Thursday, June 21, 2012

Songs and Safety Nets

I've been working on this blog post for what seems like forever.

I was going to write about how the past few weeks have been an eye-opener, in more ways than one.

I was going to write about the meeting with Ethan's teachers, the one in which I made my impassioned plea that the school must provide better for those children on the spectrum who have primarily social/communication challenges, must offer more to meet their individual needs: only to have all of them nodding their heads in agreement. Keep making noise, they told me. The administration listens better when it comes from you.

I was going to write about the realization during our search for new health insurance, which our family will purchase on an individual basis rather than from an employer, that most of the plans out there don't cover those same types of services I'd just been encouraged to fight for. I was going to write about how I've learned that if we had no income, any type of therapy, including the social skills group his re-evaluation concluded he would greatly benefit from, would be covered. But once we pass a certain threshold, we're on on own. Oh, we could pay out of pocket: $400-$500 per session. Per session.

I was going to write about how very easy it is to claim I am "at peace and trusting God," when really I'm trusting in a paycheck, a generous health insurance plan, a healthy 401K, the perfect therapy, the perfect solutions that will tie up life neatly in a little bow.

I was going to write about all of those things and more. But it's dawned on me that in the last several weeks I've been learning lessons that aren't really new at all, the same lessons we learn over and over throughout our lives. I've learned that there are the things we can do, and the things we have no control over. I've been reminded that if I really want to live in such a way that I truly rely on God, maybe having some of the safety nets removed for awhile might not be such a bad thing.

So, in the midst of issues that can't be resolved like a 22-minute sitcom, I'll instead write about a moment.

Yesterday was Ethan's last day of school. As a parent, I still love the last day of school: the burgeoning excitement of a summer story not yet written; the bulletin boards ripped bare and rooms packed up; the tear-filled goodbyes sprinkled with laughter and sweet recollections. Ethan's last day came complete with bubble blowing, dripping popcicles, and songs in a sweaty gym.

I had somehow missed last year's celebration. Normally when the school gathers in the gym for events the music teacher leads everyone in singing songs. No one class goes up and performs. So I wasn't expecting what I saw.

A little backtrack: years ago now, when Ethan was diagnosed, there came a day when I watched all of the children up front at church, singing a song they'd practiced.

Maybe I should have known better. Maybe I should have had more faith or confidence. But immediately I thought: Will Ethan ever be able to do that? He was two at the time. I just didn't know. My only point of reference was Andy. My brother, who had never memorized a song to sing with his class, even with special needs kids. Andy, whose amazing accomplishment (and indeed, it was amazing!) was performing on stage, doing tumbling I remember one year, once he attended residential school and was closer to his teen years.

With Ethan, I just couldn't see it.

Yesterday, after the school said the pledge, the principal invited Ethan's class to perform a song they had practiced. They all marched to the front. Ethan was somewhere between the center and on the side of the line facing us. I strained to see his face. The fans whirred; kindergarteners and preschoolers shifted in their criss-cross applesauce seats on the floor, and parents waited. Then they started in with the first line to a song we've all heard many, many times:

If you're happy and you know it clap your hands...

We sat and watched, Dan and Anna and I, and the grin almost split my face in two. Ethan was up there, and he was singing and he was doing the hand motions with all of his classmates, and best of all, he seemed to be soaking it all in. He seemed to be enjoying himself. He wasn't intimidated by the several hundred people in the gym. He wasn't even distracted by the big fan. He wasn't jittery or refusing to cooperate or wanting to get out of the line and go sit down. He was doing something he seemed meant to do.

I knew that feeling. It was the same feeling I got when I was singing with a group in front of people. It's the feeling you get when you love singing and music so much, and the experience just envelops you in a way that makes you not care about everyone out there, because you just want to sing.

That's what I saw, when I watched Ethan.

That's what we saw yesterday. We didn't have all of the answers to our questions or solutions to our problems. But we knew one thing. When it came to singing, to being up on stage on doing what was once thought impossible, we now knew.

Ethan could do it.

Ethan (second from left) blowing bubbles with his class

(This is typical, shaky, amateurish video and you can't see Ethan (second from the right) until the end. But I still had to add it in here. )


Anonymous said...

Thank God for the moments. The ones that let us know He *is* with us and the impossible is possible. Love the singing and the whispering (ha!) on the video!

Anonymous said...

Thank God for the moments. The ones that let us know He *is* with us and the impossible is possible. Love the singing and the whispering (ha!) on the video!