For the first time since our twins were born, Howard and I are taking a long (16-day) vacation to Europe on our own. Usually, we travel with one or both of our twenty-somethings, but this year we are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. Besides, Samantha is 27. We’ve left her alone before for extended weekends, but never as long as two weeks. I’ve (mostly) convinced myself that she’ll be fine on her own. On weekends, she’s never home anyway, drifting like a gypsy to various friends’ houses and enjoying a very active social life. Most weekdays Samantha is also busy with her two theater groups, vocal coach, therapist and life skills coach. As my daughter, likes to say, she’s a busy bee.

She’s ready for me to leave and doesn’t seem the least bit worried. (Not exactly true for her parents).  Samantha is independent in most ways, much of the time. But when life throws a predictably unpredictable mini-curveball, she can sometimes become overwhelmed and panic. If I’m not around to talk her off the ledge, sometimes she melts down.  Speaking of curveballs, Samantha’s life skills coach just quit at THE most inopportune time—right before we leave for vacation at the same time as our daughter was forced to relocate to our den during our bedbug battle.  (The bugs are also terrible timing, but these stubborn vermin become a nightmare anytime they turn up).

Silver lining? This autism mom gets another opportunity to be a role model. After all, the show must go on! I’ve already found a new life skills coach, (even though I will have to pay out-of-pocket).  We must ALL compromise and be good sports. But first, I MUST IMMEDIATELY refill my Valium prescription. I’m always telling Samantha to call the drugstore BEFORE she gets down to her last pill.  She’s NOT happy sleeping in our sofa bed amid a sea of plastic bags stuffed with clothing from all seasons.  Howard and I too are upset by the mess and the extraordinary expense, but I offer my daughter the same pep talk I’m giving myself.  In a week or two—hopefully BEFORE we go away—Samantha’s room will be more beautiful than ever, painted her favorite color green, with all new furniture, lighting, and a rug. One day, hopefully in the not too distant future, she can move her lovely new furniture into a home where she can live independently.

Meantime, our vacation functions as a test.  Can our daughter navigate life for two weeks on her own? We think she can do it; she thinks she can do it, but just to make sure, I’m preparing my daughter with as much advice and as many phone numbers of friends to call for every possible scenario I could anticipate. (Not fool proof, I realize, but time for her to learn this too, right?)

Lost? Upset? Frustrated? Feeling ill?  If our daughter can’t reach us, here’s my list of recommendations for her:

  1. Take slow, deep breaths.
  2. Do NOT scream or curse, or no one will want to help you. Worse, a stranger might call the police or try to put you in a psych ward in the hospital. You don’t want that.
  3. Be patient when you call or text someone for help. That person is at work, has a life and can’t be expected to respond right away. Do NOT get angry and assume people don’t care if they don’t respond or can’t help. Other people are busy and also may be dealing with their own problems.
  4. Try not to make mountains out of molehills or get into unnecessary arguments with your friends. You may need these friends to help you while we’re away
  5. If you can’t find your key or have trouble unlocking the door, ask the doorman or porter for help or use the extra set of keys downstairs.
  6. Call the superintendent for any problems in the apartment ESPECIALLY if you see bugs….
  7. Use the extra money we leave you to pay for food and drinks while we’re away. Don’t ask your male friends/aspiring suitors to spend money on you because that might mislead them into thinking a romantic relationship is possible.
  8. If you need money in an emergency, please call my friend Robin, because I will pay her back when I return.
  9. Always keep $20 in your wallet. Make a habit of going to the bank every few days and putting cash in your wallet, while still sticking to your budget. You don’t want an angry mugger or thief to hurt you because you have no money.
  10. Use Uber at night after rehearsal and save the receipts so you can be reimbursed.
  11. Set up voice lessons with your coach before we leave, so I can write checks for those days.
  12. Do laundry every 7 to 10 days.
  13. Buy cosmetics at CVS. Don’t just run out of deodorant, shampoo or mouthwash because I’m not around to notice.
  14. Refill prescriptions BEFORE you are down to your last pill. Call when you still have 5 or 6 pills left; if CVS is out of something, there’s time to reorder. If you need a refill, call the doctor’s office. Don’t rely on CVS to do it for you. If the prescribing doctor is away, ask Dr. S. to help you out.
  15. Go to Weight Watchers. You have the time and your self-direction budget pays for it. Try to eat healthy and stick to your diet. Remember, the scale never lies.
  16. Plan to talk to Dad and me a few times each week—just as we do with your brother who lives in California. We will have international calling and unlimited texting so we can chat almost as much as always.
  17. Check out my list of friends, mentors and physicians; that’s who to call when we are unavailable if you need help.
  18. Keep having fun and smiling. We’ll be home before you know it.

Boy, do we need this vacation….

PS If you’d like to volunteer to be on our “call list,” don’t be shy.

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