His new bus driver is a neat lady. She “gets” her charges, and is one of those smiling, easy-going types who deals very well with the extra noise and bother her charges make. Score! (We had some issues with the last bus company…among them the fact that the [substitute] driver recently let him out AND DROVE THE @*^&@ AWAY YES REALLY!) (I mean!!!! Would you do that with even a “typically developing” four year old? “OK, out you go sweetie, say hi to mom for me?” and VAROOM, off you go in a cloud of diesel?! Let alone an autistic four year old?! The daycare called to tell me they were looking out the window to watch for the bus and saw him wandering around in their driveway…we all nearly dropped our teeth, and some feisty calls were made to the transportation department believe-you-me…)
We dropped off his sisters and then drove him to his new school.
He. Was. SOOOOOO. Excited!!!
He recognized the school immediately. As we got out of the van, he tried to just take off running for the building (straight into the street, sigh…). I grabbed hold of his collar and held onto it as he twisted and yelled. Not with anger or frustration, but excitement. He got so excited he forgot himself, entirely and actually held my hand as we charged the school.
That’s right. He forgot that he loathes hand-holding in all its forms.
“C’mon, Mommy! GO DAT WAY!!” he shouted, tugging on my hand. His little fingers wriggled in mine, unable to contain their excitement.
“OK, all right, here we go!”
“Oh! Dat Ms. Crystal’s books!” he shouted, pointing at some books on the table in the conference room we passed through. Ms. Crystal is his teacher from his old program, and I’m a little worried that he’s going to miss her. With typical autistic mien, he kind of shrugs and ignores her when she’s actually there, but at home talks about her endlessly, asked to see her almost daily over the summer, and has memorized a lot about her. Ms. Crystal is pretty, Ms. Crystal laughs, Ms. Crystal has brown hair, Ms. Crystal sings songs…it’s very cute. Four year old lurve, there’s nothing quite like it.
ANYWAY. I agreed that those were the same books Ms. Crystal had in her classroom, made him put them back on the table (I think he was going to take them back to Ms. Crystal), and we walked through the building and out into the playground.
Gentle readers, it was a Herculean task to get the Captain to keep on walkin’, once he saw the playground.
But in due course and with a great deal of diplomatic negotiation on my part, we arrived at his classroom. His new teacher greeted him, and showed him where to put his backpack…well, showed us where to put his backpack. Captain Adventure was already exploring the room.
“Oooo! ‘Puter! I wan’play GAME, mommy!” he bellowed, followed immediately by, “Oh! What DAT?! DAT a GAME!”
“What DAT?! Oh, is CARS!”
“What DAT?! OH! MOH CARS!”
“What DAT?! OH! Is…is…TWAIN!!!! CHOO-CHOO!!!!! YESH!!!!!”
He bumbled around the classroom touching everything as his new classmates arrived (eyeing him nervously…I think they could sense his Alexander-the-Greatness…), exploring everything with a big grin on his face. Finally, he was getting to conquer this new place!
And then it was time for mom and dad to leave. Here we go. This is it. It’s all fun and games until Mommy leaves the building…
“Hey, Captain Adventure, can I have a bye-bye hug?” Daddy asked.
“No,” Captain Adventure replied shortly. Uh, yeah, he’s not big on the whole public displays of affection thing, both because of the autism and because, hello, I am four years old and also I am busy. Daddy laughed.
“Just one bye-bye hug?” he wheedled.
So Daddy swooped in and gave him a quick hug anyway and a peck on the head. ARGH! PARENTS!! Captain Adventure looked him square in the eye, frowned, and pointed at the door. “Go DAT way, Daddy!”
“Can Mommy have a hug?” I asked, kneeling down and opening my arms. His eyes became slightly troubled (wait…I don’t think I authorized you leaving…), and he turned around and backed into my arms, half-sitting on my bended knee. He tolerated my embrace for a few precious seconds, his cheek soft against mine, his freshly shampooed hair sweet against my nose.
“OK. Go dat way, Mommy!” he commanded, pointing at the door. Ah. Well. You are dismissed!
“OK. Have a fun day, sweetheart,” I said lightly, my eyes prickling and stinging. Aw, damn it, not with the crying-thing again. Have a good day. Have a productive day. Have a settling-in-just-fine day…
“Yesh. Is fun day,” he agreed. “Go dat way.”
“OK. See you after school.”
“OK.” Geez, will this woman never just shut up and go?!
We walked out into the cool morning air. We talked about many things over the drive back home and our quick breakfast at Jack in the Box: The economy both global and local, our own situation, his job situation (bad), my job situation (worse), what we might do next, the new school, the old school, the girls, the upcoming trip.
He had a great day. The bus took him back to his daycare in the afternoon, where he frolicked happily until we came to pick him up.
“Is your new school fun?” I asked as we sat on the sofa that evening with a brightly colored book of colors, shapes and simple words. (The learning opportunities, they never end around here…)
“Yesh,” he said happily, then jabbed a finger at his book. “STAR! BLUE STAR! Dat right! Good job!”
“What did you do today?” This is a toughie for him. Usually I just get a blank stare when I ask him such ‘open ended’ questions…he doesn’t know how to start, can’t think of a single thing to say…
“Oooooh…Is…dere…a ball today. Yesh. With Dora. And Boots. Is this way,” he held up his hand in an “OK” gesture and looked through the circle of his fingers. “Two ones!” he corrected, adding his other hand and peering at me through the finger-binoculars.
“Oh, like this?” I asked, mimicking him. He giggled.
“Yesh. And is ball…and is playground…did coloring today? Yesh. Is coloring today…is puzzle today? Yesh. Is puzzle today. Is snack today? Yesh. Is snack today.”
“Are you going to go again tomorrow?” I asked.
So casual. Yes, of course, silly woman. I like my new realm. They have puzzles, and snacks, and a kick-butt playground.
I’m sure there will be days in the near future when he says no. He won’t want to go for whatever reason. He’ll be tired of the routine, he’ll disagree with their assessment of what he ought to be doing, he’ll just feel like hanging around the Den with Mommy instead. The bus will stop being “cool” and the snacks will lose their sparkle and even the awesome new playground will, over time, become too small and ordinary.
But his first day was awesome, and he was eager to climb into the bus and head off again this morning.
And I slept pretty darned well last night, to boot.