I thought I was early but when I reached the auditorium, the room was packed with parents who were beaming with excitement to watch their children perform. It is Austria’s school Christmas program. The previous week, I was told by her teacher aide that she has been doing well practicing the songs. Austria normally gets overwhelmed with noise and people singing around her. She covers her ears oftentimes when she feels it’s too much or it’s over stimulating for her. In our family, she wants to be the only singer so we call her a diva sometimes but she does sing very well. Her therapist believes that she may have a perfect pitch. It amazes us when she listens to a song a couple of times and can sing some parts of it and the chorus to a perfect tune.
I was informed by her school therapist that during the last practice she had with the class, she was being difficult and hesitant to go up the stage maybe because of its height and that she may not be able to sing during the presentation if she would be feeling the same. A part of me didn’t want to hear what the teacher was saying. Although I understand the situation, I was not ready to hear and accept the fact that she’s not able to perform in a big crowd. I still requested for her to perform even if she is placed at the end of the formation or at the back as long as her teacher aide is by her side to prompt her. I explained she can do it because she already performed something similar during her graduation at her pre-school.
Most of the parents had their video and the cameras ready. Of course I had one too. When the kids lined up and started going to their formation, I was eager to see Austria. One kid at a time, they went up the stage but I did not see her in the line. My heart was getting discouraged and I was almost in tears because I knew she may not be able to perform. I saw her special ed teacher waved trying to get my attention and she informed me Austria had a meltdown. They figured out the stage height may have scared her and the number of people in the auditorium. I could hear her screaming outside and she was inconsolable. I thought her crying was caused by a sensory issue but when we tried to bring her back to her classroom, she cried all the more.
It seemed impossible to bring her to the room without screaming. Usually, when she can’t stop herself from crying, she says “I’ve booboos, I need bandages” and I often give her one and immediately she stops crying, grabs her scarf and comforts herself. I told the teacher to place a couple of bandages to her legs even if she doesn’t really have any cut or scratch. As expected, she stopped crying and just soothed herself by sucking her thumb.
I brought her home and as soon and as I sat down, I took a deep breath to help me control the sadness and disappointment. There was a part of me wishing that Austria is a normal girl. I wished she could perform to an audience like her other classmates and I’d certainly be a proud mom. I wish she can also do the things I did when I was 5 years old in kindergarten. I wish she can just express and communicate herself like other children… so on and so forth.
Inclusion of special needs children in a regular school setting has been proven that their social and communication skills improve tremendously. However, for a parent like me who sees her classmates do great things, able to follow directions without prompts and can converse to someone, I can’t help sometimes but to compare her to other normal children. I must admit there is a little bit of jealousy and envy towards other parents that is lingering in the corners of my heart.
A spent time with a friend of mine who is a family therapist and I shared about what I was feeling. She asked me if Austria’s development and improvement makes me happy and I said of course. In a very gentle way, she helped me understand that it is not fair to Austria for me to find happiness from her or from her development. She told me that I haven’t fully accepted her condition and that I should cultivate a deeper faith that God is in control and that my happiness should come from knowing that I was given a great gift from God. The role of my children is not to make me happy. It was a very deep conversation but very refreshing one. I praise God for friends who understand and can give me a spiritual perspective.
I felt empowered more than ever. I love my daughter tremendously and even if her condition and social skills do not improve or do the things like other normal kids can do, I’m a happy mother.