Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Now I'm a Fencer
Cooper had Bryn Maxwell over for a play date (and I enjoyed some time with Ali). Lately, Cooper and Bryn have started to "swap" beloved items. I think last week she gave him a rock, and Cooper gave her some broken toys. This week, they exchanged silly bands for trinket toys. Cooper told me tonight that Bryn was his "best girl friend."
I signed up for a fencing class tonight. How I landed there is a story in itself.
I suppose it all started with Chris's philosophy "Some life lessons can't be learned anywhere other than the sports field." As the athletic sort, I wholeheartedly agreed. So, we encouraged all of our big boys to pick one sport, thinking all the physical activity and social interaction would be an added benefit. Our two middle sons eagerly signed up for teams. Caleb was none so pleased. After much prodding, Caleb finally located a fencing class offered at our local Boys and Girls Club. We happily signed him up, hoping this might be the perfect fit for Caleb.
The first week went well. We breathed a sigh of relief. Week two was not as successful, but he still managed to participate in half of the class. (He expressed anxiety over the number of people in the class.) Tonight was week three.
This evening, Caleb adamantly refused to join the class. He sat on the side and refused to put on his gear, and sobbed on the side of the court. Chris and I had made a decision he would finish the class because: 1) he made a commitment to the class, 2) we think he needs to work through his anxiety, and 3) he needs the physical activity. So, I stood firm. Caleb would participate in the class.
I cajoled him for what seemed like hours. Finally, I told him I was signing up for the class too. We'd do it together and I'd help him work through his fears. I ran to the heap of uniforms and desperately searched for the proper equipment and sizes. Right at that moment, a mom ran up to me and helped me with my selection.
She looked me in the eyes and said, "I've been watching you with tears in my eyes. My son is on the autism spectrum, and I think your son is too. I imagine he's further on the spectrum though (that's when I began to tear up). I've been there too, and you're doing great."
As I hadn't noticed that mom before, I wondered for a second if she was an angel. Her timing and presence were so calming and reassuring that she had to have be sent straight from above. In the least, she was an angel to me. She gently informed me that I was putting my fencing jacket on backward, and taught me how to adjust my mask.
That's when we noticed Caleb was gone. That same woman located him behind the basketball hoop and shot me a look that said, "Keep going."
So, Caleb and I stepped on the court and into the class. I stood in the fencing line among the mostly prepubescent boys. I listened to the instructor, and then taught Caleb the moves. Bend. Lunge. Shuffle. Jab. I could feel the eyes of the other bystander parents piercing the back of my mask. But, I gazed into the eyes of my masked son, and realized he was the only person in the room that truly mattered to me.
The remainder of the class was difficult. It took all the strength I could muster to teach, encourage, and keep my son focused.
At the end of class, Caleb was crying. As we went into the car, he said, "Everyone thinks I'm bad. I was a disappointment."
Right then and there, I transformed from Caleb's fencing opponent to his cheerleader. With tears in my eyes, I said, "Caleb, you finished class. You're a winner in my eyes. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks."
As the words came tumbling out, I thought about how much Caleb has taught me these same exact lessons. Helping Caleb is all the matters, even if it involves learning to fence.