Tonight Griffin had his preschool graduation. I have been very anxious about this ever since I realized that Jared would be gone for the graduation.
I kept having flashbacks to the Christmas program. Griffin had a major meltdown when we tried to leave him with his classmates so we could take our seats in the gym to watch the program. His issue was that all the kids met in the other classroom, not the classroom where Griffin's class meets. It was an unfamiliar environment, and he wasn't in the mood to stay there. That was one of those occasions where I was sweating in all my crevices and trying (unsuccessfully) not to cry.
I started talking to Griffin about the graduation about a week or so ago. First he told me he didn't want to be on stage with everyone looking at him. This is a common theme with him. Then he just said he didn't want to do it. Eventually, he even articulated that it made him sad because he's going to miss his friends. Outwardly I tried to talk him through it, but inwardly I was doing a little happy dance. Why? First, because he was able to tell me what he was feeling. Second, because my little boy with social struggles has made friends and is sad to not see his friends anymore.
I prayed about the graduation, and
My pleas must have had an impact because three of the grandparents came, and they were all early and super helpful. Nolan and Nora enjoyed the evening as well because they got to spend lots of time with grandparents.
And Griffin. My Griffers. Little Griffy.
He wore the light blue button up shirt that makes him look like a little man. We negotiated, and he wore the shoes I wanted and I let him skip wearing his tie. We both got in the car happily and set off to the school.
When we walked in the gym, one of his two teachers came up to him right away to take him back to his class. He didn't cling to me. He didn't cry. He didn't whine about going with the rest of the kids. He took her hand and walked back to the classroom that's not his so he could get ready for the ceremony.
When the kids paraded up to the stage, Griffin smiled and waved at me. When they lined up on stage, Griffin did let the boy next to him know that he needed to scoot over about three inches to be on his actual spot.
And then he spotted me and smiled and waved.
He sang every song. He did every motion. He stayed focused and did everything he was supposed to do. And all the songs had lyrics about how special the kids are and how they can be anything God wants them to be.
I'm sure those songs tugged at every parent's heart, but I have to say that the songs were especially significant to me in light of Griffin's Asperger's. He truly is a very special child, and I know God has special plans for him. I was overwhelmed with pride and joy as I watched my son doing things that most kids did right from the start of the year. He went along with what was expected, and he did it with a smile.
When I got home and looked through the pictures my dad took (while I recorded video so Jared can see it later), I noticed a little girl crying in a few of the pictures. I hadn't even noticed her tonight. I felt sorry for her parents. I've been those parents. I've felt disappointed and frustrated as I wondered why my child can't just sing the songs and do the motions and let a program or ceremony be a fun time. I've felt the pressure for my child to perform and wondered what all the other parents thought of my child's behavior.
Now I know. All the other parents were so focused on their own child that they didn't notice mine. I know because tonight I was so busy beaming as I watched Griffin that I never even noticed the little girl two spots away who was having a rough time.
After the graduation ceremony and heart-wrenching slide show set to the song "Let Them Be Little," we were able to get a picture of Griffin with his two teachers. These ladies are truly extraordinary. I don't even have words to express the impact they've had on our family through Nolan's year with them and now Griffin's.
Then we headed to the cafeteria for cookies and punch. While we were there, I was able to chat with Griffin's teachers a bit. They remarked on how much progress he has made over this year and how amazing it is that he's come so far. Griffin had told his teacher that graduation makes him sad, and she explained to him that it can make mommies sad too. They talked about starting kindergarten and how some kids don't mind it at all and some feel a bit sad or afraid.
The director of the preschool program complimented Griffin and told me some very positive and encouraging things about him. I just felt like those comments started to even the scales after every time I've had someone tell me that Griffin had a hard time doing something or got sad or just couldn't fit in with his peers. After being told that a class at church "just might not work out for Griffin," I now had someone whose opinion I value highly tell me that I'm doing a good job with Griffin.
Finally. Progress. Accomplishments. Kind words.
As we were leaving, Griffin overheard his other teacher say, "Griffin is such a good boy." He lit up and turned to me. He said, "Mom, she said I'm a good boy! I don't like getting in trouble and so I always try to be the best boy that I can be, and she said I'm a good boy!"
Oh, those kind words are just as good for him as they are for me.
If we hadn't gone through the struggles, I never would have appreciated tonight as much as I do. None of the other parents knew what a big deal it was for Griffin to stand on stage and sing with the other kids. When there was a technical issue with getting the next song started, and the whole gym filled with concerns and nervous chatter, I watched my boy as he stood calmly. After he received his little diploma and hugged his teacher, he was put in a different spot on stage. I watched and could practically read his thoughts as he processed the situation. And then he chose just to stand in the spot that wasn't his. And he smiled and waved at me.
When Griffin struggles to start a new school year, or when he has a hard time smoothing out conflicts with friends, remember the graduation. When people don't understand him and don't know how to hide their annoyance, remember the teachers who believed in him. When he has a meltdown and chooses the most inconvenient times to not follow the crowd, remember him saying "I feel nervous" and "I feel sad" tonight. When loneliness threatens to overwhelm you, remember the grandparents who showed up, helped out, and lavished love on your precious little ones. When something is new and hard and scary, remember that it, too, will end in a graduation.