This week my soon-to-be eight-year-old son M. performed in his school play.
About a month or two ago we started getting handouts with song lyrics and dates and scripts. A quick review of the script revealed a line highlighted in blue for M. to practice. Our M., who has autism, had a speaking part! He had to say the line that titles this post: “Yeah Blue, I’ve got two!” (Don’t ask. The play was called “Oceans in Motion,” or “Commotion in the Ocean,” or something like that and M.’s line was part of a conversation with a kid who played a whale perhaps? The details are sketchy.)
My first thought was Oh no! A speaking part to the autistic kid? Obviously that thought isn’t going to win me any Parent of the Year awards, that’s for sure. But something as simple as this speaking line, which the typical parents wouldn’t even think twice about, can cause stress for us autism parents. We try to help our kids fit in, and a speaking line at the play seems like the perfect way to make them stand out again– on a stage in front of every parent and grandparent and student in the school.
As the days and weeks went on, we started to practice. In the car, at bedtime, at random times during the day when that script handout would peek at us from the school folder or from our pile of paperwork on the dining room table. “What do you have to say for the play?” we’d ask. Sometimes M. would answer and sometimes he wouldn’t. Sometimes his older brother would answer instead. My husband and I must have said “Yeah Blue, I’ve got two” a hundred times in the past month or so. Almost every day M.’s school report noted, “Practiced for play today.” He’s never going to say it, I thought.
Then the big day came. Mom of the Year (me) dug up a blue shirt as instructed and even found M.’s LL Bean shorts with lobsters on them to fit in with the ocean theme. My husband took the day off and I took the morning off and we headed to the school for the play.
We sat and the curtain opened and there was M., standing on the risers with the rest of the class, smiling and looking into the audience fascinated and curious but happy.
The teachers had the good sense to give M. one of the opening sequence lines (before his attention started to wane), and he walked up to the microphone at the front of the stage with three other kids. The whale kid asked his question as my husband fired up the iPhone video camera, and then M. answered: “Yeah Blue, I’ve got two!”
We clapped and cheered for M. and I started to cry. I’m sure the other parents thought I was nuts but I couldn’t help it. Not only did M. say his line, he also danced and attempted the elaborate hand movements that went along with the ocean songs. After each song, while the rest of the students stood and listened to the audience clap, M. smiled into the audience and clapped with us, so happy and so pleased with himself and his classmates. At one point he stumbled off the riser and there was a collective gasp from the audience, but he climbed right back up unaffected.
M.’s performance was super cute. I couldn’t have been more proud.
I let myself off the hook for doubting him in the first place. Right or wrong, sometimes with M. expectations are low. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism to appreciate when he exceeds our expectations, instead of be disappointed that he’s not meeting them, if that makes sense. I remember talking with another autism mom awhile back and we joked about how the littlest thing our special kids did made us so happy– answering a question, commenting on something happening in real time, showing empathy or even simply reacting appropriately to a situation. She said that her son had told her that it was cloudy outside that morning and she practically threw a party she was so thrilled. I understood.
This week M. said, “Yeah Blue, I’ve got two” in front of a standing-room only crowd. It may not have been first place in the spelling bee or the starring role in the school musical, but to us and to his teachers (who cried with me), it was huge.
Thanks for reading and have a nice night!