Last week's Parenthood was a Halloween episode, and one of the central plot points was Christina's preparations to make Max's Halloween experience as positive as possible. She plots out a route for trick-or-treating, explains her son's fears to neighbors, and plans all the supports he might need. She knows that there might still be a meltdown, but figures that they can lower the chances if she can control as many of the variables as possible.
And then, once they're out with the family and Max sees younger kids going to a house that is particularly spooky and definitely not on Christina's planned route, the best laid plans gang agley, so to speak. Max becomes insistent that he can handle the house and doesn't need parental shadowing. The adults stand back and wait for the crisis. Which doesn't happen. Max returns, exuberant and excited by the spider ring he got.
I was reminded of the trip we took to Disneyland about two years ago. A. and I were apprehensive and figured that it could end up a total bust. We prepared thoroughly; A. especially did her research, including exit plans and food options. There were a handful of rides we felt he could handle, plus shows and then all the sights. It would be great if we could do more, but we made no definite plans. If all else failed, we knew we could get him on the train and monorail and just ride around.
Once we were in the park, we started with the Bug's Life rides, as those are milder and aimed at younger kids. At the second ride, E. changed his mind as soon as we hit the front of the line. Luckily A. had found out that it's generally possible to leave the ride up to the very last minute, and we'd promised E. that he could change his mind at any time. We were graciously directed to the exit. After walking around and watching a few rides, he was ready to try another one. As it turned out, he didn't back out of another ride the entire time we were there. A few more rides and he was acclimated, game for just about anything he was tall enough to get on.
For the most part, E. didn't want to ride anything more than once. He has something of a checklist mentality--done that, next... The first ride he wanted to go on a second time, however, was one I never expected him to go on even once: a river ride where you travel over rapids and the like in a "barrel." There's no avoiding getting wet and you spin around at the same time you're moving around. Yet he was quite insistent.
Our preparation did come in handy though. We were able to get a gluten-free pizza at one of the restaurants and new about the microwave in the hotel snack bar--both very helpful for getting E. fed. We also stayed in one of the Disney properties, which meant that we could go back to our room for a bit in the middle of the day to get away from the crowds for a little bit. Even if we don't stay at a Disney property next time, we'll definitely stay within walking distance so we can do this again.
We also stayed flexible. We had a package that would have allowed us to enter the park one hour early one morning, but we discovered that it worked best for us to stay in the park late and then wake up whenever it happened. We did go to a character breakfast one morning, but purposely chose a less popular one so that it wouldn't be too crowded. We had no idea how E. might respond to the characters, and he was a little uncertain at first. But after a bit, he warmed up, and we have pictures of him with Lilo, Stitch, Goofy, and Daisy.
I know better than to think every such trip will go so swimmingly--we've had examples to the contrary in the past two years. But sometimes this kid surprises us in the best possible way and we get a glimpse of what we hope becomes the consistent norm.
(And don't tell him, but we're working on a trip to Legoland!)