I cried all the way home from taking Asher to school. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” blasted from the stereo. I turned the volume up more as I focused through the tears.
A few years ago, Asher was dismissed from (kicked out of) a children’s program. His behavior was too challenging. I was devastated. We left the church. I realized Asher would most likely never be allowed to be a part of a program where they had shows and costumes. It broke my heart because these are the memories from my childhood that always put a smile on my face. He would have no such memories. It took me a good year not to want to punch someone. It took a year more not to want to curse the names of those responsible. Now, I don’t care. (See a past post: When Dreams Die)
Someone wanted my son to be a part of a program. They not only wanted him there, they made every effort to make sure he could be a part. He was accepted and embraced!
We had tried the Merrimack Hall program for special needs children when Asher was 3. He was not ready, and I was afraid to even try again. This year, I enrolled him in the summer camp program.
The whole week was full of dancing and singing and art. At the end of the week, they put on a show for the parents. It was AMAZING! I cried through the whole show. There my little boy was, and as I thought, he was smashing! He danced and smiled and did exactly what he was not suppose to do. Everyone was ok with it! He grabbed one of the scarves from a previous dance and twirled and smiled and shook his booty. I thought he stole the show.
His reaction to being there sparked another round of tears for mommy. His excitement was contagious! Every day, he would act out all of the activities he enjoyed. There was no doubt: he would be enrolled in the fall/spring program.
Merrimack pairs each special needs child with a helper. Asher has 2 helpers: 1 for his tumbling class and 1 for his dance class. He loves these girls! They love him back. It is beautiful.
Because I am sometimes a bit slow on the uptake, and my emails from the hall were going to my junk inbox, I didn’t know about their Christmas show until 2 weeks before it was to be performed. Asher had been absent from class for almost a month due to one sickness after another. I was in the dark.
I wish I was a good enough writer to put into words how excited I was when I learned of his Christmas show. The program director sent out videos so we could rehearse the dance. It was so cute!!
Then, because this is my first year with the program, I found out they had costumes. I was handed his costume at the end of class on Monday.
It was PRECIOUS!!! How can this dream be so perfect? This is so far beyond a little local church show. This is the real thing. This is high class production. Not one detail is missed for these children. They get the best.
On Wednesday, I got another costume.
Are you trying to dehydrate me with all this crying, Merrimack Hall?
The costume was, again, PRECIOUS. My little boy would be all dressed up and doing a dance for people who pay to see the show. A quality show with trained helpers and leaders whom accept my little boy.
The surprises kept coming when, after Wednesday rehearsal, Asher’s helper and he showed me his dance. He was so good at it! He knew all of the moves! The dance teacher made sure I knew which video to watch and the song to listen to.
One day, on the way to school, I surprised Asher with the song blaring over the speakers. In the rear view mirror, his smile lit up the sun.
I kept it together until I dropped him off.
Once he was safely in his teacher’s care, I turned the song back on and let the joy roll down my cheeks.
What people don’t understand about parenting a special needs child is this:
We want the same thing for our children all other parents want for their children. We want them to be loved and accepted.
In this world, it is not often the case. We have to deal with segregation and frustration on a daily basis. It is agony for a parent. We see our children and know their challenges.
But, we also see billions of reasons you should love our child.
The day of the dress rehearsal, my son had a tooth loose. It became more and more loose as the day progressed. By the time we reached Merrimack, the tooth was barely hanging on. He was frightfully frustrated by it all.
When we dropped him off with his helper, he was in no mood to dance. He would take his hat from his costume and throw it into the trash…over and over. His helper looked a bit fearful as we departed. We were not allowed in dress rehearsal.
When we returned, Asher proudly smiled big to show off his missing tooth. “It came out after tumbling,” the helper told us. This was something to celebrate! I had been so worried the tooth would hang on through the show the following night. The worries were gone!
I made sure I wore my fancy clothes, curled my hair and carefully applied make-up. My husband dressed up as well. The night was too important to our family for carelessness.
I dropped Ash off in the dance hall, hugged his neck, and quietly spoke, “break a leg!” I dared not let him hear me. It would have been too hard to explain.
My husband and I found our seats. I had my phone camera ready and my professional camera ready. I’m certain I went a bit overboard, but, oh well. One must do what one must do.
Asher was in the 3rd group. He did a great job! I was surprised how nervous he looked. The big overtures he made while practicing at home were blanketed in fear as he made his way through the choreography. His helper later told me that when he saw all of the people in the audience, he said, “Oh man!” It was a surprise to him. But, instead of giving into his fear, he gave way to his training and marched onto the stage. This is part of learning how to be a performer, and I was THRILLED! He did all of his moves, and looked as cute as a button. It took everything in me not to run onto the stage, gather him in my arms, and tell him how proud I was!
His tumbling came 2 acts later. Again, he did remarkably well!
After the show, I rushed in to see him. He was full of life and happiness. He handed roses to his helpers, and we went onto the stage to meet Santa and take a few photos.
The whole night was magical.
Merrimack Hall has brought our family a warmth I never thought we would experience. It is a place Asher is excited to visit. He absolutely loves it, and I never have to reason with him to get into the car. He bounces right out the door.
Merrimack makes certain the children and adults receive the best. There are no short cuts…Only quality instruction and shows.
I’m crying again. It is the weird crying laughing thing going on.
As I am writing this, I have “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” playing. I have to stop writing every now and again to wipe my nose.
I am so proud of my son. I would not change one thing about him. Merrimack Hall wouldn’t either. They love him exactly as he is. He is not to change one little bit. Open arms and smiles greet Asher each time he walks in the door.
By the end of the night, I had black tear lines dripping over my cheeks.
Because, more than once, my child was not wanted. He was not loved. He was cast aside.
Now, he is twirling around in happiness and acceptance.
Asher is the best person I’ve known. Merrimack Hall plans to let the world know, and I will cry happy tears as he shines.