February 12, 2010. Yesterday we drove to Quebec City for a much needed, albeit short vacation. It’s been 2 ½ years since we last were brave enough to take Peter anywhere other than to another family member’s home. Vacations are not his strong suit. We hope for the best but plan for the worst, securing the phone number of a baby-sitting agency the hotel uses just in case Peter requires a down day. We plan to attend the Winter Carnival, snow tube at Valcartier Village, spend a half-day dog sledding, and visit the Ice Hotel. In between we’ll walk around the Old City and sightsee. Peter was a complete mess during the 7-hour car ride, despite DVDs, handheld video games, books, and a steady stream of snacks to keep him occupied. We had to pull over on the highway in order to stop the escalation of tantrums that was impeding Pat’s ability to drive. Travel disorients him; it knocks him off the schedule that is his lifeline to a more rational, ordered existence. Rudderless, he panics, rebels, resists, doing whatever he can to disrupt a vacation’s naturally pleasant procession. In many ways its not fair of us to put him through this predictable ordeal, but on the other hand, its not fair that Sophie, Pat and I have to live in Peter’s world 24/7, without so much as a break. When we get to the hotel Peter says he loves Hollywood and he’s glad we’re here. At dinner he asks if we need Californian money to give to the Mexicans who made the French people. His neurons are heading toward full revolt. We let the kids swim in the hotel pool before bed in order to expend some of the pent-up energy from the car ride. I’m hopeful the resistance of the water will help organize his overloaded sensory system. Suddenly, however, Peter can’t remember how to stay afloat. He’s flailing and swallowing water in enormous gulps, laughing so maniacally the whole time that I worry he might actually drown. I yell, sharply, “Peter!” Two more times and I get his attention. I make him leave the pool and he begins to cry. “What’s wrong, Mom?” he asks, giggles fading into anger. “Why you let me not do anything?” This morning we leave for the snow park, hopeful our son will have settled down enough so that we can all enjoy the fun. Valcartier has amazing snow rides with ominous names like “the Tornado”, “Everest”, and “the Himalayas”. The sky is blue and the temperature hovers right below freezing, which is practically balmy for Quebec in February. But Peter is exhibiting signs more ominous for our family than the foreboding names of the rides: his gloves hurt, his goggles itch, he can’t zipper his snow suit, and he can’t recall which foot goes in which boot. He’s also walking on his toes and spinning, and not his usual fluid spinning, either. This variant involves throwing his head violently to the right and letting his surprised body follow; a kind of lurch and swing. We go down two rides together, so far so good, and then Pat takes Peter on another ride alone. Sophie and I play together and wait for the boys to return, which takes much longer than expected. Pat comes tromping back angrily, with Peter lagging behind, sulking. They had to walk up the mountain rather than take the long tube lift because Peter couldn’t manage to sit his bottom onto the tube. Pat’s convinced he did this on purpose but I’m not so sure. Peter’s motor skills, not to mention his language, toileting prowess, and impulse control, can diminish to the point of nonexistence when he’s in an unfamiliar and over-stimulating environment. We debate leaving right then but I’m glad we don’t. Instead, we take a break, drink some hot chocolate and talk to him, quietly and with patience. The regrouping works, and we don’t have to abort. The rest of the day goes relatively well, with Peter 2/3rds recovered. I know the effort’s been worthwhile when we get to the bottom of “the Tornado” and Sophie raises her arms over her head in triumph as she shouts “this is the best day of my life!