Saturday, March 9, 2013

Follow the Leader

This week is a rare week for our family.  Rare because we have nothing going on.  At all.  It is the one week in between sports for my 13 year old and Daniel even has his week off of Sports Skills because it is MSU's spring break.  Every day they have come home from school, which is strange in and of itself because they weren't getting home until 5:30 most days.  I've felt like we have been just eying each other like we should all be doing something else and feeling like we are late for something that we are not.  Instead of being nice, it's just felt....weird.  We are so used to jumping into the car and getting to the next place, we don't know what to do when it isn't part of the plan.  The good news (?) is it will start again next week.

During this lack of doing anything I read an email from our local Mid Michigan Autism Association.  In it they were advertising the once a month drum circle they have been sponsoring for going on 3 years.  Yes, 3 years and we had never tried it.  Since we had nothing else going on, I decided this was the week!  So I jumped into it (after thinking about it for 3 years). 

I first called my friend who is on the board for this group.  The drum circle is her thing, so I wanted to get a little bit of information about it before I presented it to Daniel.  Because that is what I have to do, lay it out for him so he knows what to expect.  I also wanted to check if her son was going to be there because I knew that would be a BIG draw for Daniel.  They have become friends.  Yes, you heard me.  I think I can genuinely say that they are friends.  They are both on the spectrum and he is two years older than Daniel but they really compliment each other well.  They know when the other is feeling overwhelmed and give each other space.  And since I had been in my blogging hiatus they have 1. gone to a train show together, 2. bowl together every other Saturday 3. had a play date of sorts at their house and built train tracks, 4. went to dinner and a high school football game together.  Now that I write that out, that is pretty substantial and cool!  Yay for us!  Shhhh, don't tell anyone, I don't want to jinx it, but I have hopes of them living together some's a secret though....

Back to drum circle.  Once I got confirmation the friend would indeed be there, and information about it which included the phrase, "it's really loose and easy" which in no way felt like anything that would be good for either Daniel or for myself, I decided what the heck, we have nothing else going on.  We might as well try it.  Then I ran into a friend at the grocery store who's daughter has been several times.  I mentioned drum circle to her.  She said "as long as Daniel doesn't mind loud noise it will be great".  Ummmmm well that sounds exactly wrong for us!  Let's go for it!  All of these reasons are exactly why we hadn't been in three years. 

So I brought it up to Daniel, told him where it was, which is super close to our house, and he is familiar with it.  One positive.  Because if he didn't know where it was I would be questioned about where exactly it was, how long it would take to get there, when we would leave and he would route it out in his head to make sure we in no way had to pass a Belle Tire.  Phew, we were safe. 

The time came and off we went. . . . . and no one else was there.  Yet.  We chatted with "Don" the leader.  There were all sorts of drums from around the world in the middle of the recital room at a local music store.  Also a table full of interesting percussion  instruments.  Slowly more people arrived and Daniel knew every kid there.  I was getting optimistic about the whole thing when we started.  We started by doing a sort of relaxation, mediation exercise, which was feeling good to me when Daniel started whispering "what are we doing?" "do we have to keep our eyes closed?"  I said no you don't.....and he started exhaling loudly at each exhale which was a clue to me that he was not happy with this part.  Then we all picked out shakers.  Daniel said "no thanks".  And I thought oh crap, he is not going to be into this but yay me he said "no thank you".  As the person was walking away with the shakers he spied a purple one in the sack and said "OH PURPLE" and he called her back.  She found him another purple and we were set.  Two purple shakers.  Excellent for us. 

Then leader Don said we would play a follow the leader with music.  That whomever was the leader could dance around and use their shakers and guide the whole group, just groove however you want.  And in that moment my head switched from worrying about Daniel to realizing how much I would NOT want to the leader.  Ever.  And that a group of people following me in an exercise like this is pretty much my worst nightmare and that I am anything but a free and loose dancer who jams in their own way and I started to have a mini panic attack.  I mean, if Don chose me, I couldn't say no because that would be a terrible example for Daniel, but what would I do (besides look terribly awkward and pray for it to be over?) so I went into the middle school student mode of praying silently that I would not be picked first and tried to make myself invisible even though I was sitting right across from Don.  Then Don picked Daniel and I'll admit part of me was like "phew it's not me!" And the other part was like "crap he picked Daniel who has never been here and has no idea how this works!" I said "Daniel, do you want to lead the group?" and he said YES!  And we all were shaking our shakers and Daniel was shaking away and spinning in circles and jumping up and down (stop jumping Daniel jumping is not good for me anymore...) and he was having a great time!   (and everyone was watching him and not me!) and on it went. He was great. He was having fun, and he loves when everyone watches him!  AND other kids who don't like to lead, eventually led after Daniel's good example AND I never had to! 

We were there for an hour.  About 30 minutes into it Daniel looked at his watch and I thought, "yes Daniel I'm about done too."  It is loud.  But he made it the whole hour (and so did I) and I tried to pretend that grooving and being loose was my thing.  I wish it were sometimes, but it's not, but I'll do it for him, and pretend it is.  It was a success.  A total success.   So much so, that I think we'll try again next month!  But maybe I'll see if Todd wants to bring him next month.  You know, just so he can see what it's like.  Not because I'm afraid of being the leader or anything. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Swim Season

It's been so long.  I have felt like I have had no time for writing.  Maybe I just haven't "needed" too.  Because that is what it comes down to.  Blogging about our lives has kept me sane. (ish)  Maybe I just haven't needed to feel sane.  Maybe I've been "too busy" (the most over used phrase in these United States).  Whatever it is, I have been gone.  I think I originally came on here to say how far Daniel has come this year.  But has he really?  It's all about perspective actually.  For Daniel, yes he has grown immensely.  In comparison to other 16 year olds (yes, he has turned 16 since I last wrote. SIXTEEN) not so much.  The small things are so huge for us.  Things that I know parents of "typical" kids don't even notice happening because it evolves so organically.  At some point they stop and say "wow when did that happen?" but they don't notice it at the time.  At least I don't think they do.  My only comparison is that I also have a typical 13 year old.  Maybe I just handle things differently with him because Daniel is his older brother?  I don't know.

So what has happened?  We have just completed another swim season.  Daniel swims with his high school team.  It is the BEST thing for him.  He gets tons of exercise which not only helps keep him in shape but it helps his mind.  A lot.  I can feel adulthood creeping up on us.  The questions of what Daniel will do and where he will be are starting to loom over me.  I don't have these answers.  I have some vague ideas as I tend to do with him.  Plans are pliable.  They are ever evolving, but a small part of that picture in my mind sees Daniel as an adult and that whatever job he is doing, part of his weekly schedule will include swimming.  Always.  3 times a week?  more?  Who knows.  But I picture him swimming after work to relax and get his exercise similar to the way he used to come home from his special needs preschool program and walk immediately up the stairs where I would run a shallow bath and he would lay in the water with it just covering his ears.  He would lay there and decompress in the water. Water has always been a way for him to relax. However he could work swimming into his life it would be a way to center himself.

One thing is clear.  He needs access to a pool.  While he certainly doesn't compete at the level of his team mates, he competes, and I know that is huge.  He had a good season, he improved, got faster.  He went to some away meets, which he didn't do last year.  He had "fans" come to watch him, which he loved.  A lot.  He always feels like he is the winner, even when he is the last one.  Wouldn't that be great? At the league meet, when his name was announced, he stepped up on the starting block and waved to the crowd, both arms high in the air, like he was competing in the Olympics waving and cheering for himself.  I was on the pool deck with his team, on the other side of the pool, my eyes filling with tears, knowing he feels so good about himself, watching him wave to the crowd then glancing over to our parents section and watching them cheer for HIM.  In that moment I not only felt so incredibly proud of him, but for us.  That we made that happen, that we gave him that moment, by going outside of our comfort zone and giving him the space to accomplish that.

I watched him at the same (long) meet, take off his I pod half way through and hand it to me to put it away.  No earphones while on a pool deck with what, 10 swim teams?  + coaches, + 500 fans, refs with whistles and announcers over a loud speaker.  He just took them out and passed it to the side and said, "I'm done with this now".  He wouldn't leave his seat previously, unless he was going to swim even though I was encouraging him to go with his teammates to cheer on other teammates at the end of their lane.  I tried again.  I could see that his posture was different.  Maybe not.  Maybe I could feel his relaxation amongst that chaos and I asked him if he likes when people cheer for him, he said "yes" of course, I said, "well maybe you should return the favor and cheer for them." He then got up to go cheer for his friend and biggest cheerleader on the team, Adam.  We were there for almost 4 hours.

The next day a parent that I barely know emailed me.  It was one of the greatest things I have received, complimenting Daniel and all he has done.  Amazed at his coping ability and how far he has come.  It's wonderful when something like that comes out of left field and helps you see your child through someone else's eyes.  Come to think of it throwing his arms up in the air like he is in the Olympics might just be appropriate for what he has accomplished.