Okay, this is going to be the last time I apologize at the beginning of a blog entry for not writing more often. By now you people know that life with an autistic preschooler and an infant is crazy or you haven't been paying attention. Also in my "spare" (ha!) time, I've been trying to do some actual, like, literary writing, hence the neglected blog. I know, snooty snooty. Anyway...so...to what I came over here to write about today:
We got a notice in Boog's backpack last Thursday that his school was putting on a performance today called "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow". There weren't any other details on the flier except the time and since the Boog can't tell us what he's working on at school, we had no idea what to expect. I figured it would just be kind of an impromptu casual gather-the-special-ed-kids and give them jingle bells and play some Christmas music kind of thing, but Dylan and I thought it was important to go anyway.
So this morning, we went and took PJ and much to our surprise, as we entered the school, an adorable, very excited little boy practically jumped out of his chair to hand us a program on which were listed several musical numbers and credits for choreography and the like. Then, we entered the gym which has a stage on one end. It was all tinsel and lights and Christmas cheer, and there were several parents and other proud family members assembled with cameras. I did not bring my camera. I will regret this for the rest of my life.
Then, the show started. It was adorable. The first number was put on by the wheelchair class and their aides. There was choreography, there was glittery-snow throwing, there were jingly bells everywhere. The kids looked so proud of themselves.
The second number was put on by a few classes of little ones. The Boog was in this number. It was called "Five Little Snowmen" and they all had white shirts with snowmen buttons on them. He was the last one to come in the gym, holding the hand of his aide, and as he walked in all smiley and excited, I just started to cry. Throughout his song he stood up there with his class without protesting or trying to run away and mostly just stimmed with his hands, but he also smiled and every time the teachers and aides (most of the kids weren't singing) sang the line where they say "bye bye" to the snowmen as they melt, he would wave a very exaggerated "bye bye" along with the other kids. That made me cry even harder. Mimicry has been such a hard-won skill for him and it is amazing that he was able to do it consistently under these circumstances in front of all these people!
After he walked back down the ramp and out to the waiting area, smiling and laughing and clearly proud of himself, I got a hold of myself and enjoyed the next few numbers which were just as adorable and well-planned, until he came back out for the finale. All the kids lined up and sang, or at least shook jingle bells to "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish you a Merry Christmas". Boog, being one of the littlest littles, was in the front row. He loved his jingle bell. He loved it so much in fact that he stole his little buddy Elijah's jingle bell so he could match jingle bell to jingle bell and shake them both. I laughed. Poor Elijah cried. On and off through the number, I kept tearing up and then getting my composure back until the end. The kids finished and the audience started clapping. Boog, who was stimming with his hands at this point, looked up, smiled really big and started this big, exaggerated clapping. All around us, I heard "Awwwwww", and I lost it again.
I'm normally not much of a crier. I suppose I could blame it on the extreme sleep deprivation I've been suffering under the regime of They-Who-Shall-Not-Sleep. I could also blame it on postpartum breastfeeding hormones. Neither of those explanations is the real one, though. The fact of the matter is that, as a parent of a non-verbal autistic kid, I have accepted that there are some "normal" childhood milestones we may just never see. I've worked through this fact, emotionally speaking, and I'm fairly comfortable with it and content to celebrate the Boog for who he is. Sometimes, I get surprised, though.
I never even considered the possibility of the Boog participating in a Christmas pageant, much less being excited to do so and as engaged as he was in the process. It was just...the best Christmas gift I think I've ever received. I don't know if all the teachers and aides who worked so hard on the program know how much it means to those of us with kids on a different path to see them doing something so quintessential to the "normal" childhood experience, but I could never thank them enough. He may not have sung or danced, but he stood and he smiled and he waved and shook his jingle bells and he clapped for himself at the end and it was simply one of my top ten favorite moments as a parent so far. I am so so proud of my boy!