the donut shop

*

I couldn’t believe she wanted to hear it again. As a matter of fact, she tried to convince me that I’d never told any of it to her before, which certainly wasn’t the case. You know those moms who tell their kids the same stories from their childhoods again and again? Well – yeah, present and accounted for. But she was eating it up. She had to hear every last detail.

So I told her – yet again – how every single Saturday morning throughout my youth, my mom and dad and I would pile into our car and go to the Donut Shop for breakfast. It turns out that it wasn’t actually called the Donut Shop, but that’s the only thing we ever called it, so there you have it. Every single Saturday, I told her, I would order a cheeseburger for breakfast. No bun, just a cheeseburger. She laughed – just like she did the last time I told her the story. And I couldn’t really defend it this time any better than I could last time. A cheeseburger for breakfast is relatively preposterous, after all.

She asked – yet again – about the seating. No, I don’t remember there being any tables, though there might have been. Yes, there was a long rectangular counter that surrounded the open kitchen. Yes, the stools spun around. Yes, there were four coveted seats in each of the two windows and yes, I felt like royalty when we happened to sit in them.

I told her – yet again – how after finishing my cheeseburger, I’d order a powdered donut for dessert. Yes, breakfast was followed by dessert. Uh huh. Welcome to my childhood. I told her about how the owner would bring the powdered sugar tray over as soon as the last donut was served and how he would then dump the leftover sugar on my plate. As I said it, my teeth ached with memory. I told her how my dad would order a Twirl – an enormous mound of cinnamon sugar and butter and glaze, showing her its girth with my hands spread apart to the approximate size of her head.

I told her how when we left the Donut Shop I would take my allowance – my precious twenty-five cents – to the variety store next door. I told her how I would stand in front of the candy counter, clutching my quarter, trying to decide how to spend it. As Katie marveled that twenty-five cents could buy anything, Luau was busy doing the nutritional math in his head – cheeseburger to donut to candy. Yes, dear, I know – breakfast of champions.

So how I didn’t make the connection, I don’t know. How I didn’t understand why it was suddenly so important to me this weekend to get us all up and out of the house, into the car and off to a local greasy spoon for breakfast, I don’t know. But I didn’t. Because as we all know, when we’re so busy tending to the trees, the forest sometimes eludes us.

**

But there we were – Katie enamored with the idea of going out and Brooke begging not to leave the house. Katie pleading, “Please, Mama, we NEVER go out for breakfast” as Brooke simultaneously whimpered, “We would stay home. I want to stay HOME.”

And there I was on the floor of Brooke’s room, trying to convince her that it would be FUN. That we would bring her headphones and her magnetic dress-up dolls and that she would eat PANCAKES – her favorite! And there I was, managing to convince myself that it was important not to give in to her, that she would have to learn to do these things – and that somehow, this wasn’t about me.

And there was Katie, trying so hard to make it work – running into her room to find her Game Boy and loading it up with the Dora cartridge for her sister. There she was, leading the cheerleading section, supporting her little sister with every tool she had.

And there we were at the table with Brooke in her headphones, loaded to the gills with our tools and strategies, none of which was working. There we were in a panic as the waitress came by to offer coffee, knowing that if the baby somewhere in the back of the restaurant kept crying so loudly then Brooke would keep screaming her tortured response and we simply wouldn’t be able to stay.

And there we were, minutes later, making the decision to run for it without ever having ordered a thing. There we were, wheels flying off the wagon as we paraded our family through the restaurant, nearly running for the door. There I was, wanting to shout at everyone who so much as glanced our way, “YES. THIS. IS. AUTISM.”

And there we were on the sidewalk, where I was still unable to soothe my girl. Where I walked her to a park bench and tried desperately to convince her to listen – to hear the quiet that now surrounded us. There I was, incapable of reaching my baby, of easing her pain, of finding a way in to prove to her that she was safe. There I was, smaller than the demons yet again.

And there I was walking back to the car with Katie, listening to her quietly pouring her feelings out onto the sidewalk. There I was telling her that it was OK to be angry. That it was OK to be frustrated. That yes, I understood her disappointment – that I felt it too.

And there we were in the car, driving home. There I was trying to hide my tears from my girls. Wanting to melt into the seat. Or kick in the windows. Wondering what in hell we were doing.

What was it that I was chasing? Why on earth was I choosing this – THIS – to shove down her throat?

Eating out is hard for my girl – really hard. Restaurants are loud and unpredictable. There are crying babies and weird lights and funny smells and scary bathrooms and well – she’s learned to tolerate them when she needs to, but she’d never call them fun. And here she was, first thing in the morning, catching breath after jagged breath – for what? For a breakfast out?

**

The pieces were all there. The Donut Shop. The variety store. The cheeseburger and the powdered donut. The stories to tell their kids thirty years later. The easy picture of family life that it all represented. Yes, that was it – it was the ease that appealed the most.

And there I was, trying (and failing) to keep it together as I admitted to myself that sometimes – just sometimes – I really want the kind of life in which families get up on a Saturday morning and go to the damn Donut Shop.

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42 thoughts on “the donut shop

  1. I know these feelings so well.

    You will find these easy moments. You may just need to create unique ones for your family. I always try to remember that I need to create experiences around my boys, not try to squeeze them into the moments I want for them. You know you want easy, you know want tradition, and you know you want memories they can pass down. This is a great place to start. Now start thinking outside the box.

  2. “I really want the kind of life in which families get up” and my last few words would be, and go to a pizza joint on a Friday night and have a big ole pizza. Damn DOAM, right there with ya.
    And for a long long time it never happened, and now, occasionally it does. But it’s not the same DOAM, it just isn’t. Cause we can’t just get up and go. We have to plan and prepare and most oa all, pray. Oh God do I pray that it goes well and oh, the stress and anxiety of THINKING about what could go wrong, makes it almost not worth going.
    And if stress was a fat burner, I would have no fat on my body, NONE! Cause those are the times that I feel the stress times ten, when we try to be like those “families”, and the reality is, we just aren’t.

  3. “And there I was, trying (and failing) to keep it together as I admitted to myself that sometimes – just sometimes – I really want the kind of life in which families get up on a Saturday morning and go to the damn Donut Shop.”

    I hear ya loud and clear. Some days I think I did not sign up for this. I signed up for the Gerber commercial.

    Come visit and bring Katie. We can walk to the greasy spoon around the corner.

    xoxoxo

    J

  4. You are not alone. It especially hurts when my “Katie” is the person enamored of a ‘family’ experience or idea and we can’t provide it no matter how hard we try. And I worry about how those failures and resentments might build up over the years, threatening the perhaps precarious balance of sibling affection.

  5. We’ve been there about a million times. Now I have 5 girls that are angry & resentful that we can never do these things or that when we try, they go like that, and I keep trying to figure out lately, how else can I teach compassion?? What else haven’t I tried in that regard..as the rift between the boy & his sisters grows & grows :(

  6. Right on the money again, my friend. It’s kind of like robbing from Peter to pay Paul. You want Katie to have that normalcy, YOU (this is figurative) want the normalcy, but ain’t no normalcy anywhere in sight. I am feeling this pain with you, for you, for Katie, and for my family, too.

  7. @ Cathy M, those times are even harder! Often The boy gets all worked up about doing something “fun”. He gets it all worked up in his head, then since it can’t possibley go EXACTLY as he has planned in his head (or just exactly as it went LAST time)..he has a meltdown..and ruins it for himself.

  8. We have gone to breakfast with the choreography down to the T only to have the waitress go to the table seated after us to take their order. This was after me waiting in the car with Brody until a table opened. Then rushing in knowing what we would order ahead of time. My husband and I would take turns sitting outside with Brody on a bench waiting for the food while the other waited inside with Josh and watched the actions on the bench through the window. Plowed our food down as fast as we could and one of us ran out the door with Brody while the other paid. Whew. Only a few outbursts but lots of sweat and belly aches from eating (not Brody though, he wouldn’t eat). We patted ourselves on the back and haven’t done it again since then and that was months ago. I’m too tired still.

  9. I know that this will only serve as the booby prize, but next time we’re up, how about breakfast out with you, Katie and me and Grandpa DD will stay will Luau and Brooke.

    Love you,
    Mom

  10. Ugh. Rock vs Hard place. Again. I’m sitting right there, smack in the middle with you. It’s never easy, is it? Not one damn day of it. How I wish, REALLY wish that JUST ONE DAY everything that worked for my little goose also made the day of my little gander. But it isn’t that way. It’s never that way. But we keep trying. Again and again and again. Because that’s what this is. It’s the NEVER GIVE UP that we go through day in and day out just to try for what others deem as “normalcy”. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just what WE do. WE being the moms,dads, and siblings of our special angels. WE do it every single day because we have to. It’s ok though. It really is- because with the hard times, the dark days, the hours of crawling into fetal position just willing ourselves to keep breathing come the biggest victories, the greatest joys, the warmest celebrations. Oh sure- to the ” normal” world it doesn’t seem like much. To the ” normal” world, our victories are just a day in the life. But to us- they are everything. We get to celebrate the highs that those “normals” miss out on. There are bad, dark, life sucking days where we think we will never survive…this was one of them. It will pass. There will be more obstacles. More challenges. More tears. BUT! There will also be better times too. I promise. And I know you will have them and celebrate them and share them with all of us because we are all cheering for one another. It’s what we do. Just today, you are stuck in the middle of that forest and can’t see the trees. It’s ok. You aren’t in that forest alone. We are all right there with you. I’ll bring the donuts. You just breathe today, ok? Hugs. Big soft hugs- from someone who completely gets the guilt of having two children with completely opposite needs and desires and the miserable feeling of never being able to make both happy at the same time.

  11. Tears filled my eyes reading this. I know these feelings well. What immediately came to mind was not life with my son (almost 3 and on the spectrum) but of trying to hike to a waterfall with my mom, brother, and severely autistic other brother when I was in my teens. My brother with autism started freaking out and tried to bite my mom. We ended up walking dejectedly down the trail back to the car. Tears were streaming down my face and my mom was saying, “I just wanted to go for a family hike…” In that case we ended up turning around the car, going back, and trying again, and it worked. We did it. But there were many other times the battle for normalcy was lost. Because of those experiences every day we have success with my son (We made it through a restaurant meal and he wasn’t bucked to a high chair! We went to a family gathering and he didn’t try to play with their doors and lights!) I celebrate with all my heart. Other families just will not get this.

  12. I have often struggled with my own two NT kids being at odds with each other, as to wanting to go out or stay in, or go to the park vs go to the pool. I’m completely overcome by the immensity of the difference in magnitude that you face with this problem. My heart is aching for all of you.

    I wonder if it would be possible to create a Saturday morning “Donut Shop” at home?

  13. Deb-I like your term “the battle for normalcy.” It never seems to end does it? It’s what we all try over and over and over again. My true fear is in this battle is the resentment growing amongst the typical siblings. I think it is in my case and that’s what gets me the most. The sadness and guilt over this seems never ending.

  14. I needed to read this today. I struggled so hard not to give into our son yesterday as I tried to donn his soccer attire. With each piece of clothing I struggled to get on,he flung it off like nothing. He screamed, he cried. I kept saying to myself, “It’s just an hour of his life. It will not kill him to go. He will be with others ‘just like him’. If I could just get him to the car, I’m sure, he will calm down and it will be okay” My husband was saying,”why are we putting him through this if he really doesn’t want to go?” I said, “He has to get used to doing things he really doesn’t want to do !” As those words came out of my mouth, I stopped. I surrendered…still with guilt. It was not till I read this excerpt this morning, did I feel freed. Thank You for sharing!

  15. i’m pretty sure there’s an alternate reality out there where everything is okay. i think about that reality a lot, try to mentally super-impose myself onto it and wonder what it would be like to actually live there.

    and i’m comfortable doing that, imagining a different life. i’m really not a big fan of reframing, of trying to only see the bright side, all the time, always. to me, that approach only hurts more, it just doensn’t feel right. so…that life where families go the donut shop…think about it all you want.

  16. I know, I know. I have Other Families envy way too much. We’ve gone so far in the other direction, that we seldom do anything as a family, it’s just not worth it. But then again, we seldom do anything as a family.

  17. We’ve so been there :(. This striving for normalcy is the root of so much pain. To survive it, you’ve got to create a new ‘normal’.

    I vote for two options: 1. a box of fresh bakery donuts in your jammies someplace ‘cool’ like on a blanket in the fam.room, AND 2. Take just Katie and a bff so she can have the experience she is longing for without the carry-over anxiety. Good luck love.

  18. So sorry – for all of you. It’s hard, balancing the very unique needs of one against the needs and wants of everyone else. For a long time, we didn’t take our twins (both at different points on the autism spectrum) out to restaurants at all. It was just too much – for them, for us, and for everyone around us. Slowly, we’re getting there, but it’s taken a long time.

    What we did do, to try to make things better for my typical son, is do a lot of carry-out/drive thru orders. We parked in the restaurant parking lot, or drove to a nearby park or people watching place, and had dinner “out” from inside the car. It was a more controlled environment which made the twins happy, but it was still out of the house which made my oldest son happy. The car was messy, but it was well worth it.

    The other thing we do is divide and conquer. Sometimes we just take the oldest out for a meal. It’s his special time. Yeah, it sucks that the whole family isn’t there to enjoy it and can’t be part of the tradition. But it’s made for some special Mommy and me memories with my oldest.

    Hugs and love.

  19. Wow, this post has truck a chord for me and so many others here. Your line “There I was, smaller than the demons yet again.” really hit the mark. I so understand and feel your pain.

    I don’t think any parent of a family with all “typical” kids, no matter how large and chaotic, can have any idea what exactly it is we go through. There is this vision we all hold in our hearts and minds of “family life,” of being a family — spending time and doing fun things together. We all want to take the best stuff of our own upbringing and try to replicate that and add in all the cool stuff we fantasized of but never got to do in our own childhoods. Wanting to give all that to our kids is a big part of why we chose to create a family.

    And then, for those of us with special needs kids, when our reality hits the fantasy it all explodes. And it hurts.

    We see our friends’ families, the families of our typical kid’s friends doing regular things like regular families, thinking nothing of it. And it hurts so badly. We want that, too. We want to be able to pack a picnic basket and load the kids in the car or hop onto the city bus and take off on an everyday adventure. We don’t want to have to pack all the special food that our one SN kid must only eat, and/ or medical equipment, and/ or the 5 changes of clothes because if he gets a drop of dirt on him he will freak out, and/or the 1,000 distracting favorite toys we have to bring to keep her from freaking out if she encounters any one of the 10,000 things that freak her out.

    To have to always ALWAYS over-plan everything, and then to have it STILL go awry at least 50% of the time and to slink home defeated? To have your typical child(ren) feel their fun is always being held hostage to their SN siblings limits? To love all your kids so much and just not know how you can keep them all happy at any given moment when they need such disparate things? This is our lives.

    And anyone who thinks “family life” for us is only a little bit more challenging than that of a typical, boisterous family? Had not walked an inch in our shoes.

    Um, I guess you hit a nerve today. Thanks for writing this beautiful, painful post.

  20. This one hit me too. I applaud you for trying, though. Many of us (me included) are already defeated before we even head out the door.
    This is a huge issue in our house. My family ate out A LOT and many of my family memories are wrapped around that. I wanted to give that to my kids, but we just can’t do it as a family. I decided that every Saturday, my oldest goes out for breakfast with one of us (my husband and I alternate) and he can order whatever he wants. And we talk like we can’t talk at home. It’s not perfect, but neither are we.

  21. I hear you with this post, and I’m so glad you wrote it, because it is SO IMPORTANT for any parent in this situation to understand he or she is not alone in feeling this way, and also know that it is okay to feel this way. I think it’s wonderful you gave it a shot, and I hope someday, even if it’s just for half an hour, you get to reclaim a little bit of the magic of “your” donut shop with both of your girls.

  22. Well said. And I loved akbutler’s idea, by the by.

    Reading this, I am grateful for my son’s desire for sensory input (he’s hyposensitive), which is 90 percent of his behavior. Throws himself into things, chirps at the top of his lungs, spins, jumps, flaps, etc. He’s still sensitive about a few things, but overall, we’re ok with the sounds and smells and such (in fact, I’m not even sure he can smell…I guess time will tell on that one). However, last week he gave himself a shiner…:/ That was fun to explain at school and church!

    I pray for Brooke, Katie, and you guys, that you’ll find a way for everyone to be safe and happy in their sphere, and that those spheres can be together. Because while my journey is different in the details, it is the same result we all crave – be it a family breakfast *together*, or a trip to Target *together*, where everyone is happy and safe. Hugs to you all.

  23. One day Katie will tell her child the story of her courageous mom. The fun, never give up, lets be creative and find another way, include everyone because we are a family, confident, brave, sweet, funny, exasperated, fondly remembered mother. She will remember the small stuff and how little victories are the best kind. You taught her well. Who knows? Maybe you’ll make your own doughnuts as a family and Katie will recall how delicious your kitchen smelled and how Brooke enjoyed every moment.

  24. I’m sitting here, staring at the screen, remembering all the times we had to leave, and all the times I didn’t have the courage to try in the first place. Restaurants are so damn hard for our kids. Sending big hugs.

  25. COMMENTS FROM DIARY’S FACEBOOK PAGE

    PK ~ As often happens when I read your posts, I want to say so much but struggle to find the right thing. I am not in the position to say “I know how you feel,” doesn’t seem right to do a pollyanna “things’ll get better!” – but I do relate to craving the kind of experience you hoped for when the day started. Sending lots of compassion your way!

    Diary of a Mom @PK, as i told another friend who said something similar a while back .. more than anything, i appreciate knowing that you’re here. that you take the time to read and to mine your own experiences to make it real for you .. that’s what matters most. the ‘i’m here’ says far more than you might think. xoxo

    PPH ~ It’s the simple things we crave, that “NT” families sometimes take for granted. We’ve been there too, Jess. ((hugs))

    LM ~ Here and understand. (hugs)

    SRR ~ would like all those who have read this to ask everyone on their respective FB pages to share, cause it needs to be shared…anyone?

    CB ~ You capture what I most despise about autism. I can live with the communication issues, the learning issues and the odd behaviors. What I can’t abide is how it attacks the most fundamental building block of relationship-building: sharing experiences. There is nothing wrong with wanting to share this staple of your childhood with your girls. It is a wonderful memory and I can understand why you tried. There is part of me that hopes you try again, and part of me that understands why you wouldn’t. I wish I had something better to say… sometimes autism just sucks.

    CS ~ ‎”i’m here”

    SRR ~ @ CB thank-you for those words. Its what I have been feeling, yet didn’t know how to convey in words.

    JMM ~ Loud & clear, sister! You tried, she tried – that IS a step.
    ·
    KNJC ~ We are there too. Thank you all for not leaving us all alone.

    TWD ~ here for you, as you are for us! Big sigh, and big hugs…

    CS ~ ‎@SRR – I’ve shared it on my wall. Like Paula said, sometimes it’s really hard for me to know what to say, not being in your shoes myself. So I hope this doesn’t come across wrong but I very much want to express how reading DOAM and all of the comments by others who deal with autism in their daily personal lives has made me so profoundly grateful for things, like restaurants, that I otherwise would have completely taken for granted. I owe that to all of you and wish that there were some way I could repay that debt.

    DW ~ I agree so much with PK. As I sit here in tears (as I am after I read so many of your posts), I struggle to find the words to let you know that “I’m here.” Or maybe even simply “I understand.” yet somehow I always feel like my words aren’t enough and that if I try to let you know how much I identify with your struggles, it will somehow trivialize them because I have a “normal” family. Maybe it’s because of the way you write? I don’t know, but so many times your posts appeal to the broader sense of “parenting” and in that sense your family appears to be perfectly “normal.” I mean, what is “normal” anyways, and why do so many strive to be, and others even struggle to be normal. I think that every family, every person even needs to define and at times even redefine what “normal” is for themselves. Does that even make sense? Grr… I’ll stop now. Sorry.

    SC ~ I have those memories too! back in the day! but with my son having tn redefine normal is necessary! Hard too cuz we have joint custody and kids come n go! what is normal for them? one house has my son and one doesnt! try working thru that! it is hard all around and even shopping is rough!

    Diary of a Mom thank you all, from the bottom of my heart for your comments, your support, your nods of understanding, your love. truly, thank you

  26. All, thank you so very much for all of your incredibly generous comments on this post. For sharing YOUR stories, for reaching out, for the hugs, for reminding me yet again that we are not the only ones on this road, for allowing me to post a moment in time without having to explain that it’s not where we live all the time, for letting me know you’re here. thank you.

  27. Oh, Wow — thanks for posting this. It sums up my own experiences so well, in terms of the desire to share a family experience, wanting something to be fun, superimposing my OWN expectations onto a family outing despite the reality…

    Maybe the tradition needs to be that someone brings donuts over on Sunday mornings.

    But I sure know the angst you feel, wanting to share something special to you and realizing that you just can’t. And that means you won’t have it in your present day life, either.

    Grieving the things you can’t do, that you want to do… and accepting what is. It’s not easy.

  28. Good for trying. We have the same issue with my 6 yr old son. And I always feel so badly for my 8 and 10 yr old daughters that we cant just do what other families do. We have made it to friendly’s – with of course Coley’s DVD player that we tote with us everywhere. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. So we always need another adult – my husband, my mother, my sister – with us in case I have to dash out with him.
    This past weekend was cold and rainy – and I wanted so much to curl up on the couch with my girls, cuddle and watch a movie. I would give my right arm for that. But not possible. So they curled up, and I catered to Coley, wishing things were different.

  29. Tears are flowing once agian after reading some of your post,I thought I was the only one that went through this. I love going out to eat and so does my oldest, but my middle son with special needs doesnt do very well in restraunts and it no fun to pay $35.00 to eat when everyone is starring at you thinking you need to do something with your child, then I end up getting mad and wanting to scream at everyone so we have decieded on take-out and having theme nights at home for the other kids to enjoy.

  30. Nope, it’s certainly not ‘where we live all the time’ and of course no explanation is needed in this amazing community… but man, does it suck when we find ourselves there, doesn’t it?

  31. Amen.

    I was having a really rough day and I read your poignant post. It helps me so much to be reminded that there are countless others who can empathize so fully. This is not the family life that I thought I would be leading. And it is so very hard not to press my nose against the glass and stare longingly at the seemingly happy-go-lucky families inside. Why can’t anything ever be that effortless, that easy for us?

    We are all right there with you.

  32. Perfect timing for this post. I was at a “party” the other day (you know the kind where you have to buy something to support your hostess). A couple of ladies that I am just getting to know were really after me about why I don’t bring my son to various activities more. The implication was strong that he wouldn’t get better if I didn’t take him out more. I tried to explain the restlessness, destructiveness, and obsessions that he has. I do take him places that I really think that HE will enjoy. Other activities, we tag team and someone stays home with him. It has NOT done wonders for our family life or our marriage. Of course, this discussion was followed briefly by why we don’t have him on a special diet. Awesome.

    Jess, even though I am sorry that you had to go through this, thank you for sharing once again. So many in this world are dealing with this, but still sometimes I feel so alone.

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