It’s a Christmas miracle really. When I pause from the busy-ness of life to ponder the fact that my highly anxious Asperger’s son tried out for and landed the role of Rudolph in the school’s Christmas program, I really understand how far we’ve come.
Although my son, “A”, is talkative (often times too much) and animated, he is actually quite anxious especially in front of crowds. Early on in our journey with Asperger’s, his anxiety was hard to manage. Once, my son had developed a white head on his shoulder, of all places, and it was getting large and red and increasingly uncomfortable for him. Being the helpful mom that I am (facetious), I offered to “pop it” for him. As I approached him with my fingers poised, he fainted! Luckily I caught him in time. Lesson learned.
As he grew older, the anxiety would manifest itself in other ways. Periodically our school would put on shows for the parents and each child would be required to perform, either in an individual number or with their class. “A” always showed increasing anxiety leading up to those shows even though he only was in the class act. His tics would come back, amplified, and he’d have trouble sleeping. Of course, this led to general uneasiness and unacceptable behavior and he would be difficult to parent. Then during the performance he would tic so much that it would distract from the hand movements and gestures as part of their routine. But we always encouraged him by reminding him that each parent in the audience was only focused on their own child so no one would even notice his tics.
You could imagine my surprise when he came home and announced he was going to try out for the part of Rudolph in the school’s Christmas production. Like every protective mom of an Aspie, I encouraged him but I also prepared him for potential failure. “Do your best but if you don’t get the part it’s ok! I’m proud of you for trying!” Everyday I’d drop him off at school and he’d run to his music teacher (the director) and tell her that he wanted to be Rudolph. She would remind him that he had to audition for the part but he was welcome to try out. But he wouldn’t let up! Whenever he’d run into her on campus he’d remind her he wanted to be Rudolph. One day he came home from school and said that he badgered her so much that she said “You’re stressing me out! The audition is next week. Wait patiently!” (God bless our teachers).
So as audition day approached, he learned the lines and we would practice them. “Slow down!” I would say as he rushed through the lines he had memorized from repeating them over and over again. “You need to speak clearly so the audience can understand you”.
“Is this funny for grown-ups? Cause it doesn’t seem funny to me” he said after one rehearsal. “Yes, grown-ups will get it. The way you delivered the lines was perfect!”
I guess I had assumed he wouldn’t get the part because I was shocked at his announcement that he did! He was so excited! He and another classmate both auditioned and “A” was told he got the part because he was animated which came off as really funny. The other boy congratulated him on this accomplishment and “A” recognized it as a kind gesture. He also contemplated the fact that he probably wouldn’t have congratulated the other boy if the results were reversed. So it was a great learning experience all around.
So now, as the “doubting Thomas” turned proud mom-of-a-thespian, it was my duty to come up with an Aspie friendly costume that wouldn’t exacerbate any potential tics that may arise due to his pre-show anxiety. I searched far and low (well, online) and came up with the costume. I even reached far into the cob-webbed arts and crafts part of my brain and made the “reindeer bling” from scratch. We practiced nightly to get the lines and hand motions just right. We even did a few dress rehearsals at home so he could get used to the sensations of the costume, the noise of the necklace and the pressure of the antlers on his head. His confidence soared.
The show is tomorrow. He will be doing 3 performances during the day for all the parents as they rotate through the school at their assigned times.
The challenge: since tomorrow is show day and lessons will not be taught, teachers will be hosting holiday breakfast parties (full of the typically glutinous sugary treats we feed our school children at parties – Ugghhh). If he pumps himself full of those treats, he will be setting himself up for increased anxiety and untoward reactions. So I’ve offered to make Gluten-Free Snowmen cupcakes so he can participate in the party.
I bought a yellow cake box mix that is gluten-free. I’ve never worked with it so I was pleasantly surprised at how they looked out of the oven. I’m not gonna lie, after initially mixing the flour with the oil and water, the consistency had me worried.
Overall, they turned out pretty well. I tasted one plain and it was light, airy and not sickeningly sweet. I enjoyed them and will purchase this brand again. As for the snowmen, they are full of sugar (icing + the embellishments) so we are cheating a bit on the diet. But he is thrilled to get to eat something fun at the party.
Today, I’ve reflected on the fact that I shouldn’t, either overtly or subliminally, put any expectations or limitations on what my son is capable of doing. I should continue to encourage him and instill in him that he is capable of doing ANYTHING he sets his mind to. After all, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! Phillipians 4:13