“Brooks says he’s in an after-school concert at the Y on Wednesday?”
My husband posed this question late Monday night, and neither of us could say for sure whether this event was in the myriad of paperwork that comes home with our kindergartner everyday; we both work full-time and it’s not unheard of for things like this to fall through the cracks. Good news: it was only Monday. My husband would call the Y on Tuesday for the details, and we’d both rearrange and e-mail our ways into early work departures on Wednesday.
Since rush hour was kind to me on the day of the concert, I was able to arrive a bit early as parents were starting to fill up the chairs in the gym. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I should have talked to Brooks about how things were going to be different today. We weren’t going to meet him in the front lobby like we usually do — we’d only see him after the concert.
And then the panic kicked in: Brooks wasn’t sitting on the floor with the other after-school kids. Was that where he was supposed to be? I said “hi” to the supervisors and they were all smiling, so perhaps everything was okay? But then the concert started and it got loud — the kind of loud that Brooks can’t tolerate.
“Let me hear you. Are you having fun?” said a young counselor on the stage. “YESSSS!” screeched all the kids. I knew that Brooks was somewhere off-stage covering his ears and crying.
But then, as I sat there trying to calm my palpitating heart, Brooks made his entrance on stage with the rest of his group. He was nervous, but appropriately nervous; and also excited. When his eyes found me in the audience, he waved, and then he sang and danced away his time in the spotlight.
That’s right — on this noisy stage with wall-to-wall kids, Brooks held his own.
I often wonder if I will ever find a way to turn off my “autism parent” instincts; or are these specialized reflexes that have been finely honed over many years for the specific purpose of saving my son’s life simply a permanent part of who I am?
Ultimately, I will take my cues from Brooks. When he made his way to us after the finale with his beaming smile, one of the first things he said was: “Can we go home now?” He didn’t say it with any sort of desperation; more as an acknowledgement that he was ready for this really fun, but also challenging day to be done.
So I wasn’t completely off-base in my thinking that this was all difficult for him. But not impossible. Not anymore.