Today, I promised my son Mac n’ Cheetos. He has been wanting to try them since he saw the first commercial last month, and I figured it would be easy enough to grab some as a snack tonight. I was so wrong.
We pulled into Burger King, and he excitedly pointed to the giant Mac n’ Cheetos picture on the order board. When the employee said, “We don’t have those anymore,” my boy said, “But the picture says they do, and I saw a commercial today. I want Mac n’ Cheetos.” I told the employee never mind about our order and pulled into an empty parking space.
As my son started a soliloquy about mac n’ cheese being his favorite food and Cheetos being his second-favorite food, I attempted to calm him down. “You said I could have Mac n’ Cheetos! You told me! They have a picture!” I offered alternative restaurants where we could buy mac n’ cheese, to no avail. I reminded him how much he loves mac n’ cheese from Boston Market and KFC, to no avail. His mind, thanks to autism, had locked onto Mac n’ Cheetos, and nothing else would do. He had been thinking about them for hours, and nothing else would do. He had planned his entire evening, the entire car trip, around those Mac n’ Cheetos, and nothing else would do. The order board said there were Mac n’ Cheetos, and nothing else would do.
I pulled out my phone and looked up other Burger Kings in our area and 15 pulled up. I started calling the 14 in whose parking lots we weren’t parked. Only one phone was answered, and that employee told me they no longer sell Mac n’ Cheetos, either. I looked over at my son and he was leaning against the car door, lightly tapping his head against the window.
“Hey, kiddo, if we can’t get Burger King, what do you want?” He tapped his head harder.
I pulled out of the Burger King parking lot and headed to another Burger King eight miles away. All the while, my son was tapping his head against the window. We found out at the order board that this location no longer carries Mac n’ Cheetos, either, even though the picture is still highlighted on their order board.
A full meltdown ensued, complete with wailing, head-slamming, and pressure hug. (Before anyone jumps in with, “He needs his butt whipped” or “He is spoiled,” a meltdown is far more than a tantrum. A tantrum happens because a child doesn’t get his way, and it is done for attention. A meltdown happens when a child simply can’t absorb or deal with a change in schedule, routine, or surroundings and is so overwhelmed that he loses his sh!t in epic proportions).
I wish to thank you, Burger King, for my evening. I wish to thank the two locations we visited for not updating their menu boards. I wish to thank the 13 locations I called whose phones went unanswered (with my luck, 12 of them still have the damned Mac n’ Cheetos). I wish to thank you for the gas and time lost due to the wasted trip to the second location. I wish to thank you for continuing to advertise an item no longer available in our area.
And this, folks, is what happens when you promise your child with autism anything…In essence, though, this wasn’t about Mac n’ Cheetos at all. It was about my son’s inability to roll with the punches and think on his feet. It was about his hyper-focus on one particular thing (Mac n’ Cheetos) over everything else. It was about my failure, once again, to fix a problem, and his realization that sometimes I just can’t. Sometimes Mac n’ Cheetos are so much more.