And I had a dream, it blows the autumn through my head,
It felt like the first day of school,
but I was going to the moon instead,
And I walked down the hall
with the notebook they got for me,
My dad led me through the house,
my mom drank instant coffee,
And I knew that I would crash,
but I didn't want to tell them,
There are just some moments when your family makes sense,
They just make sense.
So I raised up my arms, and my mother puts the sweater on,
We walked out on the dark and frozen grass,
the end of summer.
It's the end of summer,
When you send your children to the moon.
Dar Williams, The End of the Summer
We made it through the summer that was packed with new experiences and big changes and came out just fine.
But along the way, I kept steeling myself, preparing for worst-case scenarios that never materialized. This is my twisted strategy for ensuring I'll either be 1) happy to be wrong or 2) disappointed, but smug - but never, ever taken by surprise.
Ben made it through mainstream summer camp and swimming lessons at his pre-school without the help of an aide, even changing into his swim suit and dressing himself each day, usually coming home with an inside-out and backwards shirt to prove it.
He took to swimming like, yes, a fish, and even swam fearlessly in the ocean for the first time during a trip to San Diego.
Ben attended two weeks of "Itty Bitty Arts Camp" run by an extraordinary organization called Glitter and Razz here in Oakland.
While Glitter and Razz's theater camps are not designed for kids with special needs per se, they have good reputation for, well, speaking French (or at least French-Canadian.)
The weekend before he told us he didn't want to go, and I assumed that Chris would have to be with him each day, cajoling him to participate and bargaining with him every five minutes to stay for just a little while longer.
But the first morning, he skipped into class and told the first teacher he met, "I was nervous, but now I'm okay." and proceeded to tell Chris, "You can go home now."
And despite the fact that his participation in group activities was a little spotty without an aide to guide him, he seemed to enjoy the experience, going gladly each day and performing in the Friday afternoon plays each week.
I appreciated the fact that no one at Glitter and Razz seemed to mind too much when Ben decided that he just needed to lie down on the stage or walk in circles, completely take over the narration, or provide unscripted foreshadowing.
"Don't worry! You're going to be saved later by an airplane!" Ben shouted from offstage to a character who had just been captured by an evil dog.
Ben, as a warrior, confronts the ice snake and saves the princesses
This was also a summer of saying "good-bye" and big, scary changes.
Ben was processing his departure from the two schools he had attended for the last three years in direct and less direct ways.
"Are we ever going to go back to Growing Light and Tilden again?" he asked, as the finality was hitting him late this summer.
"Maybe someday, just to visit." we told him.
And one night, he cried and cried, but in a controlled having-a-good-cry way that's unusual for him.
He kept putting his beloved Monkey in the garbage can and saying:
"I'll miss you so much. I love you so much. But now it's time to say goodbye."
Monkey didn't actually stay in the garbage permanently, but I think it was Ben's way of working through his sadness - through a kind of performance - about all the goodbyes that were happening.
And last night, when I reminded him that we wouldn't be hanging out with him at Kindergarten, but dropping him off, he started to cry again.
"I don't want to go to Kindergarten."
"What do you think will happen at Kindergarten?"
"I'm worried the classroom will be too noisy...I'm worried the classroom will be too busy...I'm worried the classroom will be too scary."
He cried for a long time, but he was able to listen and process with me and something must have seeped in, or he was able to work through a lot of his anxiety because this morning, he didn't fuss or stall or cry one bit.
We all got in the car and headed to the moon.
I mean Kindergarten.
And when we got there, Ben checked out the books in the classroom and must have decided it was okay.
We started to leave and as I was heading out the door, I blew him a kiss and he jumped up.
"Wait!" he yelled.
Uh oh, I thought. Here it comes.
"I forgot to hug you!"
And we hugged, and Chris and I left and walked together across the blacktop, across the surface of the moon, and headed home.