A mom's scariest moment and how to handle it

Have you have ever lost sight of your child in a crowded place - like a store or playground? You stop a moment and let go of the hand to pick up a pair of jeans and when you look down he has wandered away. Only a few steps to look at something, maybe he just stood directly behind you and you lost sight for a few seconds. Maybe you have had to run through the store because he did get far from you in the minute. And you felt your heart in your chest, imagining all of the terrible things that could have happened. 

As a parent to an Autistic boy , well he will 'wander' anytime from anyplace. Even my own home or yard. At 2 years old he climbed over a 6 FOOT tall fence in a matter of just seconds as I looked down at a drink I was pouring for his older brother. Wandering, elopement, whatever you want to call it. The kid is a runner and takes off.  

We had some heavy rain here and my driveway was quite literally a little river. The kids were having a BLAST playing in the water - my Boy included! Then the Baby wanted me to help him get a boat to float in the 'river', so we went inside. I helped him grab a few army men and a little boat; but when I came back outside - guess who was GONE. I mean I was inside for less time than it takes to go pee for crying out loud!

He only 'wandered' up the hill to my dad's house. But he was out of my sight and since I went in the opposite direction to look for him - ya know I checked the road first - I had 'lost' him for longer than I was comfortable with. When you don't know where your child is minutes seem like hours. Your mind thinks up the worst scenarios possible...

Did he head to the pond?          Go to the road?         Get lost in the woods?

It's hard, really hard. Kudos to all you mommas out there who deal with this everyday and are able to keep your child safe. It is very stressful and one of the reasons parents in our position exibit PTSD symptoms. Before I give you the tips on how to help, it is extreemently important for you to hear me on this. 

Your child running off is not your fault

Ok, Now you can have your tips!

  1.  There are several tracking devices out there now that can help you to know where your child it at a moment's notice. Some are better than others, some are best suited for different types of children. AngelSense is probably the most well known and there are several agencies that will cover the cost for your child.
  2.  Alarms on windows and doors - or locks that the child cannot manage to undo. An alarm will let you know your child is on the move, but won't prevent the elopement from happening. That's why I always preferred locks. But I am lucky that my child's skills were such that he couldn't maneuver them.
  3.  Consider a trained service animal to alert you when your child starts to wander.
BONUS #4 and probably the most important thing for your sanity - Take a break!! The reality is that kids who wander need to be within ear or eyesight 100% of the time. Once I realized that I needed to just assume that when I am 'on duty' that I will likely not get anything else done. This is super tirinig for a caregiver. You need to be able to take a break. So if you can dole out the workload so that you are on duty and off duty at different times the stress will plummet. That may simply mean that you take turns with your husband. You may hire a sitter or qualify for respite from an agency. Parenting a child who wanders is not 'normal' parenting and clear boundaries need to be communicated as to who is maintaining that awareness of the child. 
And mom - it cannot always be you.

1 simple action will change your marriage

Imagine thChange your marriageis: It's date night. Couples all over are heading out to dinner or maybe a movie or a show at the theatre. They are walking hand in hand along beaches in the moonlight. The more adventurous may be out hiking or camping for the weekend. Some may even be simply heading to the local pub for a drink and some socializing with friends over a game of pool. We were there once, years ago. We even kept it up after the kids came along. Not every weekend mind you, but Hubby and I still had time together doing things we enjoyed.

But then it happened.

My boy regressed into non-verbal Autism and had zero functional communications skills. We were devastated, confused and had no idea what to do. We had no idea how to deal with a child who lost all his words and just cried in an attempt to tell us anything at all. A child that stopped interacting with us and his siblings. A child that then began to throw up over 20 times a day. Yeah, the doctors didn't know what to do either. Needless to say - date night took a hiatus. If we didn't know how to take care of an infant in a toddler's body, how on earth would anyone else?

When the focus shifted to my son, everything else fell by the wayside. Every focus was on him. I mean, I thought my husband would be there forever, my son needed me NOW. Everyone says you 'need' to take date nights. But there was no way that was going to happen. We were tired and broke. We loved each other. That would be enough. The bond we were forming going through this challenge of parenting together was sure to mean we would overcome not focusing on each other. Man - 30 years into a relationship with my husband, I can tell you that thought process almost cost me my marriage AND my relationship with my children. When I tell you that you need to nurture your relationships, I mean it. I'm not saying it's easy. I'm saying it is necessary.

The good news is that it doesn't have to be complicated! This amazing trick will change your relationships with your spouse, but guess what? It is also amazing to start working on relationships with your kids, friends, family - yeah, everyone.

You know what you need to do? You know what one simple thing can change everything? It's super cheesy. But the fact is, it works!
It's time to start smiling. I'm not talking about those patronizing smiles. Or the half-hearted ones. Those were the ones I was giving. I'm talking abouut a genuine smile that conveys to those around you that you are genuinely happy that they are there in your life. So many times my husband walked through the door and I was so relieved to see him that I would look and say 'Thank goodness you are home! I just have to run to the bathroom, can you hold down the fort for me?' He felt like he was good for a paycheck and taking care of kids, he didn't feel like it mattered that it was HIM walking through the door. He was just an adult body who could handle the chaos. It breaks my heart now to see that my choice of greeting affected him in that way. How it taught my children to treat others, well that broke me to my core. 
The best testimony
My son has since told me that he and his fiancee have had to work through learning how to treat each other because he saw me treating his father without genuine smiles. And let's be crystal clear. I was not mean. I said please, I didn't belittle my husband, I didn't yell at him in front of the children. But I also didn't smile at him and look genuinely happy to see him when he walked through the door. 

Once I changed that ONE little thing, our whole marriage began to become something that I didn't even know could exist. My relationship with my children began to make a huge shift. My whole outlook on life, my mood, how I felt deep down in my very core was changing in a way that brought me so much peace.