The irony is not lost on me.
Yesterday, while reading an AP article I was interviewed for about wandering and elopement among the autism community, I turned to my husband and asked that dreaded question:
We had been mere inches from him all morning, contained together in the close quarters of our living room where the laptop and television reside. He had been on the couch playing with his iPad while Mikey and I read the excellent piece by AP reporter David Crary and looked through the photos taken in our home by legendary AP photographer Nick Ut.
Suddenly I realized I could no longer hear the background music from Andrew’s favorite apps. As parents, we may plea for some quiet time in our lives, but anyone raising a child with autism will tell you silence is rare and usually indicative of a potentially dangerous situation.
And in that moment, the room had grown deafeningly quiet.
I took off down the hallway to the right, and my husband went to the left. Bedrooms: no Andrew. Bathrooms: no Andrew. That’s when we realized he must have gotten out through the front door.
Mikey and I hauled ass outside and found Andrew’s pajama pants on the ground. A sick feeling washed over me and just as I was about to scream his name at the top of my lungs, I noticed my bare-bottomed son around the corner, crouched in the dirt underneath our balcony. Our house sits perched atop a hill and the surrounding terrain makes it difficult for Andrew to move quickly, so he hadn’t gotten very far, thank God.
That’s about how long we estimate it took our son to abandon ship before we noticed he was completely missing.
Could we have done something differently? Sure, always. They don’t call it hindsight for nothing. We are HUMAN after all; mistakes are made, but in the case of a child like Andrew, any mistake could prove to be lethal to our son.
Can we afford to make these mistakes? NO.
So how do we sleep at night?
Not very well.
I may be a parenting expert on many things autism-related, but my true expertise lies in knowing that I can be outsmarted, outrun, and outwitted at any given time by my determined autistic son, whose lack of understanding about the dangers that await him should he run away are no match for his pre-wired need to GO.
Getting comfortable – really, really comfortable – is just not an option for us, not even in our own home. So we do the next best thing: we resign ourselves to our reality and check the locks over and over and over again.
I suppose if there’s ever a reason to be grateful that I have raging OCD, this is it.