Saturday, December 1, 2007

Date Night

After a long day yesterday - one that began when I stepped out into the dark, frigid morning at 5:30 to work out and continued through a full day of clients, one of those days when every break between clients involved a scheduled call - the best part of my day arrived. Date Night!

No, Matt and I didn't go out. In fact, I stayed at work. Matt and the boys had dinner, played games, and watched a video together back at the ranch.

Lorell (good friend, very talented colleague, and faithful Wonderwheel reader) and I hosted the first-ever Date Night at the clinic last night. This was an opportunity for the parents of our clients to drop their kids off and go out for about two and a half hours. For only $5 per family (just enough to cover the cost of the food), we did art projects, fed them pizza (we made a gluten-free casein-free one for the kids on that special diet, and ordered pizzas for the rest of us), showed a couple of videos, and generally let them run around and have fun. The mood was festive - they all love coming to our clinic during the week, and coming at night (and some of them in their pj's!) was a huge, exciting adventure. I wish I could show you the photos of these super stars from last night - so cute!

We took 10 kids (about half clients, half their siblings) and there were 7 adults volunteering our time. At times, we were really grateful to have that many adults! The children ranged in age from 5 months to 7 years old. As you might imagine, so many parents were interested that we have most of the 10 spots filled for the next one - and we haven't even set the date yet.

If you don't have a child with significant special needs, you may not realize what an enormous gap this would fill. While so many of us complain that it's difficult to find a great babysitter we can trust, and often impossible to afford the $12-15 hourly rates, parents with typically developing kids have got it easy. Imagine the difficulty involved in finding someone you can trust to care for a child with little to no language, a special diet, unusual sleep habits, and behavior that is often confusing for those who don't know him/her. Think about if your child had idiosyncratic communication habits and you knew what he wanted only by reading the most subtle cues - and not meeting his needs would result in a tantrum of massive proportions. Would you easily leave him to go out for a fun dinner with your partner? Now imagine that you pay an enormous sum out of pocket every month to cover therapies. Would you be able to rationalize spending the money on a sitter and that dinner or movie? I wouldn't. And neither can most of our clients' parents. Those without family support nearby reported that they hadn't been out together in a very long time. Some weren't even sure what they could do - we went so far as to suggest a great local restaurant and talked them through how it would work.

And yet. These parents are under more strain than anyone can imagine. Divorce rates are said to be higher among parents whose children have autism than in the rest of the population. They need a break, some fun, and time to connect with friends or their spouse - and they need it yesterday. Or maybe last year.

This is a win-win situation. We adults truly had a wonderful time with the kids. The children had a blast - our 7-year old (who walked in and said, "I'm ready to PAR-TAAAYY!") declared at the end, "This was the best party in the whole world!" The parents had a chance to catch their breath and reconnect, and all of them thanked us with tears in their eyes.

It was an incredibly meaningful evening. One of the best events in my career.

This morning we're planning the next one.

14 comments:

hlkennedy said...

What a wonderful thing to do! Sounds like everyone involved had a fantabulous time! I know so many parents at my daughter's therapy center who would really, really love this. Kudos to all of you!

Becky said...

Jordan -- you rock. What a wonderful thing you've done!

And of course, snaps to you!

Special Needs Mama said...

That's so lovely! My son's clinic here does something similar and I know the parents are profoundly grateful. It's so nice to know you had a good time too!

kristen said...

Well, I got a bit teary eyed reading this. What a wonderful gift you gave those parents. Good for you, Jordan, and your colleagues. If only there were more like you...

Cara said...

Yay, Jordan! What a cool thing that you have done. Date night makes SUCH a difference. If you need more adult help for the next one, count me in!

tulipmom said...

What an incredible service you provided to these families! Very moving post.

Jordan said...

Hey, everyone, thanks for all your comments.

And, yes, Cara - and any local friends - we'd love your help! The next one is Jan 19th. We'll talk!

Niksmom said...

Bawling my eyes out here, Jordan. This makes me want to move to Chicago —and I HATE being cold in the winter! God, if more people like you did more stuff like this —I can't even begin to imagine the impact something like this would have on my own family it's been so long. Even the times my folks have come over, we've only managed to sneak out for coffee or a movie and even then they were anxious about us being gone too long or "what if something happens."

I think I am going to suggest this to the fabulous folks at Nik's rehab.

What an incredible gift you gave those families. You totally rock!

Cassie said...

That is really great Jordan - I'd love to help out next time around. I'll pencil in Jan. 19th!

Becky said...

Count me in for the 19th!

Christopher Tassava said...

As the only guy who ever comments around here, let me just agree that this was a wonderful thing to do - kind, generous, thoughtful.

But really, did you have to follow one of the couples and sneak a snapshot from behind some bushes for your blog post? I mean, really.

Delilah said...

What a wonderful gift you gave those families!

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

I started to cry, too!! This is so incredibly thoughtful of you. I know how much this must have meant to these parents. And you found it so rewarding too! Way to go, Jordan. If only you lived closer...

Susan said...

Oh Jordan, this makes me so happy. You are such a mensch. And the only reason I can bear that you moved away is that we have Beata, so at least you've spread the love. WIsh I could be there to help and see all the little cuties in their PJs...