Now that Ethan's pre-K has switched to afternoons, I've been trying to find activities for us to do in the mornings. Another mom I know mentioned the town's playgroups, which I'd essentially forgotten after our brief experience with one just before Ethan turned 3 and started school.
Today we returned to a different yet similar playgroup and a different school, the one Ethan will attend next year. We got started and I had trouble keeping my mouth from dropping to the floor. Ethan's response to playgroups in the last 15 months has markedly changed. He walked right in and asked, "Can I play?" Scooted right up to the circle. Answered when someone asked him his name and age. Sang along and did the hand movements. Completed the craft on his own and even shakily wrote his name on the back. I was simultaneously shocked and grateful.
Early this morning I'd peeked in on him because for several moments it had grown very, very quiet in his room. I found Ethan standing at the window, watching the cars go by. "There's a light on Mr. John's light!" he said, gazing next door. "Look!" It took me a moment, but I realized what he meant. Every time a car went by, the reflection of the headlights made a sudden brief flash on the glass of one of the outside lights on our neighbors' house.
"Here comes two cars!" Ethan announced, his eyes gleaming with anticipation. He giggled as the two flashes reflected again. "There it goes!" Looking at me, his face was lit up as if he'd just been promised a candy bar.
I thought of Ethan as a baby, smiling, saying not so much "mama" as "ite!" (light) and "fan!" These things brought him joy. This is the way his brain is wired. I am happy to share it with him.
I only wonder what will happen, the more time he spends with people who don't understand his quirks, who don't know that his mind works a little differently.
This is the double-edged sword of progress, I think, of being mainstreamed and spending time with people who don't immediately know his diagnosis. Not that I mean to decry progress. I'm overwhelming grateful for the strides he's made. Joyful beyond words. The one part though that threatens to split me in two is that that the more aware and connected to the rest of the world kids with autism become, likewise the more aware they may become of their differences...that people don't "get" them or are even mocking them...that they are misunderstood.
I stood there in Ethan's room this morning and thought of Ethan trying to tell another child about the reflections of light. I saw this imagined child confused and then condescending. I heard the insults, the taunting that may certainly drift Ethan's way. And I wondered how it was possible for my heart to feel broken about something that had yet to happen?
I feel us inching toward reality sometimes. Anna has been somewhat sheltered, in a small Christian school and small group of friends who are mostly kind and safe. Bullying has thankfully never touched my girl. And Ethan is still with me half a day...and then spends afternoons with an absolutely wonderful teaching staff and small group of little ones. But the day will come. The day will come.
I don't have the answers. I know I can't allow the future to cloud the present. Today all I can do is remind myself of something Beth Moore once said. She was questioning why some people are able to go through something completely horrific, like a cancer surgery, completely at peace, yet years later wonder why they are wracked with fear and have no peace, fearing the cancer will return.
"God gives you the grace when you need it, in that moment," she said. "He doesn't give it in advance for something that might happen." He doesn't rain it down just to quell all of our questioning, our pondering, our what ifs?.
That's what I can remind myself to do. Count my blessings with each stride. Live with feet firmly planted in Now, glancing only just far enough ahead to be able to make out the next step.
Friday, January 27, 2012
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Isn't it crazy how no matter how much progress is made we always are worried about the next step?
Mainstreaming scares me, mainly because of the reasons you said. But, at the same time just sending my son to school period used to scare me, and now I'm used to that. So I guess we just have to deal with things when they come!
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