Breaking Routines

I have written about Emma’s need for routines.  Like many children with autism, the desire to do the same thing, whether it’s watch Mary Poppins for the two thousandth time (not an exaggeration) or go to the Central Park Zoo, followed by a visit to FAO Schwartz and ending with a visit to the American Museum of Natural History, has an obsessive compulsive urgency to it.  Emma has gotten much, much better about being more flexible, but this Sunday morning Emma became fixated on going to the zoo.  Despite the fact she went to the Bronx Zoo with a caregiver the weekend before and the Central Park Zoo the weekend before that, despite the fact going to the zoo is less about leisurely strolling through the various artificial habitats and looking at the animals who reside there and very much about a specific route that must be held to.

During those increasingly rare times I have indulged Emma’s request to go to a place, like the zoo, I end up running after her while she zips from one thing to the next.  At the Central Park Zoo, given her preference, she will begin with a visit to the bat cave, racing past the exotic birds, stand for less than three minutes peering into the dark cave while saying, “Look at the bats!  Be careful, the bats will bite you!” before tearing off, regardless of what I might think to say to engage her in an attempt to slow the routine down, past the Colobus Monkeys and outside again to stare at some other type of monkey who reside on a few strategically placed rocks in the middle of a man-made lake.  Then it’s off to see the old, decrepit and now blind seal, into the penguin and puffin house, then back outside to watch the sea lions being fed.  If we’ve missed a feeding, we must wait until the next feeding.  Emma will patiently sit until the next show and then watch until the last unfortunate fish has been tossed into the gaping mouth of a lucky sea lion, before we are allowed to leave.

But Sunday is the day we try to do something together as a family.  Sunday is the day we attempt to take everyone’s desires into consideration.  Sundays can be difficult.  Nic, more often than not, wants to go see a movie or get together with a family we know who has children Nic’s age, Richard, being the amazing man that he is, is often game to go with the flow and I will do just about anything that doesn’t involve going to one of Emma’s favored haunts.  (Lest anyone think I’m a dreadful mother, may I just defend myself here and say I have been to the American Museum of Natural History several thousand times and would be grateful if I never went there again, literally, for the rest of my life, likewise to the zoo, any zoo for that matter and, while we’re at it, any carousel, anywhere in the entire world.)  It may sound harsh, but there it is.

So when Emma launched in about going to the zoo this past Sunday morning, I said simply, “Not today, Em.”

“Go with Mommy!”  Emma cried pointing at me.  “Just you and me, go to the zoo.”

It was heartbreaking to hear her carefully using the correct pronouns, requesting me, specifically.  Never-the-less I stood firm.  Then Emma brought out the big guns.  “Mommy talk to Daddy,” she cried.  “Mommy talk to Daddy about the zoo.”   It was a stroke of manipulative genius, pitting one parent against the other, knowing that where Mommy wasn’t caving, Daddy just might.  I actually had to leave the room, I felt such a welling up of pride.  She’s becoming quite the negotiator I thought, as I prepared for our “study room” session.

By the time Emma was halfway into our literacy session, the obsession with the zoo had ebbed and when we ended our session with sitting still for five minutes, the obsessive grip no longer held her.   We ended up having a lovely Sunday with Nic and Emma going to their gymnastics class, on the way to Union Square we happened upon an Occupy Wall Street protest, giving me ample subject matter to photograph, before meeting some friends in Union Square.  Emma and I made a brief visit to Barnes and Noble and then home, where we did some more literacy work before Nic and I made custom made hamburgers, cole slaw and french fries for dinner – inspired by the Food network’s favorite burgers show, which aired over the weekend – only ours were better.

Occupy Wall Street Protest

Em waiting for me

The Family – Who’s that devilishly handsome man (Gasp!) with those two adorable children?

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:   Emma’s Hope Book

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