By Gyneth Turner, Respite & Respitality Services
Somewhere along the line, our family stopped having fun together because it was very hard to actually have fun. Outings always seemed to end up in disappointment, tears, and tantrums. Picnic at the beach? Pass. Family birthday dinner? Sorry, we are “busy.” Check out the cool new exhibit at the museum? Yah, no.
Our oldest son has an Autism diagnosis, and my husband and I are fully committed to devoting the time, resources, and patience he needs to live his best life; we wouldn’t have it any other way. To do that we both realized that we needed a break from caregiving pretty early in our parenting journey. We did date nights twice a month, and we each took a day for ourselves once a month. But fun together as a family seemed out of our reach. All of our attempts to do fun stuff as a family was just too much work and not much fun. All this changed after I went to a respite workshop with a friend in Seattle. The workshop leader asked us to look at respite in a new way. She challenged us to see respite not just as time away from the person we cared for, but time with them without the caregiving. She asked us to use our imaginations:
I wondered, what would it be like to go to a family dinner and not have to leave early because we pushed the envelope too hard and Evan was DONE and having a melt-down and Alex was in tears over leaving before birthday cake and presents? What would it be like to go to the Fall Fair and see both kids get to enjoy the day in the way that worked for them? What would it be like to pack a picnic, get kids ready, enjoy the day and get home all without becoming so exhausted and stressed that I wanted to cry?
I realized I was envious of families who have fun together. To me, a family who had fun together was a family who was thriving, and I saw our family as just surviving. Then the workshop leader challenged us to brainstorm how we could make our dream vision of respite possible.
Today, respite looks a lot different for our family. My husband and I still take time as a couple, and we schedule in some alone time now and then. But we both agree the best “rest” we get is fun together with our kids. We have a respite care provider, Karen, who helps us with the preparations, so we aren’t done before we’ve begun. Karen comes to family parties and helps our son manage the busy, loud environment, and if need be, takes him home early allowing us to stay longer if we want to. Last month we went to the Fall Fair, and Karen made getting ready and out of the house a breeze. We looked at the animals together, then Karen and Evan went home for a few hours of quiet time while we did the midway rides with Alex. Karen and Evan came back for dinner and some music in the evening. It was such a great day for all of us – we had FUN TOGETHER!
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