At first, I was quite anxious about the whole affair. The notice came home from school about a week ago announcing that the entire school was going on a field trip to the high school to watch the musical that high school kids had prepared for the community.
Field trips always make me nervous. Sometimes, though rarely, they turn out okay. But sometimes I end up rushing off to pick up a screaming child who'd just had enough of the whole affair and now was adrift in their overwhelmed and solitary life raft that everyone who's ever heard anything about autism has seen or heard about. When the child can't handle and shuts everyone and everything out. That. That's not what I wanted for the girls today.
Last night, I got a call from the school asking if I'd attend the play with the girls to ensure their success. Hesitant, I agreed.
Why was I hesitant? Well, we call the girls "our Yin and Yang" for a reason. That reason is, what tends to help one cope, causes distress in the other. Its a fine line when you have to do one thing to help them both. Maggie generally benefits from my presence at school functions. Winnie gets instantly distressed when she sees me outside the bounds of her "normal". In Winnie's normal, I only go to school to pick her up. If I leave without her, I am gone. Where did I go? What I am doing? Will I be home later? Will I come back for her? Will I be there for her? This is a short list of possible things that she may be thinking (I really don't know for sure) - but I do know that the uncertainty in what follows my visit to a school outside of her normal, is too much uncertainty for her to bare. In the past, every time I've visited school I've had to take her with me when I leave. The ONLY time she lets me leave without her is the Christmas concert for school.
After a long talk with Winnie, she let me know that she was not okay with me going to school, but she would try her best to not see me there. Her opinion was, if she didn't see me, I wasn't there - and if she didn't see me, it would be okay.
That was a pretty excellent plan. We went with that.
So at the high school, I waited, and Winnie's class walked by - no one noticed me, so it was still a pretty decent plan. Maggie's class came in and I stepped up to Maggie and we walked together to where her class was gathering. Maggie sat down, and I looked up - straight into the eyes of Winnie, who was sitting about 5 rows next to us, but facing us on the floor. It was unavoidable.
And then it started... her face got red and she teared up and started to shake. I got up and walked quietly over to speak to her "teacher helper". Together, we helped Winnie work through her anxiety at having seen me - reassuring her that there were fun things at school and that I'd be home to play with her after school. It seemed like forever for her to calm down, but she did amazing. She even asked her teacher if she could sit with Maggie and I.
It was nice to watch the girls faces as they discovered a live play - the actors, the singing and dancing, the costumes and the energy of the auditorium kept their eyes wide and on the edge of their seats!
And then it was over, and they'd sat through the whole thing! Then I got kisses as they went back with their teachers, and Winnie's teacher helper tried to help her stay calm even though I was leaving - quietly reminding her of all we'd talked about before show.
As the girls separated back to their lines to get on the bus, I shuffled out of the school as fast as I could - ripping the metaphorical band-aid off and didn't look back. Partly because I wanted them to adjust as fast as they could to the fact that I wasn't there - and partly because I didn't want to see Winnie's face - red and stressed and tear-filled. She can do it - and if she can't - they'll call. That was my mantra as I walked the long walk to the car, and the long drive to the highway. She can do it. They'll call.
My amazing girls, who overcome every day, went to a play, and went back to school - like superstars!
Also, the play is "The Wizard of Oz" performed by OHS this week - its a great play if you have an evening free! The OHS students do a fantastic job and all of the kids enjoyed themselves - even mine!