Trying “Typical”

October 25, 2019 | Abram's Nation

AbramWe spend so much of Abram’s educational planning talking about moving him toward “typical:” mainstreaming, transitioning, the ‘real world’…

So you’d think his recent foray into a very typical activity would feel like a huge win for me.

But, honestly, it was one of the scariest events in my recent memory.  What is the cause of this fear and trepidation? And how do I tame those terrible beasts that get me riled up and cracking knuckles ready for a fight if my kid’s on the line. I’m usually a pretty chill mom!

Ok, ok, sometimes my inner momma bear comes out and those who have met her know it’s not pretty. But usually I’ve got her in check.

Inner momma bear sure was growling, though, when 8th-grade-Abram was invited to play with the high school the marching band.

On the field…

During a high school football game….

If you’re from Texas or Pennsylvania (and I’m from both!), you know that means a big crowd and a lot of noise–not an environment my guy tends to thrive in! Throw in choreography for the marching and playing his sax and whew! Momma bear had two paws out the cave!

Initially, I didn’t even realize he was set to march with the band. In typical-Abram style, he mentioned an interest in the football game, nothing about the marching. It was a series of other odd comments that clued me in and when I asked his teacher I got the full story just two days before the event.

The full story comes out…and MOMMA BEAR ATTACK MODE! Who was helping him march? How would he do this? How do we know he really gets the instructions, keep him from getting lost, keep him from freaking out because he can’t handle it? Does he know the march? Will he wander? Will the stress provoke spinning or stimming? I had all of these questions and fears and worries.

I spoke to his teacher. “Abram’s got this,” he said. “He’ll be fine even without his paraprofessional, and he wants to do this. I think we should let him.”

“Take a deep breath,” I said to myself. “Are you protecting or hovering?”

A small voice inside said,  “Trust them…They’ve got this.”

That worked for about 5 minutes. Then I started to freak out again. Because trying typical? Sounds great, in theory.  But in practice…yeah, we’re not typical!

I was talking about this with a friend. And I remembered another adventure into “typical.” A couple of summers ago, Abram took his passion for shooting baskets into a basketball camp. It was run by church. That was a rocky start, for sure. The coach kicked off the camp with a speech. Typical for my baby bear, Abram sat quietly but was distracted.  He checked out details of the ceiling tiles, doors, bathroom exits and at all the clocks on the wall. That’s when the coach dug in to him for not paying attention like the other kids. It was clear he didn’t realize that Abram was different from the other boys on the court, and was really rough on him all day. It was a torturous eternity for me, watching and wondering. I ended that first day very much in the same “fight” (momma bear) or “flight” (helicopter parent swoops in!) conundrum I faced with the band.

“Take a deep breath,” I said to myself. “Are you protecting or hovering?”

I was so thankful when someone else pulled the coach over at the end of the first day and clued him in.  That changed everything. In realizing Abram’s differences, the coach changed his approach, and Abram was able to become just another one of the kids on the court. The context made all the difference. Abram had a great time. It was a really different experience for him. At the end of it, the coach gave him the award for hardest worker on the court. And it was genuine…not a token participation trophy. Abram still carries the bag with the camp’s logo around everyday, he was so proud to be a part.

Revisiting that story was the gut-check I needed to find my own confidence for Abram to march with the band.

Context made the biggest difference at the basketball camp. Once the coach understood, he could adapt. Thinking about the band experience, I realized that his band teacher also understood. He’s known Abram for a couple of years, he’s even seen him in some situations I haven’t. I could trust his advice because he had all the information he needed to make a good recommendation.

The other thing that gave me confidence was the idea of love. On that basketball court, that coach showed Abram love with the sportiest of all sentiments: that trophy. Over years and years of therapists, the ones that have successfully pushed Abram and made breakthroughs were the ones who did it with love…even when that love was tough.

Did I feel that band teacher was working out of love? Yes.

Context and love.  Could it be that simple? Are these the two elements that enable us to try for typical?

Turns out, the answer is yes.

Abram and Pine Richland BandAbram played with the band a few Friday nights ago. Here’s a picture of him, look at that pride!

And it went great! Overall, he nailed it. And during a few moments of uncertainty, a lovely classmate gave him a nudge in the right direction, and he got right back in step. Her kindness was super heartwarming for me.

It was another torturous eternity, watching from the grandstands. But it was a huge moment of growth for Abram, and for me, too. Moving ahead, I hope they are many more moments of trying typical, packed with plenty of context. And lots of love.