It’s a Wild Cats weekend in our house. The musical this year at our middle school is High School Musical Jr.
Just about one year ago my son, who is Autistic, wanted to be in Lion King Jr. So he taught himself to sing. You can read that blog post here (click for link to post). Needless to say he was bitten by the acting bug. When that musical ended he was already wondering what musical they would do the next year. He would read the website of possible choices and try to figure out if they could possibly put on that musical. When he found out it was High School Musical Jr. he wasn’t thrilled but he thought maybe there would be a part for him. We told him even if you are cast as a basketball you will be the best basketball there ever was.
As I sat in the auditorium last night watching my son play Coach Bolton in High School Musical Jr. I had these little bursts of memories.
When he started kindergarten we dropped him off at school worried about how he would do. Would he make friends? Would the other kids make fun of him? All the same fears most parents have on the first day of school only exacerbated because my son is Autistic. We drove back by school later to see if the kids were on the playground. They were! We saw him all smiles and playing, all by himself. My partner was upset because he was all by himself. I had to remind her that he WAS happy. What made him happy was not necessarily what makes us happy and we needed to remember that. It was tough to watch but he was happy all by himself.
But, as he continued in school life got harder. The kids would make him “It” at every recess because he could never catch anyone or if they let him catch them they would immediately turn around and catch him again to make him “It.” He was frustrated because he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t as fast or why the other kids didn’t play fair. He didn’t understand that he did not have to play with the kids because these classmates were supposed to be his friends. The adults told them that each day and he believed them.
But, then we moved. Things changed. In this district there were other kids like him who loved to read, talk about Star Wars, and maybe didn’t like gym as much as science. He found his tribe. There are a group that has been together the last 4 years and had lunch every day together. Sometimes the group expands, sometimes it shrinks, but there are 4-6 kids who are always there. His friends. Yes, friends. He doesn’t always understand friendships but he can now say he has friends. Something he never used to say.
So, as we watched him on stage surrounded by 50 other kids performing you can tell there is not something quite right as he dances but it’s okay because he is Coach Bolton, who probably wasn’t a great dancer. He is part of the cast, he is part of the school, and he is surrounded by friends who may not always get him but it doesn’t matter because he is just “George” to them.