Like many autism parents, I’m sure, we have one of those dry-erase weekly schedules hanging up on our door. The point of it, besides detailing what activities each day had in store (including the mundane stuff, like eating), is to give the kiddos peace of mind and help them ease from one activity to another. It has the space to write either the days of the week, or the whole month on it if you are so inclined, and my super-awesome partner has printed out and laminated a bunch of little clip-art pictures to indicate different activities, such as an apple for mealtimes, or a clock for appointments.
There is even a little picture with a cartoon doctor and patient, to represent… you guessed it!… doctor appointments. Remember that, because it’ll be on the test.
Last Sunday, like every Sunday, I allowed Jill to watch me while I made the schedule for that week. She likes to “help”… and by help, I mean stand there and watch while I make the schedule, and then doodle 5 or 6 pretty little stars along the bottom of the calendar after I’m done.
Hey, it gives her a feeling of accomplishment. Who am I to judge?
Anyway, when I stuck the pictures on for all the usual daily things, I started with the other stuff. I put a little clock on Wednesday and Thursday morning, to signify that she and Jack had an appointment with their OT. Since the kids are on spring break, and since I don’t have pictures of dogs to indicate when we go to walk a friend’s dog, I wrote the name “Milo” where needed.
And then, there was the little doctor picture. Remember the doctor picture?
I put the doctor on Wednesday afternoon, and wrote a little “2pm” next to it, and thought nothing further about the whole thing.
I thought nothing further about it, that is, until Tuesday afternoon. For some god-forsaken reason, I thought I should double-check the appointment time on my Outlook calendar, where I make a note of every little appointment we ever have, anywhere.
Lo and behold, as I click on Wednesday the 11th, I find…nothing.
I click on Tuesday the 10th, wondering if I might have missed it by accident.
I stare blankly at my computer screen for a moment, a sudden feeling of dread coming over me. A little voice at the back of my head whispered: “Well, you fucked up.”
The kids were oblivious to my despair. They sat at their little table, colouring in a couple of activity books.
I eyed them carefully.
Then, like a desperate parent smuggling a freshly bought chocolate bar into their secret stash, I slowly put my laptop down on the couch. I quietly got up off the couch, wincing and shooting a glance at the kids every time the couch squeaked. I shuffled into the front hall, my back turned to the living room, and quickly moved the doctor picture over to Thursday.
“What you doing, Mommy?” Jill’s delicate little voice piped up, from directly behind me.
“FUCKING HELL!” I exclaimed, whirling around. “You scared the crap out of me! I’m fixing a boo-boo, honey.”
“You don’t say ‘fucking’, Mommy, you say freaking,” she informed me.
“Um. Sure,” I replied, forcing a smile. Straightening up, I tried my best to casually stroll back into the living room as if nothing happened… nothing was different.
Jill stood there in front of the wall schedule. She started crying. Jack, still sitting at the table, starting crying in sympathy.
Crap. Double crap.
Jill loves going to the doctor. She’d been looking forward to the appointment all week, even though she’s not sick and the whole point of the appointment was just to get a referral to another type of doctor. Nonetheless, the mistake was practically earth shattering as far as she was concerned.
I rushed back to my little girl, and started to comfort her, saying that I made a mistake and put the doctor picture on the wrong day. It took me 15 minutes to get her to stop crying, and when I did, she finally spoke up: “It’s in the wrong place.”
“I know, honey. I made a little mistake, putting the picture on the wrong day. We’ll go on Thursday instead.”
Jill appeared to accept that reassurance, just then, but appearances can be deceptive. In fact, in the couple of hours between that moment and dinner time, she positioned herself in front of the calendar what must have been 50 more times and stared at it. Even while she was colouring, or eating her meal later on, she repeated several times that the appointment was going to be on Thursday and not Wednesday, and that I had put the picture in the wrong time slot.
See… you just don’t mess with the schedule. Once you make it, it might as well be set in stone. It’s though you have climbed that mountain and chiseled it into those two tablets, because you might as well be Moses, with his Commandments.