Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Show, Special Needs, and God with Us: Thank You Very Much Mr. Roboto


Patiently waiting for Dan's class to perform, this was two or three classes before his. 
On Wednesday, I got to my younger son's Winter Concert on time! I was so proud of myself. It's usually packed and I always end up sitting in the 5th or 6th row because, yes, I am usually late. Not this time. I got there extra early and landed a seat in the second row, square in the middle, with no big person in front of me! Also, after looking at the program and realizing that Dan's class was one of the last ones to perform, I saved all my iPhone's battery life for countless photos of his class performance, I was so excited!

I watched performance after performance and then, finally,  Dan's class was next. There I was, camera in hand, positioned motionless so I could capture the perfect shot the moment he hit the stage. My Dan is a ball of energy that jumps, runs, and fidgets at every moment. Many of my pictures of him are mere blurs so this preparation was quite calculated. I figured I would be able to get at least one good picture of him for me, and yes, Facebook.

Dan's class, sans Dan. You can see a little glimpse of the kids dressed as trains.
The music for his class performance started and I began to look for Dan. I looked, and looked, but there was no sign of him. I smiled, masking my anxiety, as the music kept playing and the kids kept coming out in their costumes. I wasn't sure what he was supposed to be so I didn't know what to look for.  First, kids dressed as trains, came out; then others dressed as rockets. The next batch were teddy bears, and lastly, the robot kids. The music ended, his class performance was over, and still no sign of Dan.

I couldn't understand it. Did I miscalculate? Was his class actually the next one to perform? Was he so well disguised that I had missed him? Didn't I see his class heading to the stage? Then I spotted him with his paraprofessional (para), heading back down off the platform. My heart sank. I knew something must have gone awry. I silently started to cry as the music started playing for the next act. Tears rolling down, I started to get in my head, "couldn't his para handle him?" I thought. "This is a special school, aren't they supposed to be able to deal with kids that have sensory issues and are hyper?" The show was not over but I just wanted to leave. I thought of how I could make a grand exit to show how pissed I was and then write an angry e-mail to his teacher about how they broke a mother's heart.

Photo courtesy of http://shu-media.co.uk
Then I took a hold of myself as I felt a calming presence over me. I looked back and Dan was sitting nicely with his para. I decided I was going to go over to his class and find out what happened. When they laid eyes on me, both his para and teacher had these apologetic faces on them. Before I could say "What the hell happened? They started, "Ms.______, I am so sorry, we tried everything and Dan just refused to go on. He ripped his robot costume off and started to cry. We really tried!" Ah, so there it was, he was supposed to be a robot. That puzzle was solved. I could feel my anger melting away. I couldn't hold it against them. They have a very good track record with Dan. I truly believed they tried their best. I couldn't help, though, to continue to ruminate; this is a class of 6 year old autistic children, could they have placed them ahead of the middle schoolers? Couldn't his para pack some snacks to keep him calm? Aaah, if I was going to to salvage this day, I had to decide to let it go. There was no time for what-ifs and recalculations, I sat down with Dan, bopped him up and down on my lap to the rest of the musical numbers, and enjoyed him. He was smiling and laughing; clearly, he was happy to see me. 

Then I realized, "of course! Dan is not a robot!" I can't just press a button and expect him to perform at will. No wonder he ripped that robot costume off! It was his own little performance art piece speaking against the constraints of society. What an extraordinary act of defiance. The boy is genius! Lol.

That act of defiance spoke to me more than the planned performance. No, I have no picture to show off, and I don't have the "he looked so cuuuuute" story to tell my husband. What I do have is a boy who is his own person. A boy, I need to continue accepting and loving for who he is. A boy that teaches me not to be a robot myself, to live my life to the fullest (John 10:10).


Photo courtesy of Britton Church, http://www.brittonchurch.com
I love Christmas simply because it is a reminder that God is with us; Emmanuel. This is what this season is all about. God is with me in this journey. Through the tears, the pain, the joy, the lessons of life, He is with me. He became human to share in our struggles and experience what we go through. And because we are human, not robots, He gives us the choice to be with Him. He never pushes, but shows up, ever so gently, at the right moment. Like the moment I didn't see my son on stage. He is with me and I, also, choose to be with Him.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays.

11 comments:

  1. I am in tears right now. This post touched me sooooo much. I have no idea what it's like, but for a second, I was right there with you, understanding everything. God bless you, God bless Dan who knew he wasn't a robot and God bless his paras who had to come to that realization and the lesson that he's taught us all on how to just move on to the next thing and let it go. My God this made my day!!!!!

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    1. Thank you so much Dominique!!!!! I am so glad I was able to make your day, you always make mine!

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  2. Great blog entry! You've got a new subscriber :)
    ~Gladys

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    1. Yay! Thank you for coming on board!

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  3. How sad for you, but well done Dan. If you don't want to be a robot, don't be one. Kids are funny creatures. I think I finally realise that mine are not extensions of me. Good thing too. They are 32 and 29 and lovely people in their own right.

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    1. Beautiful comment Annabellouise! Thank you. I am continuing to learn that lesson.

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  4. Nell: I am sorry you didn't get to see Dan perform. I totally get it and I was inspired to read your thoughts as a result of this experience. Raising our kids is a journey indees

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    1. Yes it is Mz Kp, a journey indeed. I am grateful for people like you who get it!

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  5. To everything there is a season...a time to weep and a time to laugh, and Nell, with your posts I do both, often at the same time! I love Daniel for who he is, and for what he teaches us, about ourselves.
    You are amazing!
    L,Dyana

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    1. Dyana, thank you!!!!! I am grateful that others, like yourself, who can also see Dan's greatness and the value he adds to our lives!

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