I made an important realization this week.
By a quirk of scheduling I had a day off from work during Bud's regular school week, which gave me six hours all to myself. I'd been looking forward to doing some shopping. Shopping has been a challenge since the onset of Bud's weather anxiety, because in big "box stores," like Target, the thumps and rattles of workers stocking shelves can sound like rumbling in the distance, and the rumbles reverberating across the high ceilings can be too disconcerting for Bud to withstand.
I'd especially been looking forward to this solo outing because it followed an extraordinarily difficult weekend trip to the grocery store with Bud, which involved a toe-to-toe stand-off in the produce section that ended with me carrying my taller-than-average tantruming seven-year-old sideways across my body through a long and busy parking lot.
So when the day came, I dropped Bud at school, drove to the mall, and set about the business of shopping. I wandered, I poked, I browsed, I purchased, and I accomplished more in one hour by myself than I would have in an entire day of shopping with my sidekick. It was a productive and efficient use of time. But it was also static, uninspired, and joyless. Two hours into my six-hours of "freedom," I was ready to be done.
In the planning, I'd thought about taking myself out for lunch, since Bud is currently eschewing the dine-in experience, making restaurant visits a rare event. But in the moment, when the time came for lunch, I just went to the drive-through because, I realized, it's not the restaurant food I miss now that we don't go out to eat. I miss the giggling over french fries. I miss the coloring on placemats together. And so the restaurant lunch of my fantasy, when played out in reality, would have been entirely unsatisfying.
I poked some more. I wandered. I watched the minutes tick along on my wristwatch. And then, with two hours yet to go, I climbed in the car and made the 40 minute trip back to Bud's school. I stopped for coffee, then sat in the parking lot grading papers until it was time to pick him up.
That's when I made the realization. It was surprising, but I'm grateful to have made it - especially now, in the midst of a time in which Bud and I are facing a lot of tough issues and difficult moments. This is what I realized:
A turbulent, challenge-filled day with Bud is infinitely better than a placid, uneventful day without him.
I think those six hours by myself were better for me than I'd ever dreamed they'd be.