She was going to do it. We had the plan in place and she was going to do it! Debbie was graduating from the fifth grade with all of the proper pomp and circumstance as everyone else. We shopped for her “pretty dress,” as she called it. We talked about who was going to come and see her walk across the stage and cheer her on. But all of a sudden, the conversation came to a dead halt in the middle of the street.
“No, Mommy! I don’t want to cross the stage!”
“We’re not gonna cross the stage.”
“I don’t like clapping!”
“No stage!” “No clapping!”
“NO, THANK YOU!!!”
And there it was! No matter how her teacher or I spun the idea, Debbie was not going to walk across the stage in the high school auditorium. It didn’t matter that she would have been away from the noise in a nearby room before her turn. She knew the moment she set foot in that auditorium, she would be in enemy territory. The poor acoustics and the clapping would be an assault on her auditory system and she knew she would go into hyperactive overdrive causing a meltdown of epic proportions.
At first I was a little disappointed. Having received special education services since she was two years old, Debbie has not experiences many typical rites of passage. But after thinking about it, I came to my senses. This wasn’t about me getting the perfect picture. This wasn’t about me watching my daughter walk across the stage with every other fifth grader in the name of inclusion. This was about Debbie doing things the way she needs to do things so she can get through life.
Debbie was conveying to both her teacher and me that this graduation thing was not for her. She knew she wouldn’t be able to handle it without melting because it would literally hurt her. How could I set her up for failure? Am I not always preaching about doing what we need to do so that she will be successful?
So I got over having the Kodak Moment for fifth-grade graduation. Deb didn’t walk across the stage, but that didn’t stop us from celebrating her. We celebrated Debbie the way she enjoys being celebrated. We had dinner at Outback, and on her last day of school, Debbie’s one-on-one gave her a balloon, a package of Oreos, a bouquet of flowers and a gift card to Pizza Hut! And you know what? Debbie was thrilled! The simple joy and excitement of eating at one of her favorite restaurants with family and receiving simple gifts was enough for her. For Deb, there is nothing better than steak, ketchup, Oreos, and Pizza Hut. I don’t need a rite of passage. I take pleasure in her simple pleasures.
I learned the most valuable lessons through this experience: Debbie knows her limits and I need to listen to her. Simple joys are the best, and Debbie needs to get through life on her terms. Most important, I am getting my Kodak Moments at every unexpected turn!
xoxoxox ~ Julie