When I was growing up, I learned that eloping meant to sneak off to get married. It turns out that most of it is true; it means to sneak off. People with autism are prone to wander off without a word, leaving you to wonder where they went.
I read a news report today that a boy Buddy’s age had gone missing. A few hours later, they pulled his body from the lake. While the majority of people were sympathetic, there were a few who are so ignorant, they only inflict more pain. Ignorance is not always bliss. “Where were the parents?” “The parents should be punished!” “I’d never let this happen to my kid…” “How do you not notice them sneak out?”
Once upon a time, I was one of those people. How could a parent not notice their kid wasn’t there? What were they doing? When it happens to you, however, you become a lot more understanding.
Buddy and I were working in the garden, which means I was working and he was chasing invisible butterflies or fighting off ninjas; it was hard to tell which. I felt something bite my leg, so I turned and looked, saw nothing, and turned back. He was gone. That quick. I had heard many stories of this, so I immediately ran to the front of the house, as our backyard is surrounded by fence. I couldn’t see him. I looked around the car and hurried to the street, searching. Nowhere.
I rushed into the house, calling his name. I checked his usual hiding places; not there. I grabbed the phone, ready to call 911. I figured it was better to waste their time if I found him than to waste time and lose Buddy. I checked everywhere one last time. As I rounded the car, I heard, “BOO!” I jumped and shrieked, which made him laugh. He was IN the car! Windows up, middle of summer. I opened the door and pulled him out. He was covered in sweat, but so proud that he had hid so well. He had no idea how afraid I had been, or how kids can die in just 8 minutes in a hot car. He just wanted to play. I now keep checking to make sure the car is locked.
Another time, we were at Disney World, which will be a whole other post. Long story short, and to avoid repetition, he met Tiana and Naveen the first day. Day five, he went missing. Thankfully, I had taken his picture every morning in case this happened. I showed it to the nearest Disney worker, and she called it in. Disney went on lockdown. As all sorts of horrors played through my head, we heard back; he had gone back to see Tiana and Naveen. They remembered him, noticed we weren’t with him, and kept him entertained.
On a similar note, I did my best to be a great parent. I put on every child lock available and tucked away all the cords to the blinds. No child of mine was going to be injured because I wasn’t careful! I had never met a child like Buddy, though.
Buddy was just a toddler and down for his nap. I usually don’t peek in; if I do and he’s almost asleep, he’ll wake right back up, and the rest of the day is a nightmare. I tiptoed to his room and listened to hear if he was playing. I heard a weird noise, and my Mama Alarm went off. I opened the door and saw Buddy hanging from the blinds. his feet kicking. He had untied the cord and had been playing with it and got caught. Thankfully, he’s strong. No sooner had I seen it then he reached up and yanked hard, and the blinds ripped out of the wall. The wall has huge holes in it, but Buddy is okay.
It only takes a moment. A look away. A trip to the bathroom. Anything can happen, and to shame those who are human and had to look away for that moment won’t accomplish anything. Trust me, I am much harder on myself than anyone else could ever be. Don’t judge what you can’t understand.