Each of us held at least one camera to capture a milestone in the making.
We were there because Everybody’s Boy was graduating from Kindergarten.
At one fifteen the music began and beautifully coiffed children began parading through the front door. Each searching for their loved on in the audience, each waving and smiling. They had practiced this a lot, you could tell.
I peered and peaked to see my sweet boy. His teacher stood as unobtrusively as she could near the door to offer support (or an exit) if needed. And with a camera to capture the proud moment if not needed.
My eyes were already welling up from the music and the shear emotion of the experience.
Then he walked in…
and he froze…
and then he hit the ground.
His teacher sprung into action before I could even process whatever was happening before my eyes… Within seconds he was crying and screaming and she was right there comforting him.
The other children continued to walk in. The parade continued, they just walked around him. I wondered if they’d practiced that part? The “show must go on” part?
The show did go on. It had to.
At least for everyone else.
We weren’t paying attention anymore.
The children gathered in front of us. As they began singing all I could hear was wailing coming from the back of the gym. I wanted to jump up and run to him, but I also wanted to give his teachers the opportunity to calm him down, something that is practically impossible for me to do in that kind of setting.
There I was in the front row, watching these beautiful children sing a song they learned, that they practiced, for this very moment. My son had learned the song too. He had practiced. But he couldn’t be up there.
I couldn’t move. I wanted to run to him, but at the same time I didn’t want to be rude and walk away as these kids had their moment. I didn’t want to hate these children for not having Autism, but I have to admit that I did just a little bit…if I am honest with myself and you.
Thirty seconds were an hour in slow-motion processing time. Eventually I realized I was sobbing profusely, mere feet from these precious children doing what my child couldn’t…and that I really wasn’t doing anyone any favors no matter what choice I made.
So I got up and I ran to my child.
Because that is what mothers do.
They’d taken him out of the gym so that he could calm down (the song was too loud? too much? who knows)
I don’t know who was crying more (EB or me) but when I reached his teacher. She tried to comfort me, “He wanted to do it. He wanted to try. That’s a great thing, Debby.”
And I know that it is.
But I didn’t want to know it then. I didn’t want to celebrate how great it was that he wants to be like his peers. ”He wants to do it and he can’t and that sucks.” I replied, mascara dripped onto my white cardigan…
I recognize I sounded like a spoiled brat.
“I know it does.”, she said softly. Cause what else do you say to that?
She took me outside to him and I held him as he cried…as I cried.
I said as confidently as I could, ”I am so proud of you! You did a great job. You tried so hard. I am so proud. I love you so much.”
After a few minutes he had gained enough composure to try to go walk across the stage to get his diploma. His beloved aide went with him.
His Kindergarten teacher called his name and he ran across the stage, grabbed the diploma from her hands, yelled “CHARGE” and barreled his way through to the other side.
There were a few gasps. Some uncomfortable giggles from the parents.
One woman behind me sighed and said, “That’s the one that was crying when he came in.”
Much of this I didn’t notice until I watched it replayed on video.
The only thing I noticed at the time was my child in crisis.
I ran to him again.
“I’m so proud of you. You did such a great job. You did just what you were supposed to do.”
“It’s okay. We are all done now.”
“All done.”, I signed again and again.
For his comfort and for mine.
We left the gym and the graduation and went back to our little Autism classroom.
We played Connect Four and laughed.
The tears dissipated quickly (though mine have returned intermittently since) and life went on as usual.
One week from now no one will remember EB’s meltdown at the ceremony.
But he’ll be a first grader just like everyone else.
And we’ll be “All Done” until September.