A few weeks ago I went with my family to the WALK NOW FOR AUTISM walk, in Washington, D.C.
Groan. Talk about walking three miles with two two-year-olds who don’t want to walk at the pace of the other hundreds of people. Or with your group. Or with Mama or Baba. Or according to anyone else’s wishes.
Two-year-olds walk the way THEY want to.
So we started at 10 a.m.
By 10:05 we were way behind our group. By 10:10, I couldn’t see our group anymore. By 10:30, I couldn’t even see any more Autism Walkers.
One daughter wanted to pull her dino pull-toy.
Oops. Dino’s string slips out of her hand. Have to wait for her to pick it up and continue. Other daughter decides she wants to pull her worm pull-toy.
She stops. Why? We don’t know.
She’s planted in the middle of hundreds of people walking, and I pray to Allah that she doesn’t get trampled. She doesn’t, alhamdulillah. My husband waits patiently by her side, while I’m up ahead with my dino daughter, once again. My husband and other daughter catch up, after many negotiations. We walk along a wide, open field. Black birds are resting there in groups, by the hundreds, covering huge patches of grass. Far, Far away. We see kids running after them, making them fly up in the air. My daughter asks if she can run, too. I sigh and agree. Who cares about being first or last in the walk, anyway? She runs like the wind, then my other daughter, too. Then they come back, wanting Baba to run with them. Minutes tick by.
We walk again. They want to climb up on the wall surrounding the Monument, and walk on that. Autism Walkers are passing by in throngs. The girls come to the end of the wall, notice a tree that looks climbable, and ask if they can climb that. Who am I to say no? We sit on the grass and watch them climb. I wonder if they’re hungry and offer them food. Alhamdulillah, they eat some.
Then they want to play on the benches surrounding the Monument. What fun! Then we face the mile-and-a-half walk back. I see it’s been three hours since I last changed their diapers, and we make a stop at the bathrooms there. Nightmare. Girls are grouchy, kicking me and fighting to get away, as I try to change their diapers in the crowded, dirty bathrooms by the Monument. Finally, the ordeal is done, and I just want to go home, but half of me really wants to finish this walk, so we chug on.
One daughter stops in the middle of the pavement, crouching, and calmly, silently, fingers the little pebbles of which the pavement is made. Right smack in the middle of the pavement. People go by. I watch by the side. Let the little girl learn, I think. We can always wash her hands later, and people should watch where they’re going. Minutes tick by.
Other daughter gets restless on my husband’s shoulders, but first daughter won’t budge. I pick her, she squirms and runs back. Twice. We wait, admiring the blue sky and white clouds, appreciating the beautiful day. And wait.
We continue, and see from afar a merry-go-round. Oh, blessed merry-go-round. The mention of it puts renewed energy into the girls’ bodies, and they agree to ride in the stroller to get there faster. My husband and I run, wanting to make up for the lost time, but we know it’s no use. It’s been over two hours since the walk started, and we can see the empty refreshment and registration tents being dismantled. Never mind, the kids love the ride on the merry-go-round, and are not scared at all. I count it as it goes around past me, as I wait by the stroller. 12 spins. Fun.
We head towards the metro station, thinking that at least we completed the Walk for Autism, though we sure did a lot more than just walk.
Sometimes it takes a child to make you stop and smell the roses. Don’t you agree?
Asiya Akyurt lives in Virginia with her husband and twin daughters. She is an active MAS member with an ijaza (certificate) in Qur’anic recitation and tajweed, and enjoys teaching, interpreting and translating.