Yesterday I received a text asking if Calder would be joining the youth group for trampoline jumping today.
Trampoline? Oh, Calder loves the trampoline. We actually had trampolines at home for him to release his energy when he was small. Trampolines with an "s" because they were so well-used they had to be replaced a few times.
It was later that I found out the youths were heading for a trampoline park. Oh, not in church premise but out for a few hours with people who, though kind, may not know him enough to take adequate care of him.
They did not know, for instance, that Calder needs reminding to finish his food. They did not know that he might linger in the toilet and not come out unless prompted. They did not know that he answers "yes" to almost any question. And they did not know that they can gently distract him if he does something inappropriate, like playing with his sandals or putting a finger in his mouth.
The protective instinct told me, in this case, to keep him with me where he's safe because I understand him. But there's another voice that questions: how are people to understand him if he's "protected" from them? Especially since World Autism Awareness Day is approaching - the best way for people to understand autism, isn't it for them to interact with one such as Calder?
There's another facet of consideration: Would the youths feel burdened about Calder tagging along? Perhaps the outing is not meant for a special-needs. Perhaps I as Calder's Mom should have the sense to relieve them of the obligation.
But I do want Calder to make friends, even though he communicates minimally. Since he enjoys jumping, perhaps this is a good opportunity for bonding with people who might become his friends, his protectors, his champions even.
So I decided to put my worries aside and let him go.
I communicated to the youth-in-charge: "Appreciate patient guidance so he doesn't feel lost." And was pleasantly surprised by the reply: "We'll do our best! Thanks for having faith in us." Oh, so while this parent was wondering if Calder was welcome, the other side was wondering if the parent might be able to let go.
The youth-in-charge asked me if I had instructions for the buddy he's going to assign Calder and I found myself typing:
"Speak to Calder gently.
He may need prompting to eat his food.
Please look for him if he doesn't come out of the toilet.
Look him in the eye.
So it was settled that Calder would be in the care of the youths who would give him his breakfast and his lunch, who would bring him to the toilet and who would jump with him in the trampoline park.
Even before the WhatsApp communication had come to an end, I had started praying for the arrangement to go well. I hope Calder wouldn't feel lost and wouldn't get lost. I made sure to charge the handphone in his haversack so his whereabouts could be tracked should he wander out of the trampoline park.
This morning, after releasing Calder to the youth group at 9am, I continued praying for the outing to go well. To my delight, the youth-in-charge texted me later that Calder seemed to have enjoyed himself. Sure enough, when I collected Calder from the youth room near 2pm, I was met with a radiant grin.
While waiting for Calder to return from the outing, I shared with Ethel my concerns and was surprised by her point of view -
Ethel: Oh, if Calder go for the trampoline park with them...
(I thought she's going to acquiesce that he would feel lost)
... he would unleash his true self and that might frighten some of them off.
(I think she meant he might start giggling and bouncing wildly.)
Me: Wow, that's a good one - "unleash his true self".
Me: Sounds powerful.
Ethel: Yah right?