It's the first night of the Disney Cruise, and I'm a little stressed. Max and I are in our cabin; we're supposed to meet Dave and Sabrina in one of the restaurants for dinner.
Last time we were on a cruise, Max refused to go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner. He had room service for every single meal, and he'd let me know he wanted to do that again. Only it's two and a half years later, Max has matured, and I want to try again. This time, I've come equipped with noise-blocking headphones for Max (but unfortunately, no Xanax for me).
"Max, we're going to go meet Daddy and Sabrina for dinner," I say.
"No!" says Max.
"OK, let's just try," I tell him, taking him by the hand.
We ride the elevator down and walk into the lovely Enchanted Garden, with it's lush flowery decor and twinkly star ceiling.
Max starts wailing, as if we are about to descend into the Inferno.
"Come on, Max!" I say. "They have lots of mac 'n cheese and ketchup!"
He wails louder. People are staring. I pull him to our seat, a corner booth I'd requested before the cruise began because Max feels more secure in corners.
Not this one, he doesn't. His wails grow louder. I sit him on my lap and give him a big hug. He slips out of my arms and onto the floor, and then he starts crawling toward the entrance. Families are looking a bit alarmed, as in, uh-oh, hope this kid isn't sitting near us.
I pick him up and sit back down. But he starts screeching, and with that, my resolve dissolves. I carry him out and we return to the room.
I am bummed. I just want all of us to enjoy dinner in the ship's nice restaurants, one of the pleasures of being on a cruise. And I know Max is capable of it.
I look at him. "Max," I say, "I am sad. Because I do not want to sit in the room to eat. I just don't. And Daddy and Sabrina don't."
And then I can't help it, tears spring to my eyes. When you have a kid with disabilities, family life often centers around their needs. You get used to it. You navigate. You deal. Every so often, though, waves of disappointment about a missed opportunity or mishap wash over you.
Max is startled; he can't stand it when I get upset.
"Nooooo eye!" he says, and he starts crying again. "Esss. Esss!" And he nods his head up and down.
He's telling me not to cry, and that yes, he will go to the restaurant.
"Really?" I ask. "You'll go to the restaurant?"
"Esss," he says, and kisses me.
Now I feel guilty. But, heck, we're going back.
And then: Max calmly walks into the restaurant, sits down in the booth and asks for chocolate milk, as if nothing ever happened. I am all, PINCH ME, I KNOW I'M ON THE DISNEY FANTASY BUT I MUST BE DREAMING.
Dave and Sabrina show up, and I tell Dave what happened. "He was totally playing his disability," Dave says, which is kind of true. Max has his sensory issues, but I have seen him push past them when he sets his mind to it. The tricky part is knowing when to stand my ground, and when to give in.
We had a nice dinner that night and a bunch more that week, including Pirates of the Caribbean Night. A couple of times, Max decided he wanted to have dinner in the kids' club, and that was cool. He'd broken through, and I'd gotten my fantasy.