first day. She then made the comment that when she was younger ” if we didn’t like the food we didn’t eat.” I very kindly said it must have been nice to not have autism. Her response as Sammy started kicking the seat and hitting the car door was that of Shame and perhaps she will think twice next time before she adds her personal feelings but that’s a whole different discussion.
I made it to the next window with a car behind me. The intensity of Sammy’s screams made it difficult to hear the lady at the next window. She handed me the bags first as I try to find Space to put the drinks in the front seat. There was no way I was handing a full cup of soda to a meltdown in the backseat. As I place the bags of food on the passenger side of the front seats I had no time to stop Sammy from reaching the bag of kids meal and smashing it with her fist in the back seat. I put the cups as steady as I could and grab the bag from her. Perhaps that’s when my French fry friend landed on the dashboard, but I am not for sure. All I know is I wanted to get the 5-minute drive out of the way to the psychologist parking lot. I wanted to turn the car off and keep us safe. I wanted the screaming to stop and the kicking to cease. I wanted her to eat something as sometimes that can ease her stress in these moments of hanger.
I put the bag on the floor of the front seat. She angrily kept forward and grabbed the other. It flung to the ceiling and crashes down on my seat. I had made it the one of 2 blocks. She tried to get the drinks but I successfully blocked her with my arm. I made the turn… focused on parking any which way in the fairly empty lot. Put the car on park and faces my little beast.
She was twisted airways and kicking the window of the car. She seemed faster than lightning and stronger than a grow man. She whipped around all feet and arms, thrashing out of control. It was surreal. It was terrifying. It was near comical when a brief moment occurred and she fairly calmly asked for her cheeseburger. I obliged in hopes that the sustenance would release somw of her emotional pressure. She took it gently in her right hand, looked me straight in the eyes, and smashed it with her left fist.
I was quiet. She can’t understand anything in this mode. I removed the item, drove to an actual parking spot and waited. She eagerly picked up fries and chicken nuggets off the seat and floor. She held them close and tight in her hands. She put a fry in her mouth and glared at me with such disdain it was heartbreaking. But no screaming.
We sat there in quiet and thick emotional bewilderment. I was disoriented finally. My shoulder hurt from a kick so hard I blurted profanity earlier. And I looked at the great divide that was the parking space to the office courtyard. I wanted to get to safety. I wanted a reprieve from a 30 minute piece of insanity. I wanted someone else to see, hear and help with this intense situation about cheeseburger orders.
She munched on a nugget. Perhaps she could follow direction. perhaps she could get to the familiar waiting room and color while she finished what little was left of the order. In a calm yet stern voice I directed her get out as I quickly got out to head to her side. I felt like this was a win. That we can review and move forward. I was wrong.
Her glare was back and she bolted into the parking lot or the front sidewalk. She would not stop. I had to nearly tackle her you prevent her from walking off into the distance. I gracefully bear hug my daughter is a right direction and got her into the courtyard. She promptly sat down and started throwing rocks. As I attempted to shift her back up she resisted. Demon scream just a random sound and it took three tries to get her in the door. Once in it took three more times to keep her from walking out. I felt bad for the couple and their young son as I force my daughter into the small waiting room. They were there for their own reasons and I could see there was compassion in the mother’s eyes. She even offered to hold my purse and at one point help to block the door. But I managed to get her in and block the door. As she looked around at this familiar room she proceeded to shove all the magazines off the corner table just as I removed the plant and tip it over to hide behind. Once there she proceeded to eat the remaining few fries and asked for the fanta. I looked and hadn’t realized that they all.of this I had been carrying the drink.
Exhausted and frustrated I looked her in the eye and said “it’s my fanta now. Get some water from the cooler.” And although it may seem wrong, that statement felt good. That fanta tasted good as the sweat dripped from my forehead and I enjoyed this somehow unspilt orange sugary drink that I typically loathed. Her posture calmed and straightened from the beast to a girl of placating sympathies. The sorry was said over and over. And she tried to snuggle after she peacefully placed the table upright and replaced he magazines to their usual spots. I was not ready to forgive. My emotions were still heightened and I slowly and deliberately let her know I was not ready. She accepted this fate as the psychologist welcomed us to our newest discussions of restitution and forgiveness.
Now I did forgive her after we got home and all the sad and ooey gooey apologies continued. And the car was supervised as she cleaned every piece of Wendy’s debris from every crevice, including my lonely dashboard French frie. I provided her the relief of forgiveness and my ability to allow amendments to the process as well as the reasoning for my ordering method. And perhaps there is no better time to face such a demon as right before you see a psychologist that helps make sense of the madness.
But the harsh reality is this… How can I tell what will set off such an explosive and enclosed situation? How do I explain to my doctor that my bum shoulder has been damaged into shock from a ten year old who didn’t like how I ordered our food at Wendy’s? Well… you never know what innocent process might have this result, you hope it never happens in others harms way and you tell the doc a brief “my daughter had a meltdown in the back seat a week ago and kicked my shoulder blade.” Then you move on with an ever present question of when will this happen again and how can I handle it different because you can’t rely on your daughter with autism to control her emotions at all times. But you don’t eat that true on the dashboard… gross!