Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Big Bad Wolf

"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.  
The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out."                  
-- Ray Bradbury

 Patrick has been working on a play through our local Art Center with about ten other kids.  They have met twice a week for the past four weeks with the goal of creating a script together, figuring out the blocking on stage and performing a play at the end of that short time.

Day one, the kids brainstormed Heroes and Villains.  The list of heroes included: Hercules, Wonder Woman, Goldilocks, Robin Hood and my personal favorite, Hermione Granger.  The list of villains went as follows: Cruella de Ville, The Wicked Witch, The Evil Queen, Captain Hook and The Big Bad Wolf.  Wanna take a guess who Patrick wanted to be?

Patrick, lately, has been having fun imitating the bad guy.  Whenever Caroline and Patrick are playing I can hear Patrick trying to set up the plot so that he can be the villain.  He's interested in seeing the other side of things...being a little dangerous, kind of shady, trying out those things he knows aren't acceptable anywhere else. He coveted the role of the Big Bad Wolf. 
His wish was granted.

He came home after only two days with an official script.  He carefully read through it and highlighted his lines.  He had them memorized that night. He couldn't wait until the next practice.

Patrick is thirteen.  Although he has Down Syndrome, there is no doubt that he is ready for more opportunities without me around.  He doesn't need me escorting him right to the edge of activities.  He knows it and I know it.  
The only problem is actually living it. 

It feels extremely weird to leave him alone waiting for his activity to begin.  I want to make sure it is all settled and comfy for him but he clearly doesn't want that.  He flicks me away like an annoying bug, telling me: "I know, mom, I know.  I'll see you in a little while.  I'm fine. You can go."

He's sooooo thirteen and I want to go, really I do.  I know he needs me to go. But there's no rulebook to follow in this world of teaching independence and bestowing confidence in your child with a disability.  It's hard enough to navigate with kids who are pretty typical. It's downright terrifying to let it unfold here with him.  What am I afraid of? The big, bad wolf?

If I want him to have a life of his own, I have to let him. I have to show him the cracks and stumbling blocks; point out the safe zones and sure fire ways to get help.  I try to think up unforeseen circumstances and give ideas of how to deal with them...but like my other two older kids I know I can't think of everything. I know this process is like shedding skin.  It comes off piece by piece...the new skeleton ready and strong.  We have to believe it is there and wait and watch.

I drop Patrick off at his class ten minutes early.  The universe has conspired to help me on my path of letting go -- Caroline has something that starts at the exact same time somewhere else and we need a bit of traveling time to get there.  I try to linger. Patrick does the teen brush off. He has already started talking to a friendly face. I tell this other child my situation and he  lets me know that he will hang with Patrick until things start.

I sigh and head out...wishing I could be in two places at once. Wishing for some sort of secret camera to transmit data to me...wishing I could have one for my son at college too.  

But what's the point of freedom if you have a leash?

We have to put ourselves out there.  Out in the big bad world with the villains.  We have to see if we have the hero within us and afford ourselves the opportunity to let that hero out.  The sad truth is that the hero never shines if his mother is hanging around.
Or maybe that's not so sad.

If I want my son to have dreams and passions and hopes of his own, then I need to walk the walk.  Although I will admit that Rapunzel's tower is making a lot of sense to me right about now.

So, Patrick worked with kids and together they wrote a script.  They had heroes and villains and Patrick was the Big Bad Wolf.  He rattled off his lines at home and together we searched for a legit wolf mask -- finding the perfect blend of frightening and realistic at our local Target store.  He loved it!

Yesterday, after only a handful of practices, was the performance. No one knew what to expect.  Caroline, Mary Kate and Sarah (Patrick's aide from school) showed up to a minimalist set and some folding chairs.

The kids begin.  It's a clever script with twists and turns and a general feeling that the good guys might not be all that good and that the bad guys might be nicer than you think.  The villains vamp it up with a certain wolf very in touch with his angry side.  He growled.  He smirked.  He was Bad with a capital "B".

The show crescendoed with a wild fight scene.  The lights were blinking on and off.  The hand to hand combat was hilarious -- suddenly the action stopped.  The wolf was gone.  
In his place was Prince Charming. Magically, he is transformed.
He rises from the attack and whips his red robe and looks majestic and strong.
The audience, happily surprised, roars its approval.

A hush settles over the crowd and the last few lines are said.  The details might be missing but the message is loud and clear.  
We all have a beast we are fighting. We all have something charming within. It's our own journey to discover it...our own life's work.  

No mommy can do it for us.

And the bigger message that hit me like a set of high beams: maybe this group of kids first saw Patrick as some sort of monster.  Maybe this group wanted him growling and fierce. Could it be that by working alongside on a project together that they could finally see the prince within?  Aren't they the ones who allowed the script to have a happier, nobler ending?  No adults wrote the script or acted it out.  It was a group of kids who together, inclusively, found their way...a group of kids who acknowledged the villain in each of us and the hero ready to transform. 

Notice: no mommy was a main character.

I'm getting the message.  My job is to be in the show up.  My job is to provide the opportunity to stumble -- the chance to rise from defeat, a prince.  The challenge is to stay in the wings...letting the beauty spill out and relishing the view. 
I'm up for the challenge...ready to find my own inner hero and begin the transformation from mommy to Wonder Woman -- or better yet, Hermione.  Now I just need to find my wand.


  1. That was so beautiful, dear friend. You may not have found your inner hero, but you have long been one of mine.

  2. My goodness, motherhood is tough. And beautiful. This one is a hard lesson, but such an important one. I remember needing to do my own thing to figure out who I was. I am glad I have you to talk to when I eventually (soon hopefully) have to make these parenting decisions. I am so grateful. And I bet Patrick made a fantastic wolf...and an even better prince charming.