What If

In my fiction writing, the question “What if?” is a great way to get stories going. What if an abused woman discovers she can leave her body? What if a young boy makes friends with the monsters in the basement? It serves a creative purpose, and it’s a fun question.

But in my real life, I’m getting a little tired of “What if”.

Lilly is part of the chorus group in her school and they participated in a concert last week that included the middle and high school chorus and bands. They were to sing two songs at the very beginning of the concert, and one last song together with all the groups at the end. She was excited and we looked forward to it, but I didn’t think too much about it beforehand.

The concert started at 7:00 pm and we made sure Lilly got there at 6:30 to assemble with her group in the cafeteria. My husband and I headed for the auditorium to wait for the concert to start.

As soon as I entered the auditorium, my stomach dropped. Up on the stage was a three-tiered platform that the singers would stand on during the concert. Of course there was. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Lilly would have trouble getting up onto that thing. Did the music teacher know? Did Lilly even know about it? What if she had to climb up onto the top tier? Even if she got up there, she’d have to stand on that narrow strip ten feet off the floor, surrounded by fidgeting kids, for at least ten minutes. What if someone bumped her? Her balance is such that she’d fall. What if she fell off that thing in the middle of the performance? What if she couldn’t get back down? What if, what if, what if…

I sat in my seat with knots in my stomach, wondering what to do. Should I run back and find her music teacher and warn her about all this? I tried to relax, breathe, talk to my husband, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that damn platform. Why hadn’t I fully interrogated the music teacher about the set-up? What kind of mother was I, to not make sure that my child was safe? What if she broke her neck, knocked her teeth out, took some kids down with her? And on and on.

The minutes whittled away, and it was finally show time. I sat perched on the edge of my seat, waiting for the kids to file onto the stage and take their places. I was ready to bound up there at any moment to help her, hold her hand, explain the situation to anyone who would listen. I hoped she would end up on the very first, lowest platform.

There she was, in her white blouse and black pants, striding up to the platform in her lilting gait. When she reached the first ledge, she stopped, knowing that she couldn’t just step up there like all the other kids. I held my breath. The music teacher, standing in front of the platform, noticed her hesitation, and held out a hand to help her up. She ended up on the second platform, on the left-hand side. Okay, she was up. Now she just had to not fall for the next ten minutes.

I didn’t take my eyes off her during their entire performance, willing her to stay upright. She sang, and didn’t fall. When it was time to go, the teacher helped her down, and she strode off the stage without a problem. I sagged back into my seat, relieved that she was off that tower of death.

The rest of the concert was enjoyable, and Lilly had a good time. Nothing went wrong. On the way home I asked her if she knew about the platform. “No, but I made it through,” was her reply. No big deal.  All she could talk about was the middle school boy who belted out “Thriller” with his group.

So the night was a success, but I was an emotional wreck. Near tears, in fact. Probably just the aftermath of my intense worry, but what if this was the rest of my life? I realize that every parent worries about their kids in some form or another, and that it never goes away. But it’s a bit overwhelming when you have to worry about the normal stuff that most people don’t give a second thought. Singing at a concert, for instance.

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What are you freaking out about now, Mom?

This week Lilly starts swimming at the YMCA with her class at school. Just send a towel and a bathing suit three times a week. No big deal, right? Right. When I first heard about it a few months ago, my first thought was “Oh shit.” Then my next thought was “How can we make this work?” Because all the “What ifs” started their chorus in my head. What if she slips and falls on the wet floor? What if she has a poo accident in the pool? What if she drowns, for god’s sake?

I have to say that the school staff have bent over backwards in making sure Lilly can take part in this. I’ve talked with the school nurse and her physical therapist, who talked to the principal, who talked to the Y staff; and they’ve found a great teacher’s aide who is willing to go with her to the pool and help her with just about everything. It helps to know that I’m not alone in this, and that the school staff loves her and will do what they can to make sure she’s included in a safe way.

Her first day of swimming was this past Monday. Everything went fine. She had a blast, and wishes she could go everyday.

I still worry. I always will. But I have to learn to trust that everything will be okay, that Lilly is a strong, determined little girl and that there are others who are willing to help.

Here’s a more constructive What if: What if I trusted in a supportive universe? There’s always hope, I guess.

 

 

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Let Her Shine

I had a conference with Lilly’s first grade teacher last week. Although I knew she was doing fine academically, there were a few things I wanted to check in on.

Although I could see from the papers she brought home from school that her handwriting has improved (she has weakened fine motor skills from SB), I wanted to hear from her teacher that she’s on track in that area. I thought maybe I’d have to get Lilly some Occupational Therapy through school to address her fine motor skills. But no; her teacher delivered a glowing report in all areas, including handwriting.

What I really wanted to know was how Lilly was doing socially. Does she have friends? Of course she does-I’ve heard her talk about them often. But I needed to hear it from the teacher.

Ever since Lilly started preschool at age 3, I’ve worried about this. She was shy at first, though clearly interested in other children. She’d gaze in awe at the other kids who flocked around her in her walker. Not only was she the new kid, but she had a cool blue walker that denoted her as different. At that age, different is good.

Bu the time she started kindergarten, the walker was gone, and though still a little shy, school had helped her to come out of her shell a little bit. Now in first grade, her teacher reports that she’s doing beautifully, interacting with her schoolmates, taking part in classroom activities, and not isolating herself in any way. There’s been no problems with teasing about diapers or braces or any other aspect of her disability.

And why would there be? They’re seven. If only we all loved and accepted each other like seven-year olds. Still, I can’t tell you how relieved I felt at hearing this.

I was a painfully shy child, and I remember the awkwardness it could bring, the feeling that I just didn’t belong anywhere. I was afraid, with her shy tendencies, that Lilly would have the same experiences I did, with the added “burden” of having a disability. I can’t bear the thought of her suffering any kind of social isolation, teasing, or bullying.

But at this point, that’s not happening. Lilly is far more outgoing than I ever was at this age. She’s fine.

I have to remember: Lilly is not me. She’s her own little person with her own personality, and I need to be careful not to project my own fears and neuroses onto her. I need to step back and let her shine.

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