Little man N played guitar in a school concert for the first time today – and I missed it. In the world of twice exceptional, ADHD, co-morbid alphabet soup of diagnoses, missing the fun moments makes me really sad because the not-so-fun moments tend to take center stage. But as is often the case, N taught me yet another of life’s little lessons.
As some of you know, he re-joined public school at the end of January after 5 disastrous months of what was supposed to be private school nirvana. HA! (But that’s a different story!) One of the musical offerings for 4th grade is the chance to take guitar. N, much to my dismay, actually wanted to play strings (all I could think was, my poor ears) and I have to admit I was much happier than he to learn that class was full leaving guitar as a welcome alternative. After snow days and a delay in purchasing a new, full-sized acoustic folk guitar, he really only had a few days of class and a couple of days for home practice before today’s big concert.
To N’s credit, he practiced with a vengeance, learning the chords and memorizing the pieces in about an hour and then working to perfect the performance without hesitation. And to be honest, he sounded pretty good. He was supposed to show the teacher on Monday that he had learned the pieces well enough to take part in the concert. But he forgot (thank you very much executive function deficit!) I decided to check with the teacher so that I could help set expectations, literally expecting a meltdown of tsunami proportions if he arrived this morning, guitar in hand, only to be told that he could not play. The teacher’s email back to me was very nice, and very clear, stating that since he had not had a chance to assess readiness, N would not be playing in the concert. Great…
I am certain that if you have any imagination at all, you can picture the scenario as I explained this reality to N last night. Let’s just say it was not pretty. There was much gnashing of teeth, expletives, declarations of hate for the teacher, the guitar, the class, me, etc. Really, it was not pretty. But by god, I practiced my calm parenting skills and I ignored the fall out until he was quiet. And then I sat down next to him and told him how very sorry I was because he felt so sad. At which point he crawled into my lap and just sobbed at the unfairness of it all. I suspect his sense of unfairness applied to the previous five months and all the turmoil leading up to this moment and I felt the same way. So we cried together. And here’s where the lesson really begins.
As he readied himself for bed, he asked if he could still wear the black pants and white shirt. And could he practice a little more before going to bed. Hmmm… “Are you concerned that the other kids will know you are not in the concert?” “No, I just want to wear the outfit (short pause) because I am going to make the teacher let me play.” I agreed to the outfit and to allowing him to practice, but I told him we needed to respect the teacher’s decision. “Nope, I AM going to play.”
He looked so cute this morning in those dress clothes, his hair still wet from ‘styling’ it himself. He packed the music folder in his backpack, picked up his guitar and headed for the door. I’m still picturing the tsunami that’s about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting school so I sit down at the bench by the door and say, “Let’s chat for just a minute.” “OK, but if this is about the concert, I am not listening.” OMG, I just love this boy. He has more determination and is more persistent than literally anyone I know. On the drive to school, I tried again (I can be a little persistent too.) He let me know in no uncertain terms that he planned to convince the teacher that he should play. So I changed tactics asking “What’s the plan if he still says no?” With tears in his eyes, he said “Will you email Mrs. F and tell her I will need her help if he says no?” Holy smokes!!
I did just that. After dropping him off, I pulled to the side of the road and sent a message to his classroom teacher letting her know that he would need her help dealing with the disappointment. He did not want his friends to see him upset. While I supported the music teacher’s decision, I also supported N’s desire to plead his case because he felt so strongly that he should be allowed to play. He practiced, he memorized, and he earned the right to state his case. And then I drove to work because I knew the answer would still be no.
As I walked into my office, my cell phone rang and seeing the school number, I felt the tsunami heading my way. “Mrs. Gumm, I just did not want you to worry. N talked to the music teacher and convinced him that he should be allowed to play. So he is sitting on the stage with everyone else right now and he is very happy. He really handled the situation beautifully and the music teacher actually reconsidered for several others who also started late in the year.” That’s MY boy!!
So what is the life lesson? That sometimes I need to have more faith and stop looking for the tsunami. Sometimes, despite how often I explain to the school that N has difficulty self-advocating, the opposite is actually (sometimes) true and he knows exactly what he needs to do to stand up for himself. Sometimes, I need to let go, and give him the room to show me the new skills he is developing and recognize that I might be the one stuck based on past experiences. And if I don’t pay attention to these lessons, then there will be times that I miss the fun moments. I am so very humbled and so very proud. Yep, that’s my boy!