I didn’t know exactly where or when Wil would get stuck at the party, but I knew it was a possibility. The graduate was one of his Connect mentors that he admires greatly. As Wil is used to her individualized attention at school, I knew he would expect that level of attention at her party, too. I explained — every day for a week leading up to her party — that there would be lots of guests. That she would be very happy to see him, and that she would also have many other guests to greet.
As Wil gets older, experiences like these are valuable life lessons for him to learn from; as his reactions are valuable life lessons for me too (and reinforce the value of our close-knit community).
When we arrived, Wil received a very warm welcome from Victoria. He understood she couldn’t spend the entire party with him, so he did well joining me to get a plate of food and sat down with friends to eat. Then, upon his own initiative, Wil walked over to join an ongoing game of cornhole.
Wil has matured a lot this year, and I watched him play impressed with his newfound independence and self-initiative. I didn’t relax too much, however, as I knew the situation could change at any moment.
Whenever we enter a situation Wil has built up great anticipation for, he can get stuck. His anticipation and excitement build to a point of overwhelm. His way of coping is to sit down on the spot or flee the scene. When he becomes overwhelmed, all he really needs is time to unravel his emotions. The challenge is that we don’t always have the time (we’ve almost missed plane flights), and I can’t always see from the outside what is going on inside his mind.
And just like that, Wil took off toward the front yard. As I had one eye on him from the table, I was hot on his trail. He found a quiet spot near the front porch.
Knowing he needed time, we sat down for a moment together. Then I tried singing a Luke Bryan song with him. He told me to stop (I’m not a good singer). I asked him to do a silly dance with me, but he didn’t move. Even a bribe of a Sprite was met with a head shake.
I racked my brain for more motivators. Anyone at the party would have been happy to help if they knew we were in the front yard (and I’d left my car keys and phone on the table).
Then I heard voices near us. Two men were now in the front driveway. I recognized one of the voices.
“Hey Jason!” I called out.
“Hey Christie! Hey Wil!”
I asked Jason if his wife, Melanie, was there. Melanie Woods used to babysit Wil when he was a preschooler. The two formed a strong bond and to this day Wil calls her “my Melanie” and he is her Wil.
“Yes, Melanie is here,” Jason said. “Right around the back.”
“Wil, your Melanie is here! Let’s go see her.” To my relief, Wil took my hand and walked back to the party. When we found Melanie she immediately gave Wil a hug. I asked Melanie if she could walk Wil to the car while I thanked Victoria, and grabbed my car keys and phone.
Wil has many stuck moments on a day-to-day basis, which is normalcy for us, but not familiar to most. As I watched Wil and Melanie walk off easily together, and said good-bye to friends, I was flooded with gratitude for the support that surrounds us.
When I met Wil at the car he said, “Sprite now, Mom!”