Yesterday was a great day for BamBam. The four of us, at Zoo Keeper’s request, went for ice cream at the local outdoor mall. BamBam wouldn’t stand in line or sit at the table with us, but he did stand a few feet away without running further and would occasionally come closer for an M&M while the rest of us finished our ice cream. We were next to the sensory garden, which is sort of a musical playground, so we went over there to play for a bit. BamBam usually walks through to the gate in back, goes through the gate and around to the front entrance, then repeats the sequence until I get tired of trailing him while keeping an eye on Zoo Keeper and drag them both kicking and screaming to the car. But yesterday BamBam actually made social contact with two little boys and played a running game, their version of tag, for almost half an hour. It was amazing to watch.

And it got my stupid hopes up.

We went to a birthday party for a friend turning five this afternoon. We took two cars, but I really had high hopes that BamBam would actually play and maybe even connect with another kid. He was crying already when we walked into the building. He stopped and ran around touching things just long enough for me to say hello to the hosts and the birthday girl. Then he ran right out the back door and I had to drag him kicking and screaming right back through the party, stopping only to tell Sparky we were leaving, say hi and ‘bye to an acquaintance we only see at this friend’s parties, and turn around at the door to go back and grab the purse I had forgotten. Which I dropped twice because I couldn’t keep my balance with the 40+ pound screeching preschooler on my hip. And when I say on my hip, I actually mean that his hip was on my hip because he was rigid and straight as a board (other than the wiggling – I don’t know how he manages to wiggle and be rigid at the same time), with his legs sticking out behind me, perpendicular to my legs, and his head out in front of me. Much like a battering ram. And the looks I got from the adults, only the ones we didn’t know, suggested I must have used him like a battering ram to make him scream like that. Or maybe that I should to get him to shut up. Either way, they did not approve. And I couldn’t blame them. I, myself, did not approve.

It feels like every time I see some unexpected progress like we had at the sensory garden, something primitive inside me glimpses a “normal” life – complete with birthday parties and trips to restaurants as a family where we don’t have to take two cars so one of us can abscond with a screaming child at any moment – and tries to run with that hope, only to be smacked down by autism. It hurts every damn time.

Does that ever stop? I mean, he was diagnosed more than a year ago and the unruly behavior started long before that. Zoo Keeper has different issues, but the hope and disappointment sneak up on me in the same way. I love them as they are, autism and all. The autism is part of them. I keep thinking I’m used to it and am ready to just work on moving forward. But then I get blindsided by days like this. By hope for something that may be too much to ask of my precious, wonderful sons. And is probably overrated anyway. Maybe BamBam just knows something I don’t.

But I’m wondering tonight if this happens to any of you and how you deal with it when/if it does?