Sometimes, you need to just take a deep breath. Step back.
Or get someone to slap you across the face and tell you to, “Snap out of it, woman!” which is sort of where I am.
Last night was Jack’s holiday program at his preschool. This year, the two locations of his school combined, which meant hundreds of parents packed into a gym and big classes of 3, 4 and 5 year olds singing songs.
Jack is in a Spanish program, a very small group of kids at his preschool. So when his class filed up to perform their few songs, it was a little different than the 30-plus kids from all the other groups. Six kids. Staring at a sea of parents. It’s enough to freak anyone out.
I stood up so he could see me, and he stood on the edge, next to his teacher. The music started, and Jack … just stood there. Stared off into space. Got restless and had to sit on his teacher’s lap.
The other kids mostly sang. Played their triangles or maracas or whatever they were holding. Another little boy sang a song with his parents.
I know that to everyone else there, Jack just looked like he had stage fright, or was shy. And when he threw a bit of a tantrum at the end — because he wanted to go touch a drum set for another child’s program — I hustled him out of there to go somewhere quiet and calm down. His teacher came along, though I wish she had stayed with the class. I already felt exposed. Embarrassed.
I knew Jack was really tired yesterday. He had a busy day, and he’s been out of sorts all week thanks to some extensive dental work he needed that hurt his mouth — and our bank account. So I felt like I understood why he wasn’t quite himself.
But what bothers me still is he kind of WAS himself. The self that we’ve been worrying, testing and writing about. The self that stares into space, that disconnects, that makes you want to hum, “One of these things is not like the other things.”
I’ve noticed it a bit here and there lately, again, and I try to tell myself it stresses me out because he’s made SO much progress this fall that seeing him return to old ways is surprising. And that’s a good thing — noticing it means that there are many times when he isn’t zoning out. I have had to tell myself that over and over the past 12 hours — when I confess I have been completely freaking out over a 4-year-old’s holiday program performance.
Really? Come on.
I need to find a way to stop myself from flash-forwarding to all the ways his life could be difficult if he isn’t just like everyone else. And remember that if we were all the same, oh the world would be boring. I know all that. We all do. But it’s hard to remember it when you stand there and watch your child and hear people comment on his behavior. None of it negative, but noticing.
My girlfriend who was there told me today it didn’t look nearly as dire as I felt like it did. That he just looked overwhelmed.
I don’t know if we did the right things. We had him come sit with us after his part, instead of going back up with his class to play. We left before the big finale, because he was asking to go — the program was really close to his bedtime.
He said he had fun. He sang all his Spanish carols at home for our babysitter (we left Viv home) before we left, so at least someone got to hear his program.
I need to remember that everyone watching doesn’t have the same emotional baggage about it all that I do. And they probably didn’t even notice, because they were too busy worrying about their own kid. And that a kid staring into space only looks weird in a group of 6 kids, and there were plenty of spaced out kids in the bigger groups.
You just want life to be peaceful and happy and easy for your children. You already know it won’t be, so you want to find the ways to make what you can the best you can.
More than anything, I’m saddened that I was so upset by it all.
I love Jack. And all his quirks. And his huge laugh and smile and demand for “one more hug” every day. So maybe he won’t perform in front of crowds for a living. That’s probably fine.