Monday, December 17, 2018

The lasting gift of the hard early years

Friday, Max and I participated in our annual holiday ritual: He performed in his school show, and I cried happy tears. That's the thing about what I went through during Max's earlier years—it's an indelible part of my psyche, and it makes me appreciate just how far he has come.

Back in elementary school, it was agonizing to see him sobbing outside of the large multi-purpose room, where the show was held. I can still picture his head shaking no-no-no as he stood beside the teacher. I felt sad for me and Dave, too, because we were missing out on another joy of parenthood: seeing your child in a show.

The years passed. Max's sensory issues abated and his confidence grew. He morphed into a total ham who delighted in singing, playing keyboard and taking multiple bows. I couldn't wait for this year's performance; he was one of four students chosen to sing a Hanukkah song.

I had to bribe Ben with a chocolate bar to get him to stick around, although it was a doubly great cause—students had packaged bars in cute holiday wrappers and one of the amazing life skill teachers at school, Ann, was selling them in the lobby. As soon as Max started singing Ben was in awe. Me, too. 

Max's ear-to-ear grin lit up the room more than the Christmas tree and menorah lights. A staffer accompanied the students on flute and Ben sang along, since the three of us had been practicing together for the past week. The ghosts of holidays past were in that room with me; I could still picture Max crying at showtime at his old school. Which just made the present all the more awesome. That's true of so many recurring events in our life—doctor visits, movie theater and show outings, eating at certain local restaurants. Max struggled with them, sobbing and screeching and all, and now he doesn't. And the fact that I can't forget the intensity and drama of those times isn't a bad thing, because it makes me seriously appreciate how far he's come.

Max did the hand motions to accompany the song, and with the last line—"Happy Hanukkah to you!"—he pointed at the audience. Then he looked down and gave me the proudest look. The only thing better than feeling wowed by your child is seeing how impressed they are with themselves.

This. Boy. 

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