March 18th is National Awkward Moments Day. It’s a day we can all observe and relate to! If I look back, I have trouble selecting my favorite(?) embarrassing moment. As a mom of two sons with autism, awkwardness can take on a whole new dimension. But I have also learned that awkward moments are usually teachable moments. Teachable for me, that is. I usually learn a valuable lesson.

It was tough to choose just one, but here is a family awkward memory that stands out in my mind. It happened on one of our biggest family adventures. To The Most Magical Place on Earth.

By Sea—and By Land

Well, it wasn’t exactly the sea. It felt like it, though! It was a trip to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom when my oldest boy, Ross, was about seven years old and his brother was just a baby in a stroller. I knew Ross did not handle crowds well, and you might be thinking that Disney World was not the best choice we could have made. It’s a valid point. But we live in Florida where theme parks are part of our culture and we just can’t resist them forever.

So we got on the ferry boat over to the Magic Kingdom. The boat was crowded, but we tried to find a spot where Ross’ dad and I could sort of “surround” him, shielding him from the crowd. But poor Ross cried LOUDLY all the way. What made things more awkward was that he looked at least two years older than his seven years—way too big to bawl at the top of his lungs like that. People stared. They whispered. Even his baby brother gaped and looked as though he couldn’t believe his little eyes.

After what seemed like an interminable crossing, we finally made it to dry land. Things did not get better from there. The crowds, vivid colors, loud noises, and giant characters just added to Ross’ anxiety and unhappiness. We tried the usual things, but he continued to shriek. We tried to direct him to the fascinating sights all around him, but he dug in his heels. We tried to do some walking, but he dropped to the ground and went boneless, making it impossible to set him back up again.

We were getting nowhere at a very expensive attraction for which we thought we were well prepared! Call us crazy, but we decided to go on a ride. Just a nice, friendly, mild one where the breeze could cool us off because by now, we were sweating profusely. We had to stand in line, but at least the crowd was more spread out and would not seem so close to us.

What Finally Saved the Day

Ross loves music. It has a calming effect on him. When no music is available, he finds a way to make it himself. As we stood in line, Ross noticed the decorative metal bars mounted on the wall next to the line. He rapped them with his knuckle and sure enough, they made a “ding” sound. Pretty soon he was distracted from his anxiety-provoking surroundings and was making a constant “ding-ding-ding” sound against the metal bars. People started to stare again. Did we care at this point? Not much.

But after a second or two, I looked up. A couple of kids near us had observed Ross and now they were making the “ding-ding-ding” sound against the metal bars. Pretty soon, every single kid I could see in that long line was happily ding-ding-dinging away! What began as another awkward moment in a very long day turned into a wonderful moment! In that very narrow window of time, Ross seemed….normal.

Now I know in this age of diversity, everybody wants to embrace individuality and uniqueness and that’s fine. But I think I speak for a lot of mothers when I say we want to dance and sing when our child with autism does something completely ordinary! I learned that I could indeed make special memories with my child, even when life was challenging. There really are rewards when you look for them. I learned that we should never give up nor settle for isolated lives.

Your turn!

Want to share your favorite awkward moment with us? We would love to hear about it! Just type your story into the comment box.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

Joan_in_a_circle_resized_100_x_100- by Joan Van Veen, VP of Marketing at PMF