Colin Courageous

My son humbles me greatly.

If only I had an ounce of his special brand of courage – I could leap mountains.

Earlier today, Andi and I took a trip to Colin’s elementary school to watch our blossoming second-grader take another huge leap forward in his everyday struggle with a significant social-emotional developmental delay. I’ve written about this before, a little over a year ago, so if this comes as new news, I encourage you to click this link and read that post first. As modest as I try to be most every day, I can’t refrain from calling that my best writing ever.

It ought to be. He helped me write that tale.

But as many of you know, Colin was diagnosed fairly early with a condition that falls somewhere on the wide-ranging Autistic spectrum. He probably edges more towards the Asperger’s end; as verbal communication – while once a concern – is a problem no longer. He’ll give you a full Grand Inquisition and he loves to interact with adults. And in recent years, he’s made major strides in hanging with his peers; engaging them on a more frequent social basis. Although, it’s still not perfect and likely won’t ever be. He’ll have what I like to call “extreme shyness” at points through his life.

He’s come this far by carrying a major load on his tiny shoulders. And with loving care and assistance from his family and friends – and an absolutely amazing staff in our awesome school system – Colin has made those leaps and bounds we knew he could and would eventually hurdle.

But this thing is not licked and likely never will be. Certainly not fully. It’s as our pediatrician once said – “He’s odd“. This was in reaction to our pleading, imploring cries to tell us what was going on with our son. We had choked out the word “Autism” – pushing it past tears until it grabbed hold of syllables and emerged from the stifling silence – a shattering shot in the dark – and this doc granted this diagnosis to help ease our troubled minds.

And it turns out he was right. The world is full of odd people. Odd people who help make the world so much better than the mundane nine-to-five it can sometimes grind to. “I think he’ll always be a little odd… but that’s not a bad thing” was the official diagnosis that day. And somehow, that made things so much brighter.

So, it was earlier today that I took a little siesta from work and journeyed with Andi to the school to watch Colin and his Second Grade class perform their early Spring recital – “Grateful for the Little Things“. An apt title, indeed.

Colin’s been in this school system for 4 years counting preschool. We’ve done this many times before but today was different. As Andi and I entered the auditorium, a slight stirring of butterflies fluttered between us.

As I said, we’ve been to plenty of Colin’s recitals and pageants before and we’ve grown accustomed to seeing our little man brave it out – perched behind a classmate or two, trying to hide, mouthing the words, rocking ever so slightly and he just wishing upon a star that his public spectacle would end soon. And as much as it can tug at your heart to see him up there under 20 minutes of slight distress, we know that each time he gets up there – surrounded by his smiling, singing class – that’s real therapy that you can’t buy in a book.

After all – once upon a time this little boy wouldn’t say “Boo!” to a classmate. Now he’s got a best friend in Madison who he chatters and laughs with all day long. Ahhh, young love.

So – these little bouts of stage fright aren’t about to scar him for life. Each time out, he gets to see it’s not as bad as he feared – even if you can always tell which day is recital day when he emerges from his bunk bellowing “THIS IS GONNA’ BE THE WORST DAY EVER!!!” And of course, it never is. It’s over before he knows it.

But today held much greater promise. And boasted a much higher degree of difficulty.

This time, Colin actually volunteered to take on one of the six or several little speaking parts they pepper throughout the program. In fact, he grabbed the very first line – and over the last few weeks, he has practiced in secret; memorizing each syllable.

This morning – as Andi and I beamed – we watched our little man step onto the platform. He stood front and center – nowhere to hide. That’s a thought that finally dawned upon him shortly after gracing the stage; as distress lines did begin to etch their worrying way across his countenance, the longer the show went.

But in the beginning he flashed us a smile. And when prompted, he made a beeline to the podium where he pulled the mike in real close, lowered his voice a few octaves and breathlessly flew through his line – setting a new land speed record for spoken word.

When he was done, Andi and I looked at each other – caught in the same moment. We couldn’t understand half of what he said but we felt the full meaning of every single one of those blessed slurred syllables.

In front of a packed auditorium of parents, teachers, siblings and peers – Colin stepped up and did what the greatest performers always do.

He made that line his own.

Comments now closed (6)

  • What a sweet post! Thanks for sharing another day in Colin’s story!

  • Ed, I loved this piece, maybe more than the one about Colin that you referenced. I could see you and Andrea in the chairs, could feel your pulling for Colin across the space between you, could feel his anxiety and also his pride at seeing you both there…knowing that you’re his safety. It is so hard to allow our children to hurdle over their own mountains, but there is nothing like seeing them accomplish something hard on their own. His foundation of love and support allowed him to do it…good for you guys! Thanks for a tearjerker to start my day!