Sunday, November 29, 2009
Just two weeks back you could have found me afloat in a pool that sported a water slide shooting out from a replica of the Mayflower and a jacuzzi embedded in a simulated Plymouth Rock.
Yes, I was in Plymouth, Massachusetts, home of those pilgrims whose fall feast has morphed into the annual turkey-eating-fest that we've just finished celebrating.
So what sort of pilgrimage would take me to Plymouth? What you might expect at autism's edges: scaffolding Sweet M on her journey.
Her class was setting out on a three-day field trip to visit the sites — the replica of the Mayflower in the harbor, the Plimouth plantation, and the grist mill that ground grain for the pilgrims in the years after their arrival. And there were concerns about how she'd handle the three days, two nights away field trip. Last year's trip to a nature preserve had gone okay — she was with her aide — but still there'd been plenty of tears and homesickness. Since Sweet M no longer has that wonderful one-on-one who helped her last year—just another bit of fallout from the state's budgetary shortfalls — her father and I went as her shadows.
Our goal was to be neither seen nor heard: but just to be nearby in case we were needed. For Sweet M's amusement we called this Operation Secret Parents. Some might call this Operation Helicopter Parents, but I suspect that anyone who would think that has never parented a child on the spectrum. We'd rather scaffold and buttress than pick up the pieces if something goes horribly wrong.
Initially little M thought she'd want to see us on the morning of the second day, but the morning came and went without a call from her teacher, so we settled into touring the sites (on the opposite itinerary from her class, avoiding them at every turn) and visiting with some old friends whom we ran into near the town's grocery store, with me taking time out to grade some papers and write a new syllabus for the spring semester.
By the end of the second day, we'd heard nothing from Sweet M and when the suspense was just too much, we spoke with the principal who told us all was well. One of Sweet M's roommates had been homesick and wanted to call her mom, and M had said, "Why would you want to call your mom -- you're just going to see her tomorrow."
Easy for her to say with her own mom just two floors away!
But still, this is is progress. Scaffolded, buttressed progress. Perhaps over weaning, we sometimes think. But then we have no idea what the trip would have looked like if she'd gone on her own too soon for any reasonable level of comfort. Next time she'll no doubt voyage solo.
So we have some progress of the pilgrim-y type: something for which we're so very thankful.
An appropriate street sign from Plymouth.
Posted by MothersVox at 11/29/2009 05:45:00 PM