Mom, you need to bring Ronan to my school for lunch.
My friends need to see him.
Honey, you know it's hard for Ronan to go out to some places.
That's why he needs to come to lunch! He needs to practice, and he can practice with me and my friends. Plus, they want to help. Please?
I'm always hoping to volunteer at my kids' school, but with Ronan’s school schedule and with his new therapy schedule, popping in to help out hasn't worked. But after hearing my daughter's request, which was actually the 4th or 5th time she asked, I promised that I would make it work.
Ronan has been in the school several times, most recently for some of his big sister's sports events. He hasn't had any problems there. It's loud, there's a lot going on during the games and there’s always enough distractions in the gym that Ronan isn't noticed too much by others. If he’s having a hard time, or worse, a meltdown, his noises would be drowned out by the noises of the players and the spectators. But in the lunchroom, with a smaller group of people, where it’s much quieter, I worried.
What if it was just too much for him?
What if he had one of his epic meltdowns?
What if someone made fun of him?
Sometimes I worry too much. But, all of those worries and what ifs have been realities in the past and have been things he or I have had to deal with before. I wouldn't say it's unnecessary worry, because those previous situations have taught me something: to be better prepared. Being better prepared helps Ronan. It also helps me.
Since there was no reason for me not to bring Ronan to his sister's school, I made plans to bring Ronan to lunch on a day that he didn’t have any appointments. When that day arrived, even though it would be a short visit, I checked to make sure my backpack, something I carry with me wherever Ronan and I go, has those things we need for outings: snacks, diapers, wipes, change of clothes, iPad or iPod, and the charger. The bag was ready. The time was right. We were ready to go.
I prepared Ronan next. I explained where we were going, got his shoes and jacket for him, and off we went. Ronan transitioned smoothly to the car, nicely requested that I turn on a movie, and watched it as we headed toward the school.
Well, that was easy, I thought. The only thing left to do was pray.
That may sound a little bit pessimistic, but other times, when we've had to pop into the school during the school day, things haven't worked so well.
Ronan resists going in.
Then he resists coming out.
I end up having to carry him out while he’s protesting loudly in my ear.
And while students are watching.
Most everyone at the school knows who we are, and they totally respect Ronan, but it can still be overwhelming when he has transition issues. So, I prayed.
As we got closer to the school, I was hoping that the recent evening sports events we’ve been able to attend at the school as a family would remind Ronan what the expectations were—to stay with Mommy, to ask for help when he needed it, and to go in and out of the school meltdown-free.
Once we arrived, we parked and headed to the door. Ronan took my hand and held it. We checked in at the office and said we’d like to meet big sister for lunch. Ronan hesitated in the office wanting to stay there, but that’s when I knew I needed to reach into the backpack and pull out the iPad. With the promise that soon he’d have a turn on it, I asked Ronan to come with me to find sister. He reached for my hand again and walked with me.
I could hear the cafeteria long before I saw the door for it. Ronan had his headphones on, but he still tried to cover his ears as the noise grew louder. Middle school lunch was in full swing, so I talked Ronan through what we’d see.
“Hey, Buddy. We’re almost there. Fiona wants to have lunch with you today. We’re going to find sister and her friends and sit with her. You’ll do great. Okay, almost there…can you see her?”
We walked in and big sister saw us right away.
Half running, half skipping toward us with her arms out stretched, she greeted Ronan with a hug.
“Mom! You made it! Come sit over here. I can’t wait for my friends to see Ronan.”
My daughter's friends know Ronan. They’ve been to our house and seen him. They’ve seen him out in town occasionally too. They’ve heard his story and understand what he can and can’t do. They recognize his abilities. They see his disabilities, also, but they’ve never made a big deal of those. When we see these classmates, they are always helpful, kind, and curious about what they can do to help. That day was no different. They each offered something the minute we arrived:
Here, Ronan. I can scoot over.
Does he need a snack?
I can share something.
Here’s a napkin if you need it.
Oh, he has his iPad. He loves that game, doesn’t he?
Why haven't I done this sooner!
The girls went back to being silly teenagers while Ronan sat happily with his iPad and some snacks.
Of course, my silly worrying was for naught. Ronan did fine. He even enjoyed himself and attempted to respond to my daughter's classmates’ questions. When it was time to go, Fiona gave Ronan another big hug. She hugged me to and thanked me for bringing Ronan to her lunch.
“Mom, see? He did SO well. Promise you can bring him again?”
Yes, honey. I promise.
I’ll admit that some days I worry too much. I worry, and it clouds my thinking in such a way that I end up focusing on the wrong things. I see what isn’t happening. I get sad about what hasn’t happened yet. I stress out about how much more work we have to do. But on those days that I cannot see beyond the can’ts and the won’ts, those are the days that other people remind me that yes, Ronan can and yes, he most certainly does.
When I see Ronan through other peoples’ eyes, my worrying fades. My heart swells. And my faith grows. I get to witness something else that takes my breath away–these other people, they not only see Ronan, they believe in him too.
Thank you to those who see and who believe.