It was kind of a big day here, at Chez Mitchell. First of all, my big boy (not so big!) had to start Before School care. I know I've talked about our struggles with getting him to school now that I can't drive, so I won't go into them again. Needless to say, this was our very last remaining option, short of pulling him out and me trying to homeschool with a)not a lot of useful eyesight and b)a very disruptive 3 year old at home).
He was up at 5.30, bleary eyed and less than impressed, but doing his best not to hold Joel up. They were out the door on time at 6. For a boy who's used to me gently easing them into their mornings, this is a bit of a shock to his system.
But the drop off went well. When he got there, there were 2 carers and only 4 other children (obviously there were more later) and he could ease into it. He said it went fine, that the two carers were "actually very nice" (said with a definite note of surpirse) and that he drew, made books (his favourite hobby), watched a movie, read his book and played a little soccer (! From the LEAST sporty kid in the world, except perhaps for his parents). Sounds like a lot to pack into 2 hours, if you ask me.
She says as she goes on to talk about choir. Anyway. Thing is, he loves to sing. His love of music is in his blood, both Joel and I, my mother...there is music in this child. But he's not able to actually get it to come out the way it sounds in his head. I figured choir would be a quick phase and he'd soon tire of it so I didn't make a big deal.
And he kind of did. He wasn't at all comfortable with his music teacher last year, or the teacher that looked after choir. And he has a shocking short term memory (his long term memory is almost savant like, but short term is the cause of a lot of problems for him), so he never remembers when choir practice is on. So he missed far more practices at lunch times than he made it to.
Enough that this time last year, when they were singing at the local Show, he didn't go. And later, at Grandparents' day, when they had to perform, he was a mess. He knew the songs. He'd practiced and practiced. But when he made the discovery that they had to sing on stage? It was possibly one of his most terrifying moments and he promptly quit the choir that day.
Very gently, on the day of the performance, his wonderful teacher mentioned that his grandparents (my Dad and his wife) had travelled over an hour to see him, and that perhaps they'd be disappointed if they didn't get to see him sing for them. Gently, she got him to change his mind.
And he got up there and gave it his best. Granted, he stood back, tried not to be noticed and didn't sing very much. But he stood up there and I was so proud of him for trying.
But when he joined up again this year, I was stunned. Except for the secret weapon. His beloved Prep teacher had returned to the school, as a music teacher (she is the most amazing, incredible, wonderful teacher you could ever wish for any child. I cannot imagine ever adoring a teacher like I do Anne-Marie). And there was no way he was missing out on choir with his beloved Ms Moore.
I tried to joke with her about his singing, and publicly at least, to my face, she wouldn't have a bar of it, shushing me at every attempt (never in front of my child. There's a line even I won't cross). He's still forgetful, and misses far more practice sessions than he should, but he always remembers by the end of the day, and it kind of ruins his day, knowing he missed it.
So today was the big day. I found out with only a week to spare, as Alexander was off school with pneumonia for just over a week and he hadn't bought home any notes (another one of his 'things'. He doesn't bring his notes home). I had broken it to him that Joel would be working and that as I'm not allowed to drive at all, there was no way we were going to make it.
I can't tell you how I cried. I can't tell you how he cried (though he did try, ever so hard to be brave and understanding about it). This was to be the first excursion or performance of his I've missed, in his 4 years of schooling. I'm shattered, as I know there will be so many more.
Sammy was so proud of his big brother! He just whispered to me at the end "My brubba is awesome. He's a awesome singer". He raced up to Alexander and said "Did you have a great songing? Did you love it?" They literally ran into each other's arms and were adorable. I know. I make 'em that way. It's how I roll...
Waiting for his brother to come on stage. What on earth could we do to keep him waiting patiently?
Where to start?
The choir all ready to go. Mine is the closest to us on the second row from the top.
What we didn't tell him was that we were going to kidnap him after the performance and give him and Sammy their first taste of a local show.
Now with Alexander's (and we are starting to believe, Sammy's) ASD, the Ekka has been something we've simply not been prepared to consider. Too many people, too much noise, too much stimuli. Just too, too much.
And stay we did. It wasn't all roses, I'll grant you. The motorbike stunt show was a big draw. Their music was deafening, drowned out only by the bikes themselves (a noise both of my children are terrified of) and the cheers. Both boys were distressed any time we went near them. It was, of course, the ONLY thing at the show (other than the night time acts) that Joel was remotely interested in, so the boys and I took a few train rides and wandered around and checked out the reptile show.
But the biggest thing (to us) came next. The petting zoo. Filled to the brim with baby animals - lambs, goats, deer, piglets, chickens - you name it, it was there. As well as an entire (not terribly well behaved or respectful) composite 4/5 class from another school.
So. Possibly 2 ASD children (more about Sammy in a post to come). A LOT of noise. A LOT of other children. A LOT of movement, unexpected jostling. A Lot of competing noise from the motorbikes nearby, men on megaphones, music, crying babies. Dirt, which neither of my children is all that comfortable with.
It's what seems (as most of you ASD Mums may be aware) like a recipe for disaster. And indeed, the last time I attempted this, with just Alexander it really was. It was a heartbreaking disaster. Full ASD meltdown with annoyed staff and parents (asses), a trembling, screaming child, a mama who's heart was breaking as she tried to talk him through it and just for the love of God, get him out.
And him never wanting to try it again. And Sam had had attempts at daycare. While he LOVED the puppy, he was not impressed by the other animals if they came near him. He loves the idea of them, but not if they're going to approach. Then he'll freak out, almost as well as his brother. It's why, despite their pleas, we don't have pets. They think they're ready. But at this stage it's not fair on anyone, the pet included.
Today was a breakthrough though. Just look at my boys!
They LOVED it! They let the animals jump on them, they pet them, Alexander squealed and laughed when (the cheekiest.goat.ever!!!! You should have seen this baby goat) tried to eat his school shorts. They both held lambs, pet goats and Bambi (oh,Bambi was so beautiful!). Sammy KISSED a lamb (Put aside the ewww factor for a second. He kissed it right on the lips, talking sweetly to it the whole time!) He was enamoured with the tiny little piglets (as was his Mama. There's something awfully cute about piglets. Briefly. While they're still babies).
We got lost and couldn't find the promised puppies. NO meltdown! (The promise of another train ride helped).
And then it was off to sideshow alley, where we were really worried it would all be too much. It was practically deserted! (It's a 3 day show, and it just started, the busy days are the weekend). So no massive crowds to worry about. No jostling, and the only yelling was from the hawkers. (Erm. How to put this delicately. Carnies are a special group, no? Interesting. With not a lot of teeth between them?). Just determined to live up to every stereotype! (No, these were not our carnies. But I swear, it's pretty damned close).
Sammy saw the superslide and bolted. Literally. He was climbing that sucker before we'd even caught up to pay! Sadly, he FROZE at the top, and no amount of reassurance from his brother, another lovely boy and us at the bottom was getting him down. He sat at the top of those steps (so noone could get past) with the saddest face. Until Daddy went up to rescue him and bring him down. (In his defence, I think it was awfully steep for a 3 year old. Joel said it was REALLY high once you got up there. We had tried to entice him onto the smaller one right next to it, but he wasn't having a bar of that crap!). So up he went again, seemingly cured. Of course, he got to the top and froze again. Then decided he would just come back down the steps. And up again. And down again. And up again. Fortunately, as there was noone around, the man in charge didn't mind a bit, and both boys had a blast (one of Alexander's school friends, another ASD boy was there, so they had fun together).
I want to pretend that this guy didn't freak me out. I'd be lying. A lot. I HATE clowns. Creepy little buggers.
By far their favourite part of the day (NOT mine. I literally watched through my fingers) was the dodgem cars. It was Sammy's first go. Turns out, my youngest child is a freaking hoon. I'd always suspected. Joel was in the drivers seat, so there wasn't a whole lot for Sammy to do. I suspected he'd be indignant when bumped or scared. I was all set in Mama Bear mode to rescue my poor little baby.
Erm. Boy, was I wrong. He chose instead to growl (literally - you could hear him over the music!) at everyone who came close. I've NEVER seen him laugh like that. I tried to get a photo of that smile, but I missed it, they were moving too fast. But all 3 of my men had the time of their lives in that 10 minutes. And the older 2 found it necessary to mock me for my 'overreaction' to people bumping my babies. Hmph.
Final ride of the day was the one Alexander was waiting for (almost as much as the dodgems). The Ferris Wheel. We were worried. He's not too bad with heights (the climbing walls helped) but enclosed spaces? Movement at heights in enclosed spaces? Not so much. And Sammy, NOT a fan of supermarket ride on cars once they start moving. So we were prepared for a melt down of epic proportions and to have to beg them to let us out after our first go round.
Again. Wrong on all counts. Sammy loved it even more than Alexander. I'd say the only one who struggled was Joel, who's not a fan of rides of any kind (poor guy. Loves heights. Has no problem with enclosed spaces. Has no problem with going fast or motion. Put them together. It's not pretty. But he was so busy, like me, being awed by our boys, that even he enjoyed it. More tears from both of us).
Sammy was getting tired by this point and a little grumpy, and I'm not going to lie. I was in more pain than I've been in in probably 4 years. I seriously over-estimated how well my body would be able to suck it up. I could barely walk after 3 hours. Pathetic, no? We'd already decided that staying for fireworks was pushing our luck (the boys couldn't handle the bongo players or the motorbikes. Fireworks seem like a goal for another year), so weary but over-the-top happy, the 4 of us trudged back to our car, with a bazillion hugs and I-love-you's along the way.
I know this seems like a lot of carry-on for a simple afternoon at a tiny, local show. But for us, it's honestly something we never thought our boys would experience. And it is such a happy childhood memory for both Joel and I and our hearts broke that our children would miss out.
And now they haven't! :) Next year, an entire day! Maybe even fireworks! Alexander's verdict on the way out (he has a tendancy to hyperbole. I can't imagine where that comes from).
"The best day of my life has finally come. I've never been happier than I am today".
Sigh. It was pretty great for us too, sweet boy.