We went to the county fair yesterday. All of us. In case this sounds like a big "so what?" to you, let me tell you it was an accomplishment of nearly epic proportions for our family. Our eldest son's autism will manifest itself as MAJOR social anxiety when it comes to outings that are unknown. We had never been to this fair - so it was a big unknown.
I grew up in Connecticut where we had "The Great Danbury State Fair" which my mother took us to many times. (It is now a shopping mall - sigh). I loved seeing the big animals, the flashing lights, the carousel. I wanted my children to have similar experiences and memories which, in this technology driven world we live in, are getting tougher to come by. To this end, last year, we went to a local dairy festival - sort of a mini fair - some 4-H animal displays, some vendors, a hay ride and (I kid you not) a lawn tractor pull! This became our Waterloo when, after waiting around for hot dogs, our son asked to go sit in the van to wait. No big deal, he has done this before. When we arrived with the hot dogs, he was gone. We looked. We called. We got the security people in their golf carts to drive around searching for him. They announce his name over the loud speakers and asked him to report to the game table. Nothing. Finally, they closed off all entrances and exits to the festival until about 5-10 minutes later, he was found - at the lawn tractor pull (and you were wondering why I remembered that part so well)!!
This event did not make the success of a trip to the county fair seem possible. After a lot of coaxing, some strategic planning, and some tears - on his part and mine - our eldest joined us in the car. Now this did not mean we all walked around and did everything together. However, we started out together looking at the cow barns, and then my husband took the younger two to the midway for rides (both my daughter and my youngest son had never been on a ferris wheel), some skill games (read: we will skillfully take your money if you are game), and greasy fair fare. My eldest and I saw every animal in the barns - some several times. We pet all the horses, every cow but one, all the sheep, the goats, many of the pigs, a bunny, saw all the chicken including the pink one and the powder blue one. We struck up conversations with some of the 4-H participants and learned the names of their animals, the animals' ages, and the numbers from all their ear ID tags. We fed sheep, gave hay to cows, and walked in more manure than I have done in many a year. For a solid two and a half hours we walked the barns, talked to some lovely farmers and even hung out with the Clydesdale for a bit.
He loved it!
After nearly three hours of fair fun, we all met up with the intention of going home. This was difficult since our youngest had seen a stuffed crocodile toy he REALLY wanted to win, but had no way of doing so as it was a very tricky game, our daughter really wanted a funnel cake and our eldest really wanted to stay with the cows. Twenty minutes of negotiating the last edges of the animal tents, he and I walked through the midway with its flashing lights and increasing crowds getting him more and more agitated, and searched for the car. Our daughter got her funnel cake, our youngest was allowed a chance to play a different game where children always get a prize (a suction cup bow and arrow set which he is very proud of) and we all made it home to eat dinner by 8:30.
Typical - no. Successful - oh yes. Everyone did something they liked. All the fair entrances remained open the entire time we were there. My son and I made many new animal friends (thank you Penny the sheep and Bazooka the cow!) and everyone came back happy. Even me.