Recently, my son performed in his first school play. School has been physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting for him this year. He likes school, but it takes a huge toll on his body and mind doing full days. In an otherwise difficult year, the play was the thing he most looked forward to, so we adjusted his schedule to allow him to rehearse with his class and have a part in the show.
He worked hard rehearsing for his role. Memorization is extremely difficult for him, but he practiced reciting his lines almost every day. We’d catch him at random times singing the songs from the show as he played with his toys or started to drift off to sleep. It was the first thing in a long time that he had that was his and that he was excited about.
When the day of the show finally arrived, it started with six seizures before breakfast. He had big circles under his eyes as he slowly crawled out of bed. As it goes with epilepsy, we didn’t know why he had more seizure than normal. But we let him rest most of the day with our fingers crossed that he would feel well enough to go to the show. Even after an afternoon nap, he still seemed tired but, thankfully, his excitement and adrenaline gave him the boost he needed to make it out of the house.
My wife and I sat in the audience anxiously waiting for the show to begin. I had a big smile on my face when I saw my son peak his head around the curtain. I heard the kids getting into position and felt my heart start to beat faster. Finally, the curtain opened, and I thought we made a terrible mistake letting him do the show that night.
I could see by the look on his face that he wasn’t really present. The energy that got him out the door seemed gone. Most of the time, he looked lost on the stage, bouncing between children to try to find the spot where he should be. I felt helpless every time we made eye contact. I felt angry that they didn’t set it up better or give him a buddy to remind him where he should be. While these thoughts raced through my head, I tried to keep a smile and to be a friendly face in the audience for him.
My wife and I struggle with finding the right place for my son. Not just with school, but finding environments that are safe for him and that try to understand what life is like for him. Watching him on the stage, unable to find his place, brought that fear of him never finding that place center stage. It acted out my anxiety of what life will look like for him as he gets older because the world doesn’t know him and doesn’t understand him. I saw on that stage a future for my son where he spends his life bouncing around, bouncing off people, endlessly lost.
When the show was over, my son came running off the stage and into our arms. He was happy. He had just done something impossibly hard and felt good about himself. At that moment, everything I was feeling melted away and I held him and told him how proud of him I was.
It’s hard to not get lost in those visions of what the future will look like for my son. There have been too many times where I get swept up in those feelings and miss what is happening right in front of me, in the present where my son needs me to be. It’s in those moments where he continues to show me what he is capable of and remind me that the future is unwritten and filled with as many possibilities as it will be limitations. The only thing that is certain is what we have at this moment. As I held my son and felt his joy, I didn’t want to miss it.