Monday, June 20, 2011

Graduation Day-Bring Tissues, Not What You May Think

I promised to give everyone an update about graduation. Well, you know how you think you have prepared for every eventuality. Not. Our biggest concern for CM2 was that he would yell out at the speakers if he didn’t like what they said, or he would decided he had enough and make a big scene leaving the ceremony. So what happened?

We got there very early in order to get seats close to where we knew he was gong to be sitting with all the graduating seniors. His back would still be to us, as everyone faced the stage. He was actually on the end, which was good, and the school district had placed a para on the seats directly across from him. In addition, the Vice Principal who has been our go to person for CM2 for the past four years was also seated directly across from him.

He got through the class picture and the period right before where everyone hungout. He actually came and sat with us instead of hanging out in the hot gym with all the other students, which was fine. Hubby then walked him back to the gym and helped set him up for the procession. He walked in fine with all the graduates, to the melodious tune of Pomp and Circumstance. I have to say I certainly had a catch in my throat.

He went right to his seat and sat quiet for the first speaker. Next thing I knew the VP was over looking for tissues. I had seen CM2 wiping his nose from time to time, and I thought his allergies were acting up. I had stupidly forgotten to give him a Zyrtec that morning. But no, it wasn’t allergies, my son was crying.

In fact it wasn’t even a little cry, if you took a good look at him, he was really upset. The VP went over to him and asked if was OK and he said yes that he wanted to stay. Brilliant-computer-sis who has come up for the ceremony told me that the girls who were sitting around CM2 asked him if he was OK also.

At one point he did look back at me and I waved. The boy’s eyes were all red and puffy and I waved at him to sit still. He shook his head yes and turned back to the stage. The para did bring him more tissues and the VP kept checking back with him. Hubby started texting him and told him if he didn’t get a hold of himself he would have to leave. So he said he was OK and would calm down. He wanted very badly to stay for the entire ceremony.

He was able to pull himself together eventually and walk up to the stage and receive his diploma, but he seemed very discombobulated. He forgot how to exit and the VP went up and got him. She then walked him over to us and we left as quietly as possible.

We told him how proud we were of him and lauded him for being able to sit through the ceremony. We asked him what happened. It was the reminiscing of all the speakers about his 13 years in the school system; a system that had provided him with comfort, joy, compassion and understanding. He is very attached to the people that helped him, and very comfortable with all the children he has been in school with, some since he was even in pre-school. He didn’t want to leave anyone or anything behind. My CM2 is a gentle, sweet youngman, with a truly lovely kind soul.

On the way out one of CM2’s old paras, who had come to see him graduate, ran over to make sure he was OK and took his cap and gown for the donation project. In our district it has become de rigeur that the seniors donate their cap and gowns to a high school from a poor neighborhood where spending $25 for a cap gown would result in a family hardship. Our seniors get to keep their tassels, which they really should be able to do since it is afterall their graduation too, but this is just one of the many programs that this school district supports. That is one of the nice things about our district and this particular graduating class-charity and giving to others is very important to all of them. In many ways that is probably why CM2 had a minimal of nuisance incidents with students throughout the years. (Not that it didn’t exist by any means, but quite frankly it was so muted it did not really make a mark on CM2.) Compassion and understanding seem to be the watchwords of this particular group of young people.

So, we had been prepared for our son to be overwhelmed by the noise and the smells, and the heat. But we were not prepared for him to be overwhelmed by his own emotions. We did not even think that he would become sentimental and sad about leaving and feel a tug and a pull in his heart. I knew he had started to feel sad when we pulled up to the ceremony. I heard that little quiver in his voice, but when he sat with us before everything commenced he was fine, really fine and I didn’t give the quivery voice from earlier a second thought.

So we left early from the ceremony. But CM2 had sat through practically the entire event and even received his diploma in his own hands. He came home. Had a huge piece of the chocolate fudge cake I bought for celebration asked for a baloney sandwich for dinner (I offered Chinese but he only wanted a plain baloney sandwich) and then promptly fell asleep in front of his computer games by 8:30. Emotionally drained he just couldn’t stay awake. Which is fine. Sometimes sleep is truly the best way to regroup, heal and compose yourself.  Hubby moved him up stairs around midnight and he slept til noon today. He still seems a little out of sorts, but he is going to be just fine.

Emotions are a tough thing to deal with. It is hard enough when you know how to filter everything around you, but when you can’t and are not quite sure of the steps to take to help yourself, it has to be very very hard. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that autistics can’t form emotional attachments or understand relationships. I am still seething about the show Dr.Oz did on autism and that is how he started off the program, telling everyone that autistics can’t form emotional attachments. I am going to tweet him this story. But I know he won’t answer. I already told him in an email that he owes the autism community a big apology. That of course never happened, so I am not holding my breath that I will get a response to this story.

So anyway, hubby and I learned several lessons yesterday. Whatever you think you have prepared for, it is never truly enough. Even if you think you have practiced and practiced the situation, your child will come up with challenges that you thought would never occur. CM2’s reaction to graduation truly took us by surprise. That boy can be such an enigma at times. The other lesson we learned is that in the future, whenever we go to a major life altering or changing event with CM2, we are going to bring several boxes of tissues.

By the way, on the way out one of the boys that had been picking on him at the end of the year happened to be at the graduation ceremony. CM2 saw him with the posse of morons he hangs out with, called the jerk’s name and promptly stuck his tongue out at him. No it wasn’t mature and yes, we told him he should not have done that (you don’t lower yourself to the level of stupid just because someone you are dealing with is an idiot) but CM2 said he was glad to do it. I am sure he was. No, not very mature, but he did get the last lick in and that is sometimes OK too.

Meanwhile here is CM2 from the back in his cap and gown.  (We don't show his face, for privacy reasons.)
By the  way the Chinese characters on the fireplace mantel say, harmony, tranquility, happiness and love.

Until next time,


P.S. I would like to clarify one point: CM2 was allowed to stay for the speech practice run through right after graduation practice, but he said he did not need to. He had performed so well at the general graduation practice that he, and we, thought he had it down pat. I don't know if hearing the words beforehand would have helped with the feeling of being overwhelmed emotionally, because it was an in the moment experience, but perhaps it may have muted it a bit. At least there is always next time, for there will be a college graduation at some pint, to be certain.