Sunday, October 13, 2013

It Takes a Village, but Actually...

Yesterday was a rough morning for K. I don't know why, exactly. Tiredness, 9yo girl hormones, something else? Maybe all three? She just started out a little off when I woke her up for dance. I gave her the option of staying home, but she wanted to go. Part of me wanted to talk her into staying home, especially because dance is an hour away, but I left the decision to her. I figured she'd have some iPad time on the way there, and maybe things would turn around.

They didn't.

K went into her class, but didn't participate. I figured that was OK. She was sitting, fiddling with her bracelet, and I thought maybe she was working through something. I hoped she'd start feeling better, and it would be business as usual.

But then she started crying, so I decided it was time for a break. We found a quiet corner, and she burst out in tears. Seeing her like this breaks my heart. Especially because I have no clue how to help her, or even why she is sad. K goes through this a lot, and when she gets this upset she starts pulling to the surface every negative feeling she has.

I stood there hugging her, trying to hold back my own tears. I told her we could just go home, but, again, she wanted to stay. Maybe I should have made the decision to leave, but she's going to be 10 in a few months, and I really want her to feel that she has some control over her own life.

We stayed in our quiet corner for a few minutes, and K went back to class. Things were a little better, and she started to participate a bit, but I could tell she was still struggling.

So was I.

I sat in the small stairwell facing the studio, watching my girl, feeling so alone. All the other parents were talking with one another. Laughing. Socializing. Their children were fine. They weren't sitting on pins and needles, hoping to see just one smile from their kid.

I sat there wondering if I made the right decision, letting K go back class. I sat there wondering what was really going on, and how I could help. I sat there wondering why my child has to deal with such anxiety she can't allow herself to have fun. Because that's what fuels days like this...constant, debilitating, anxiety.

I sat on the stairs, resisting the urge to cry, while life went on around me. I was at a dance class for autistic children, yet I felt no different from when K had tried typical dance classes. Like there was no one else there who understood. No one I could talk to. No other parents holding their breath. It was just a given their kids would have fun, be happy, be OK.

One thing that got me through was watching another little girl try to get K to participate time and again. She would take K's hand, or go over and talk to K while trying to pull her gently towards the group. The good thing about a class for autistic children is that there is no judgement on the part of the kids. No one was looking at K like there was something wrong with her. It was really hard to hold back tears, watching another student try so hard to include my child.

My daughter does have a village. It's a village of her peers. Children like her who don't judge, and who truly want her around. For that, I am grateful. So very grateful.

But as much as we talk about parents needing support, can we truly say that village exists? We are adults, and it's no one's responsibility to come take our hand. We all have our own little group of friends, but do we ever consider those on the outside? Those who could use some extra support? Or are we incapable of reaching out? Really forming the support system every blog, status update, and tweet, tells us is essential?

Could we take a lesson from those children who see someone having a rough time, and instinctively reach out? I think we all know the answer to that question.

The thing is, sitting on some stairs alone isn't going to send me down the rabbit hole. But, I am sure there are parents who are thisclose to the edge, and who is there to help them?

A village isn't really a village if it acts more like a clique. If we truly want to help parents in crisis, we have to be aware when someone is struggling right beside us. When K was struggling yesterday, someone saw that, and surrounded her with love. Didn't give up. Just kept taking her hand. And you know what? She made K smile. She made her feel just a little bit better, which to me is nothing short of a miracle.

It's always a gift when our children show us the way.

I'm not writing this because I am angry at the other parents from dance. That's not my point at all. Sitting there alone was hard, but for me it's not a big deal. I also know I've probably missed opportunities to be there for others. I am writing this because it brought to the surface the fact that we as a community always talk about reaching out when we see someone in pain, but how often does it really happen?

One day there might be a parent sitting on those stairs, so close to that rabbit hole, who really needs support. Who needs an invitation for a night out. Who needs someone to just sit and listen. The question is, are you ready to offer that support, even to someone you don't know? When you talk about a village, are your words empty? Meant just for those you already call friends?

Thankfully, K's class ended on a high note when she received a light up wand to take home (sometimes it's the little things), and seeing my child happy was all it took to make me feel better. I learned a lot, though, watching the interaction between my daughter and her classmate. I realized I don't want to just talk the talk. That I need to keep my eyes open for those who are struggling, and that words on a page are just words until you put them into action.

Light up wands make everything better. 


  1. Your post is very touching. And things like this are common in my sons life too. Sometimes when he gets sad, I feel the same way you did. Being a parent isn't easy, but we have to get stronger every day, not just for us, but for our kids too.

    1. I just think it's important to make sure we are there for those around us. You never know when someone is feeling so hopeless, they are on the verge of breaking. When you feel like even those in the trenches with you can't be bothered to even give an understanding smile, it can be tough, kwim? I just keep thinking about all the kids out there who end up hurt, or worse, because their parents reach that breaking point. Maybe we can all change a life if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone, and reach out to the person sitting alone on the stairs.

  2. I get the village idea and I think it's a good metaphor. We all belong to "autism village" -- but unfortunately, our village has a ton of camps -- not all of which get along very well. Higher-functioning Vs. not, Vaccinate Vs. don't, Person-first Vs. Autistic, DAN/Jenny McCarthy Vs. whatever... it's a lot of baggage.

    I want to help. I want to reach out -- but frankly, I'm not so well equipped to handle all the baggage and debates. I certainly don't have the energy to be in the middle of them -- especially after fighting through the latest round of nuttiness with the Little Miss.

    I guess what I'm saying is that reaching out is good -- we should try to help where we can. But be careful out there. ((hugs))

    1. I don't really mean on a giant scale, or debating with people who sit at both ends of the extreme, but just in daily life. When you go to therapy with your child, or an activity. Seeing a parent sitting there, alone, maybe having a hard time...talking to them. To me, a village isn't about how many blog followers you have, or how many people you talk to on twitter (though some of my best friends are those I know online), but about those who are there with you on the ground. Who can offer an actual hug (although, not to me, as I am not a fan of hugs...ha), or who will listen over a cup of coffee. I think there are people who are fragile, and who have a more difficult time than others navigating this life, and when they are left alone, when they end up feeling helpless, that is when bad things happen to our kids :(

      Honestly, it would have been nice to have someone even give me an understanding smile as I sat there, hoping K would be OK, fighting back tears because I hate seeing her upset. You don't have to be best friends with everyone you meet, but I think we should at least not ignore one another when we actually can be a shoulder in real life....kwim?