Tonight we went to dinner at a local restaurant —a new place for us that we’ve heard some mixed reviews about. We figured it was early enough in the evening that we would be ahead of the crowds and Nik could have an enjoyable time with us —licking foods from our fingers and utensils and feeling like he was completely a part of the “normal” family dining experience.
What a freaking disaster! As soon as we walked in the door, I knew it wasn’t going to be the stellar experience we were hoping for. The hostess didn’t seem to quite grasp the concept of two adults plus a wheelchair. Yes, that’s right, I said a wheelchair. When we dine out we have to take Nik’s special seating system which can be a bit cumbersome. For some reason all the dumbass high school girls working the hostess duties at every restaurant we go to assume that Nik will sit in a high chair —this despite the fact that he is being pushed in a pseudo-stroller the size of a freaking Cadillac El Dorado and I say “No high chair; he won’t sit in one and we need room for his wheelchair.”
So, here we are tonight at the Texas Roadhouse, with Nik and all his gear in tow and the hostess wants to stop and tell us all about how we can pick our own steaks from the display or order from the menu. Nik is practically climbing over Niksdad’s head at this point and I just said, perhaps a little more curtly than I should have, “We just want to get settled in at a table.”
So little miss hostess huffs and walks on, leading us to the very back of the restaurant.. She gives us a table in the middle of the small, cramped room —the perfect location for Nik to do the most damage possible as people are walking past. OK.
As Niksdad and I start to settle in and unpack Nik’s pump and feeding stuff, Nik decides to be Super Baby and tips the table over. Yes, that’s right. I caught it just before the plates went crashing to the floor. Not a single server lifted a finger to help. Yes, indeed, I’m loving this restaurant experience.
But back to the mother of the year thing—
Here Nik’s been ill for weeks and we finally start to get a handle on things; that should have been our first clue that it was a bad decision. We decided to try tonight because Nik was having a pretty good day. Until we got to the restaurant; the noise and the music and the lights are just so overwhelming. Up to this point, Nik has been playing happily and placidly most of the day. Toy throwing has been almost non-existent and he’s been very engaged and making lots of eye contact with me.
As soon as we got settled in and Nik tipped the table, it was all down hill from there. The toy we brought tonight which normally can keep him enthralled for 20-30 minutes? Tossed within the first 3o seconds. Ditto everything he could possibly reach on the table. Fortunately, it wasn’t much, but he sure tried!
Sitting across from Nik, I watched him get all “spectrummy” as I call it; he was in his own little world, grunting, squeaking, waving his hands and turning his head back and forth very rapidly. Little response or acknowedgment of anyone else around him and no eye contact at all. All the things he used to do so consistently just a few weeks ago. Before we took him out of school, Nik would come home so overwhelmed and sensory-overloaded that he couldn’t function. That is what I saw tonight and it broke my heart. It took every ounce of strength I had to not break down and cry in the middle of the restaurant.
It didn’t help that we were surrounded by other tables with couples looking on. Every once in a while I glanced up and could see some odd looks directed Nik’s way. I’m sure the people didn’t realize they were being rude or hurtful but goddammit it got under my skin in a way it hasn’t in a very long time. Maybe it was my own projection, but it felt like they were judging Nik and finding him lacking or odd or weird. It hurts and it makes me angry and sad.
I’m trying so hard to work with Nik every single day now; to spend time getting down on the floor with him and engaging him as much as possible. And it’s been working pretty well. But tonight reminded me of how fragile it all feels. How quickly the thread can unravel from the tapestry we are weaving together. I am anxious that tomorrow will be a challenging day for us both —me because I will be watching for telltale signs of regression or detachment; Nik because he may be exhausted after tonight’s overload. I truly haven’t seen him like this in so many weeks. Possibly since the end of summer school in late July.
To add insult to injury —the food was mediocre and over priced.