(Over on my Facebook page, I am posting a photo every day in April, which is Autism Awareness Month. Nothing fancy, just a day in the life. A day in my son’s life, I should say. Follow along. I’d love it. I’d appreciate it. No preaching, no whining, just a photo and a back story, if there is one.
This one was a tad wordy for a Facebook post (I’m a sucker for social media etiquette) so I am posting it here.)
Last year, my family and I went to Jax’s Kindergarten concert. Me, John, my parents, my brother, his family – we had a big group. Jax was so excited. Over-excited. He sang and jumped and clapped his little heart out. All at the wrong times and with entirely too much gusto. On stage, the kids next to him moved away because Jax was a one-man, arm-flailing dancing maniac. His teacher popped up to the stage to calm him down, and it was kindergarten so it was cute-ish. People laughed good-naturedly.
But it was so hard for me to watch. My kid had no idea that he wasn’t following along with the other kids. He had no idea that the laughter was about him. He just had no idea.
Last night. 1st grade concert. I was nervous all day. These things other parents take for granted give me an ulcer. I didn’t invite any family this year. We got there early, we kept it really calm, and we sat on the aisle in case I needed to intervene. When the cafeteria got ultra-noisy, I watched Jax twitch and cover his ears. I hugged my son, made him look me in the eyes, and said, “Kiddo, you got this.” I handed him off to his teacher, sat down with a bowling ball in the pit of my stomach, and bit all my nails while waiting for the kids to sing.
HE NAILED IT! Jax freaking nailed it. I am calling Broadway because my son’s perfect mix of joy, enthusiasm, and (sit down for this) awareness of the program was spot on. SPOT ON! We sat there blind-sided by our own son with goofy grins glued to our faces. I slept with that grin last night. I’m gonna wear it all week.
Jax still sang the loudest, his sweet dance moves were still the biggest, and his teacher was still 5 paces away behind the curtain. But OMG! Somehow, in the the haze of all the therapy and the services, and with the help of the most kick-ass village of people, we are moving towards the goal – to keep all that is good and special and hilarious about my son…and tweak it just a little bit so he can be appreciated by more people.
After the show, I watched other parents high-five and hug their kids. They got exactly what they came to see – an adorable show with their well-behaved children. I got one of the Top 10 nights of my life. And this is the silver lining to autism – while the rest of the world searches for inspiration and guidance and meaning, I only have look to my son on that stage.
And the promised photo. Jax is lower right in the orange.
Rebecca Masterson is a writer, speaker, and an advocate for children. For more from Rebecca, follow her on Instagram.