You slowly took me by the hand and led me out of your room with a simple “goodbye” before slamming the door. Well then.
On the other side of the newly closed door was you with a room full of kids and no adults! Don’t you need me? What if they don’t understand what you’re saying or doing?
I’m not ready to land the helicopter yet! Noooooooooo!
This scene is happening more and more lately. Mark it Addie, we’ve now entered a delicate balance of finding your independence away from mommy and daddy stage.
It’s true, with you I feel more comfortable staying within an ear shot just so I can interpret what you’re saying or doing to those that might not understand. These days you seem to find so much joy in playing with (or at least trying to interact with) other kids - but there’s a catch.
You’d rather give them a chance to figure you out and you them on your own - kid to kid. This also means sans mommy interpreting. It only makes sense to allow them the opportunity we’ve all been given the last 7 years (almost) of living in your world with you, and to learn how you communicate as Addie. Not just Addie with autism.
While I’m a little shocked by this particular act of independence, I understand how you feel, as I too had a similar experience, but much later in life. I took a deep breath and jumped feet first into what ended up being an amazing friendship and no one was there to interpret for us.
You see Addie, a few years ago we were living in a land where when the wind whipped and stung your face. Freezing cold temperatures made your toes feel like permanent ice cubes and shockingly school NEVER closed no matter how much snow fell! Ah yes, upstate New York. Daddy even earned the nickname “upstate” in certain circles because of the move. This has no relevance to the story, but yes, we were in NY.
Anyway, Clara had just graduated to “big girl” school and Gabe had joined the local YMCA preschool. It was there that I jumped in.
Gabe had friended an adorable little red headed girl that looked shockingly like his twin (seriously people would ask and still to this day ask if they are twins!). One day, I tried to stop her mom at pick up to introduce myself. She never turned around as I was trying to get her attention with my voice.
“Excuse me! Excuse me!” No response. Nope. Nothing. Didn’t she hear me right behind her?! She seemed to be in a hurry, so I didn’t bother her in the parking lot and thought; I guess I’ll try again tomorrow.
The next morning at drop off I was ready! Mommy is going to bring on attempt to be social round 2! There we were. Face to face. I was staring at her lovely and friendly face that looks every bit as much a Menzo as any of us. She had long, gorgeous red hair and a bright smile. No wonder Gabe and her daughter looked so much alike. I said good morning, and instantly started nervously spewing words out of my mouth about how cute it was that our kiddos had become friends. And, wow, don’t they just look so much alike? Separated at birth. Right? Hahaha. Nervous laugh. I’m not sure this is going well…
She quickly motioned - stopping me and signed that she was deaf. Ohhhhh. Well, that makes sense. I knew very little sign language, but the sign for “deaf” is one of the things I did know.
Ok think quick....
I dug in my purse for paper and a pen, wrote my name, and that Gabe was my son and that it was nice to meet her.
She wrote her name down then using sign language signed “nice to meet you” mouthing the words at the same time.
In return I wrote it was truly great to meet her and I would see her later.
Addie that was the last time I used writing to communicate when we were together.
I left and spent some time that morning learning the alphabet in ASL. When I went back at pick up, I was super nervous. Was she going to think I was stupid for trying to spell words to her? Was she going to think it was just too much work to talk with me? I knew my signing obviously wasn’t great, having only barely mastered the ABC’s, so it was going to be work for her to be my friend. At the risk of looking ridiculous too her and not knowing what I was doing… I jumped in.
Here’s the thing Addie, I could’ve just walked away saying, well that’s too bad. We don’t speak the same language; therefore, we won’t understand each other. I finger spelled words and she showed me the word sign. No one was there to interpret, just her and I getting to know one another all while I was learning a new language. Every day got easier and easier.
It was hands down, one of the best decisions of my life.
Why is this story important? Because no one was there to guide our introductions and conversation. With her extreme patience for me, and us both refusing to give up on making each other understand one another, a beautiful friendship was made.
I get it Addie. I am your paper and pencil. Perhaps I’m hindering a deeper connection with your friends or new kids that you meet. Maybe? Maybe not? But, I didn’t realize this until you led me away and closed the door.
I tell you, Clara and Gabe all the time. Get to know people by getting to know them. Directly. I promise you, if you don’t, all the uniquely awesome things about them may not come through as they should. And that’s really not fair.
You’re not a baby anymore. You have opinions. You have likes and dislikes, and it goes without saying we are beyond proud of the person you are and are growing up to be.
While I’m not 100% ready to give up my helicopter parenting pilot license just yet, I’m more than happy to give you some space…even if I open the door to check up on y’all once in a while.
I love you.