I am the kind of people that like to remember that “first time” for almost everything: places, food, people, feelings, etc. Now that I am doing the exercise of putting together all these memories for my children, I decided to start a series called: First Time. When I started this blog, Emily was already 5 years old, and many of her early “first times” were gone, but we still have plenty of opportunities; life is just starting and there still plenty of “first times” to come. With Alejandro, life is not going that fast, so let’s start!
One of my favorite places to go for vacation as a child was the beach. Even though I was born in Cienaga, a small town in the Atlantic coast of Colombia, I was raised far away from there; but my extended family stayed close to the sea and I had plenty of opportunities to enjoy the warm breeze, the salt, the sun and all the magical joy of the beach. I don’t remember when I visited that sandy place for the first time. For me the beach is like the snow for my kids. I bet that they won’t be able to tell when they played with snow for the first time. These kinds of things become part of our lives without a start point in time.
Emily visited the beach for the first time when she was 8 months old. We visited our dear cousin Yanet in Houston and she took us for a wonderful trip to the beach in Galveston, Texas. I still remember her chubby cheeks and her beautiful smile under the sun. We went for the second time to the sea the same year in Santa Marta, Colombia; and after that, we have visited some of the lakes around Windsor, Ottawa and Gatineau, here in Canada.
Last Sunday we went to the beach for the first time with Alejandro. Considering his history of anxiety visiting new places, I was a little bit stress even before leaving for our trip. I checked many times to ensure I had his food, utensils, and toys; that way he could find familiar things that he could relate in case he needed it. Once we arrived to Lac Simone, I was very excited about the idea of taking him to the water; I bought the day before lots of sand toys and my friend Carolina also prepared lots of toys for the kids to play in the water. Papo started walking with Alejandro towards the beach and as soon as he hit the sand he stopped walking.
He played with sand before at the playground, but this one was hot and deep, totally different. I held him in my arms and walked with him to meet the rest of the group. We sat under the umbrella, we played and eat but he stayed on my lap all the time. He was not interested in exploring the sand, the toys or the water. I have to admit that I loved that moment, usually he does not stay on my lap for more than a minute, and at that moment I felt that he was so close to me; he was telling me with his attitude that he needed me, and he was feeling safe and happy. I totally forgot about the beach or the water, I just wanted to enjoy him as much as I could.
We found a moment to go closer to the water and he sat on a small plastic pool on the sand. He looked around and smiled, but as soon as the water moved him, he started crying. We tried to stay, but his sad little face moved me and I took him back under the umbrella, far from the water. I sat and looked at all the other happy kids playing with sand castles and I felt so sad. I wanted to cry thinking why it was so complicated to enjoy something that was so easy for everybody else. Oh well, fortunately I was distracted by one of my friends and my tears disappeared while Alejandro fell sleep.
He had a great nap, a good lunch and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon far from the sand and the water playing with his leap pad. At the end of the day he was happy and that is what should matter. I was frustrated because I wanted to see him playing with the water and the sand and laughing with the other kids. But again, it does not have to be always what I want, and I need to understand it. For me, one of the most difficult things to deal with autism is to learn that I have to stop expecting things to happen. I have so much joy with every little milestone, I know that life in the spectrum is even more unpredictable and goes a little bit slower, but sometimes my wishes are bigger than me and I cannot help it.
Anyway, we are going to try again. Alejandro knows that we never give up! I am sure one day we’ll build together a wonderful sand castle. This was just the first time and the summer just started!