My friend Melissa at just your average invisible woman (isn’t that the best mommyblog name ever?) is crazy in love with her sweet husband, her kids and her life. She writes beautifully about the little moments and especially about mothering her second son Owen who was recently diagnosed with autism. Last Wednesday she told a story that I’m copying here with her permission because these are words I want my kids to read; a small moment that I don’t want to forget.
Owen does not have school on Wednesdays. To make a long story short, I signed up him for a Creative Movement class, to be held on Wednesdays at 9am. Today, the first day of class, and we arrive 10 minutes early. The studio is housed in the old (and is it ever OLD) city High School. It is a decrepit building (pretty sure the city is going for “quaint” and “historic” rather than “decrepit”, but I call them as I see them), complete with peeling paint and petrified wood walls. It is now home to a hodge podge of businesses: a small catering company takes up residence in the old school kitchen, a barber shop is in what used to be the school office, a trinket store in a front classroom.
The dance studio is located down a very long, very dreary, very un-stroller-friendly hallway, down several steep steps and to the right. Finally find the dance room. It’s locked. We wait for 30 minutes, Owen disappearing down dark corridors, Paige squealing with discontent from her stroller. No one shows up. I registered two weeks ago and received email confirmation of the registration last week. I am steamed. I find a phone number on a brochure, call it, and leave a curt message regarding the situation. (note: more than 5 hours have passed and I have still not received a reply. Not cool.)
We leave to head over to the library to make story time. Owen seems pretty happy about the library idea. This is his first time to attend the story time though and as we approach the children’s wing he sees the crowd of children inside and freaks out. We are the spectacle for all to gawk at. Even Paige is entranced by Owen’s outburst. During his fit the kids file into the story/activity room and I’m left to deal with Owen’s spaz attack in private. After he calms he says he needs to go potty. What luck, there is a family restroom right there in the children’s library area. By the time he’s done with his business the story hour is well into the 2nd book. I slowly ease Owen into the room and we occupy two seats in the back. He is mostly fidgeting about but I can tell that he’s listening to the stories and song up front because he gives that direction sideways glances when “starfish” and “sandy beaches” are mentioned.
It figures, of course, that as Owen has settled into his space that Paige decides to start squawking. Really, who can blame her. Between the dance-class-that-never-was, the drive to the library and now in the library, she has been strapped into a stroller or carseat for coming up on 1.5 hours. I silence her with yogurt covered raisins I had packed for such an emergency. She still gives me dirty looks while stuffing her mouth. Owen takes the sisterly distraction as an opportunity to take flight – literally – he runs in a circle around the entire perimeter of this fairly large room, flapping his arms and chirping like a seagull, back to his seat beside me. The children at the carpet erupt into fits of laughter. Some moms chuckle. Some shake their heads with disapproval, a few outright scowl straight at us.
Stories and song have commenced and it is time for the craft activity. Making a touch and feel book! How perfectly Owenish. I guide Owen to the nearest folding table in which 5 other children suddenly appear. Owen backs off immediately and says he doesn’t want to do it. I spy an empty table in the corner. That will work. I grab supplies off the current table, ignoring the dirty looks I get from two other mothers hovering over it, and take Owen to the empty table. He plops into a chair right away and quickly uncaps a marker to sprawl his name across the book cover. Owen loves glue “do glueing”, as he calls it, and studiously adheres the felt, chamois, silk, etc. to the pages. He is fascinated with the brass brads we use to bind the pages together. Ta-da! He is smitten with his finished book.
Paige is SO not smitten with me, or Owen, the library, her lovely pink Euro stroller, and especially not with her confined state in it. And she is letting everyone know it.
It’s time to go.
I scurry around the floor picking up some strewn yogurty raisins, a sippy cup, a strawberry sandal and a strawberry snap clip. I won’t discuss the status of Paige’s pigtails that I had created just before leaving the house. Let’s just say they didn’t look like pigtails any longer. The words “rat nest” come to mind.
As I stuff the contents back into the diaper bag Owen does another seagull lap. I feel a headache coming on.
I am almost through the doorway when someone grabs my arm. I turn around and it’s a mom, holding a little tot on her hip, smiling at me. She says to me, “I just wanted to let you know that I think you are doing an amazing job with your son. You are a great mom and I wanted you to know that”.
I really don’t even know how to comment on that. Just that it is remarkable how a little outreach like that can help so much. Feeling like a doofus mom with crazy kids is par for the course for me on most days and I feel the scorn of society glaring at Owen far too much. For all the stares we accumulate, most only see the surface – a healthy looking boy acting like the Tasmanian devil – and they fail to note, or consider, the bevy of complexities that bubble beneath his surface. But this one mom noticed it and reached out. And what a difference it made this day.