What I Realized When I Observed My Son With Autism At School
Today started out as a regular ol’ Thursday. Alarm clocks ringing, bowls of cereal spilling, frantically looking for that missing homework paper that we most definitely finished late the night before, and then the silence that ensued as my last school-aged child hopped on the big yellow bus. However, today I had to change out of my jammies a little bit quicker and drop my youngest off at the sitter because our district was celebrating American Education week. Today was the day parents were invited to observe their child’s classroom.
If I’m being honest, I used to dread these days. My son is on the Autism Spectrum and while I love a peek at what goes on in school, seeing him struggle in a different environment is tougher than it is to see him struggle at home. At home, I know everything that goes on (well almost). After all, I am MOM!
Regardless, I would always go, show support, smile and sometimes cry inside. Half the time, I didn’t even know why. Probably, because it’s a million little things I’m crying for and about. Sometimes happy tears, sometimes sad tears. Mostly, what-if tears.
But I’m not reflecting to have a pity party. I’m reflecting because today I went and I sat in the back of my son’s inclusion classroom. I smiled for 45 solid minutes. I smiled at how he fit in, and sometimes stood out. I smiled at how he followed directions. And, I smiled when he didn’t, because he forgot to write his name on his paper (rookie mistake). I smiled at how he seems to have friends. I smiled at how he tried not to smile when he saw me walk in, but couldn’t. I smiled at how much his teachers clearly love what they do. And, man do they love what they do!
His teachers rapped about antonyms today and I mean they rapped. Yes, there were a couple of parents in the back observing, but I am certain they were not channeling their inner Biggie Smalls for us. They love my kid and his classmates and that love has sparked a love of learning in my little guy that I used to dream about.
So, in short, nothing amazing happened today. Well, the antonym rapping was pretty amazing! My kid raised his hand and forgot what he was going to say. A typical first-grade mistake from a not-so-typical kid. And that made me happy. I don’t think I’ve set the bar low. I’ve never been okay with mediocracy before, but I think I am now.
If there is anything I’ve learned in the past 7 years from being an autism mom is that average is okay. Heck, it’s wonderful! When we focus so specifically on the spectrum, and where a person may or may not fall, we can lose sight of the bigger picture. We use the word “special” a lot. Special needs, special education, special diet, special plan within the IEP, etc. But I’m done with special.
Today, I choose ordinary. And I’m proud to have gotten to a point in my life where average is not only okay, but pretty damn perfect. Obviously, every day isn’t perfectly average and full of smiles, but I will continue to look forward to ordinary days like today. Perfection is sneaky sometimes, as it can hide in a regular ol’ Thursday.