The noise crashes over her like a wave – slowly at first but soon you can see it begin to crest. It rises higher and higher until it crashes on top of her, tossing her this way and that. When she finally comes up for air, she is disoriented from the ride.
“I don’t like clapping! I don’t like clapping! I don’t like clapping,” Debbie screamed as she ran out of the auditorium. Her cheeks blood red, tears were streaming down her face, and her hair was all matted.
Patiently, we did everything we could to help her get through the storm. All the while, a lady kept looking at us, presumably concerned because the All-County Chorus Concert was about to start.
“Do you need help?” she asked.
Instantly, my protective Momma Bear instinct kicked into hyperactive over-drive.
“No,” I said, probably somewhat too sharply. I’m sure the woman was merely trying to be helpful, but we didn’t know her, and Debbie certainly wasn’t going to respond to her in mid-meltdown mode.
We quickly got Debbie out of the auditorium and into the stairwell, gave her tissues, her headphones (which had come off during the ordeal), and her iPad. Then we went through her script about her impending birthday, which helped to sooth her nerves. Thank goodness for Hannah, Debbie’s former one-on-one helper and current piano teacher, who was right there with us. Going to these concerts as a family would not be successful without her.
Vince and I returned to the auditorium, leaving Debbie in Hannah’s capable hands. The music was beautiful and soulful, but my thoughts kept turning to Debbie. I knew she was fine. I knew if there was a problem Hannah would text us. However, my sense of defeat was overriding my sense of logic.
I had spent weeks preparing Debbie for Joey’s concert. We had talked about who was going and what was going to happen. We had talked about and practiced appropriate concert behavior. Debbie had been perseverating about the concert constantly, which signaled her anxiety about it. Ultimately, the venue and vast number of people were her undoing. The auditorium was huge, and the noise of clapping reverberated off of its walls. I understood why Debbie was overwhelmed, but I was disappointed nonetheless.
It’s me. I had set myself up for disappointment by once again placing my own expectations upon Debbie. I kept thinking, “This time will be it. This time she will get through a concert without having to leave. This time the clapping won’t bother her.”
To her credit, she came back into the auditorium during a transition from one group to another. She looked happy, but I could tell she had been crying and was upset. I greeted her with surprise and joy. When the concert began again, she promptly ran back to her place in the stairwell. I followed her and Hannah out the door, talked her down, scripted with her, and soothed her.
Back to the auditorium I went, determined to see the glass as half full. I did my usual comparison to where she had been roughly a year ago. “She came back in! A year ago she would never have come back,” I thought. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not. I wish I would stop looking for signs of growth. Really, they are there every day. I need to live in the moment, look forward instead of looking back.
The concert ended with rousing versions of God Bless America and The Star Spangled Banner. Debbie was at the door for the finale, having recently taught herself how to play our national anthem on the piano. As soon as the concert was over, she came running over to us shouting, “Yay,” and “Good job,” while giving each of us a high-five. I couldn’t help but smile to myself.
While we waited for Joey in the crowded lobby, Hannah and I discussed Debbie’s behavior. Yes, she had melted down more than once. Yes, she had perseverated over and over again. And although she had tried to hit Hannah once, she did not actually go through with it. But even better than that was the fact that she had been able to process through each of her meltdowns.
I must keep looking at the proverbial glass as half full. I must celebrate these small things. Was this concert as successful as I would have liked? No. Did Debbie do the best that she could given the circumstances? Yes. Will we keep on trying? Absolutely! I will modify life for her in any way possible so that she can be as successful as possible in any situation. I can’t make it perfect for her, but I can make it better. I think I at least owe her that.
What about you? What do you do to help make your kiddo’s life a little bit easier?
xoxoxo ~ Julie