Yesterday was my daughter’s Pre-K graduation. It seems crazy to think about how she will be wrapping up two years of public preschool and moving on to Kindergarten in the fall. Where did the time go? It feels like yesterday that our journey began but this July marks two years since her evaluations and diagnosis.
As much as I love to focus on Ally’s progress and milestones, I also need to admit it when I notice her differences.
Yesterday I noticed that she was different. While I notice it more and more as time goes on, it doesn’t get easier. While this preschool class was an inclusion class, it was clear which children struggle and have special needs. My daughter was clearly one of them.
It made me really sad for a little while as I watched her.
The way she looked down and avoided looking when people called her name.
How she was too anxious to smile.
That she didn’t smile or laugh at all. Like her little personality completely shut down and went into hibernation mode. It was like her spirit was drained. Where was my joyful little girl?
I was so proud of her for not making a scene or interrupting their ceremony. That’s how far she has come. She finally didn’t. How ridiculous is that? That I have to be proud of something as menial as that?
When she hid behind another classmate so I couldn’t take any pictures of her singing and dancing, it hit me hard. I knew why she did it—because she doesn’t like people looking at her. This is a common thing that upsets her in crowded places. I could tell from the moment the little graduates marched into the room with their graduation caps on that she was uncomfortable by the flashing cameras and crowd. She also wore her cap despite how many times she insisted it was only for clowns.
About three minutes in, she took a bathroom break with one of her paraprofessionals. She said she had to pee but I think she needed a break.
Another milestone this year is that she tells us when she needs a break from something.
She made it back just in time for them to call her name and hand out her diploma and she rolled her eyes at us when we asked her to pause so we could take pictures.
It’s funny how shy and quiet she was during this performance considering how loud and cheerful she is every other moment of the day and in public.
Ally practiced for weeks for this graduation.
She has been singing and dancing and rehearsing.
Actually, she is still rehearsing and scripting from the entire ceremony even though it is over. Over and Over again she basks over what a delight it was. And how happy she is.
She has been putting on her hat and calling out names and giving little pieces of paper to her stuffed animals all day. She even nailed the routine (without an audience of course). And don’t get me wrong—I am proud as hell. But why couldn’t she do this yesterday?
And whatever—I am going to admit it—watching her typical and cheerful classmates sing and dance their little hearts out is adorable but also gets to me sometimes. Especially when I see kids whose parents don’t appreciate how wonderful they truly are. Those parents who stress their kids out to be perfect.
All I do is work my ass off to help my child behave in a socially acceptable way that is barely passing.
My husband and I would love nothing more than to go to a graduation, a recital, or some kind of event where our children can participate without anxiety or struggles. Where they could be happy, smiling, and typical. Singing and dancing their hearts out.
But instead, we are proud that she stood there looking down, whispering her lines, passively singing, and hiding from sight rather than disrupting the entire event.
I am grateful each day for how far my child has come but I’m just keeping it real. The things that surprise me most about autism is how sad I can get from what should be a happy moment. Over and over.
To end on a humorous note–her facial expressions in all of these photos are priceless. Like the smartest kid in the class is too cool to graduate.