…Friday morning was the much anticipated graduation ceremony at Caden's school. Although he wasn't graduating, we were still invited because the kids had been working hard on songs and dances. Was so looking forward to spending some time in Caden's classroom and we went armed with camera and video. Unfortunately Caden wasn't able to handle the extra people nor the change in routine and the way the morning unfolded simply isn't describable other than to say we've always known that we were in a war with autism to keep it from dragging our precious child into its black hole. We've had glimpses of that black hole before but nothing like we saw on Friday. In the ironic fashion that seems to describe our life, the only person who ended up being led out of the classroom by the teacher was me. Made a bawling idiot of myself…
I wrote this on a private family blog 5.5 years ago. I thought about editing it a bit before sharing it today because it contains phrases that I wouldn’t ever dream of uttering today. Then I decided to leave it as is because those are the words that I chose 5.5 years ago. Our journey, my understanding, and life in general was just different than it is now. Because I wouldn’t utter some of those words today doesn’t change the fact, though, that it is how I felt in that moment so long ago.
So why am I sharing this now? Because there is something else I want to share…
…Tuesday evening was the much anticipated holiday dance recital at our local dance school. Probably doesn’t seem like a big deal as our daughter has made us into waiting-in-parking-lot parents by dancing almost as many nights as there are in a week. But this, this night was different. Dan came home from work early to help handle the nerves…..his? mine? Ours? Interestingly Caden didn’t have any nerves, and yet this would be his first ever dance recital; actually this is the first successful “neurotypical” “nonadaptive” “no buddy” activity that he has ever participated in. He has been working so hard—he never hesitated his first night of dance class, and although the first few classes held some tears and rocky moments, he never asked to quit. He hasn’t ever asked to leave; even when I offer him the option, he chooses to stay. We’ve talked a lot about the recital and how it is okay to change his mind anytime. He even made me promise that if he got scared on stage that I would come get him. Trust me when I say I planned to be on one side of the stage and had big sis on the other. I mean there were a lot---a really, really lot of tickets sold for the event, and it was going to be on a stage in a venue he hadn’t ever danced at. I was thrilled and proud of him for even thinking about going, but he was dedicated. We went back stage, and he played with the boys in his class while he waited. He got lined up, and marched to the stage when it was time. And there in front of all of those people, including several of his favorite past autism therapists, he walked out on stage and he danced. He did facials and he paid attention to the music. And before he left the stage he took a big ol’ bow like he had been doing this is whole life. Backstage I cried. I doubt any of the dance teachers, parents or other dancers had a clue why I was crying so hard, but yeah I made a bawling idiot out of myself.
I can’t help but think that if his preschool teacher had been standing backstage with me Tuesday night that she would have cried too. That little boy we watched ride circles on the playground avoiding any and all kids, that little boy who couldn’t handle any type of routine change or noisy environment, that little boy who stood up front that day without ever saying a word or acknowledging what was going on around him, danced his heart out and then told us all about it later in his very own unique Caden way. We weren’t ever in an autism ‘war.’ We were trying to lead Caden on a journey doing things our way when in reality what we needed to do was follow. Caden has always known where the path was—we just had to allow him the freedom to find it. Ironic isn’t it? I’ve always called this blog Caden’s tale, but have only just recently realized what a profound and guiding philosophy that needs to be for us. There’s a saying in the autism community, “nothing without us” and I think I finally understand that. Caden you weren’t the one that needed to change—we did. Thank you for giving us the time and opportunity to realize that and become the parents that you deserve.