Last week, our elementary school held its annual Fun Run fundraiser. It could be more accurately described as a barely-organized stampede of children flying in circles to ground-shaking music, but it is a lot of fun for the kids.
Our younger one is in Kindergarten, and all four Kindergarten classes and as many first grade classes lined up together to run on two small tracks that were beside each other. Between the pulse-pounding music, young and loud professional cheerers yelling, and a constant stream of noisy, youthful energy, it was like watching a herd of kids on spin cycle in the middle of a rock concert.
Contrast that to the autism classes right after. Everything was toned way, way down – thank God – and they had the track to themselves. They did well considering, and we were proud of them.
But here’s a challenge familiar to many of you that I wanted to highlight today.
Our autistic son basically staged what we described as a loud, sit-in protest on the track. He wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted him to at least try to walk some. He eventually walked with me a couple of laps (each lap was maybe 30 yards), again protested, and sat down in the dirt once more. I tried to coax and bribe him to stand up, but no luck. After a while, he did get up – when he wanted to – walked a couple more laps, and then tried to run away from the track several times.
I guided him back to the track to keep him from running off, but he really wanted no part of this whole thing. I felt terrible for him, and, I admit, sorry for myself. I wanted this to be easier.
He then ran toward a covered picnic table, and I realized he was done. More importantly, I realized that I needed to be done, done with my wants and issues about this. I needed to respect him and how he felt. He tried his best, and I needed to honor that.
It might be about you when you want your child to do something for the sole reason that it’s what the other kids are doing, or for the sole reason of doing it not for their growth but because you think they should.
That’s what I was doing.
So instead I went to the picnic table with him, and we sat down together. My dad, who also was there that day, came to sit on the other side of him. After we caught our breath and sat for a while, I looked over, and they were holding hands. I would have completely missed that beautiful moment if we hadn’t stopped and sat down. And that moment was far more important than a few laps.
We sat there enjoying the warm breeze together, the first after the months of the long winter. I would have completely missed that moment, too. Some of the other kids kept doing their laps while we watched. Part of me still wished this wasn’t so hard for him.
Part of me wanted him to be able to do those laps, but that was about me, too. We could have tried to run around in circles and become even more frustrated, or we could have enjoyed the moment together for what it was.
I’m glad he figured out which to do, and I’m glad I had the sense to finally do the same.