Today started like typical summer days in my house. When I got up at 6:30 there was already a child logged onto Lego.com on the computer. We all slowly got out of bed and shuffled around wrapped in blankets to ward off the early morning chill. Outside was wet and foggy but like most August days it promised to be warm and sunny later on. At 8:20 we rushed around in a panic realizing we had to be leave for swim lessons in 20 minutes. We were out the door in time and at the Coast Guard pool 6 minutes before Elijah and Mary had to be in it only to realize that we had the skirt for Mary's swim suit but lacked the rest. Thankfully Naomi isn't too much bigger than Mary and their lessons are at different times so we dressed Mary in Naomi's suit and they were off to the pool.
I sat and watched their lessons and marveled at how well they were doing and how far they have come. Both Mary and Elijah wanted nothing to do with swim lessons at the beginning of summer. Mary didn't want to be told what to do and Elijah didn't want any part of his head to get wet. Here I sat watching Mary swim a few feet at a time and Elijah gracefully float on his back and then do six bobs in a row without a whimper, a whine or a tear. I thought to myself, watching him in the pool where he is trying everything that is asked of him and listening to the instructor you would never know he has autism.
Afterwards Naomi and Bethany had their lessons and then everyone changed into warm dry clothes we headed for home with the fog slowly lifting. There is some bickering about the correct way of singing "Under the Sea." We stop at city hall and pay our water bill and then a few minutes later pull up in front of the house. I help Mary out of the car, remind everyone else to get their suits and then go unlock the house while everyone else climbs out of the car. We head inside and everyone runs off while I do some laundry and prepare lunch.
Thirty minutes later I am walking from the laundry room to the kitchen right past the front door when I notice movement in the car. I think it must be a shadow from the tree but stop and look again. Someone is in the car! I run out the door the ten feet to the car and Elijah is in the car crying. I let him out as ask, "Have you been in the car since we got home?" He replies, "(Unnamed Sibling) slammed the door in my face and I've been trying to get out." My heart is in my throat and I am trying not to cry as I hug him and pull his hot, sweaty body from the car. It is only in the 60s but it is much hotter in the car. I am extremely grateful that the car is parked in the shade. This could have been so much worse, so very much worse. In my head I am berating myself for not checking that everyone was out of the car. How did I not notice? What kind of parent lets this happen? I thought he had done what he always does when we get home and ran upstairs to his room. I had let myself be lulled by his adherence to routine and even though I didn't see it I assumed the routine was followed. I thought he knew how to exit the car. I can't help but think about what if I had been a few minutes later. While holding tight to Elijah and giving him a nice cold drink of water I did what most scared, upset parents would do and I yelled at the sibling who slammed the door in his face. I even told them "Elijah could have died just because your were mad at him." Then I berated myself over and over again in my head while the child cried on time out.
A little later when I had myself together a bit better I asked the child's forgiveness for screaming at them and explained in a much calmer way why it is so terribly awful and dangerous to slam the car door in someone's face, especially someone who cannot easily open it. This afternoon we will all go out to the car and we will not come in until all my children can unlock and open the doors completely on their own.
Tonight will be so much like any other night. The kids will take baths, we will read stories and then we will say our prayers and tuck them into bed but tonight I will be so incredibly grateful for this normalness because we came too close to it being very, very different.