Once upon a time, I would have loved to go to the circus. (That was when I was a child.) Once upon a time, I would have scoffed at the idea of going to the circus. (That was when I was too enlightened to go to a circus.) Once upon a time, I was shut out from the circus. (That was when I could not go if I wanted to because my son could NOT handle it.) Once upon a time, I went to the circus. (And here is what happened...)
My son looked up as we were driving down the freeway and said, "I want to go to the circus." I looked back quickly and said, "What?!" He repeated himself, and I believed my ears as I scanned the area and saw the billboard. "Okay!", I yelled. Even if I had known the circus was coming to town, I doubt I would have asked Alex to go. I had gotten so habituated to his turning down flat every offer of anything most kids would die for, that I had all but given up. He is eight, and had never been to an arena event. Had no interest when Barney came to town, or Thomas the Train. No Walk With the Dinosaurs, or Wiggles concert. Not even a concert of the Lollypop variety. We did get through a few Movies in the Park, but that has been about it for kid events. Not that I have been that sad. All these things are usually too consumer oriented, too expensive, too crowded, too long of a wait, too loud, or all of the above. I thought I was okay about missing all that. I would hear about other families going to those events and figure I hadn't really missed much. Not really. Probably sucked anyways. Would have been a nightmare if we had gone. No worries. I'm cool.
All those "too's" fell by the wayside when my fabulous boy spied that sign on his own, read it on his own, and made his own decision. I was pumped. But also cautious. A rather loud voice in my head piped up with, "You are going to have to leave early. He might not even make it through the door. He has run from every clown he ever met. You must be nuts." I tried very hard to ignore that voice, but I was torn, so I dragged my feet. Weeks went by. By circus weekend Friday the tickets were still not bought. Kevin had to go on an adventure to secure them, and bless him, he did. We were both prepared that if we had to bail, we would just consider the $35 buck a donation to the Shriners. Alex was a bit of a mess Circus morning. He was trying to back out, and we were not letting him. I thought of Temple Grandin's advice that you must stretch your kiddo with autism, and I thought about the PRT strategy of offering choices. So, I told him he had to go, but he could choose if we stayed for half of it, or if we stayed for more. There were tears. There was fuss. The refrain, "I told you so." rolled through my head. We went to the circus anyways.
It was great. Not too crowded. Not too loud. No long waits. No sales pitches we couldn't dodge. The tears hadn't even left the house with us. Kevin and I were much more nervous than our boy. He looked around. He checked things out. He even had some spontaneous questions. He pointed things out and kept his eyes on the action. Never once asked to leave, or showed any distress. Except when a surprise firecracker went off when a balloon was shot with an arrow. We whipped out his earmuffs, and he threw them on and didn't miss a beat. We did also stack the deck a bit by sitting pretty far back from the action, but I don't think he suffered by that.
The performances were fun. There were white tigers, prancing horses, mighty elephants, and pretty girls. He really seemed to like the kid his age who was flipped around by his dad, jumped off a swinging platform into a net, and got to juggle fire. He was spell bound by the motorcycles that drove upside down in a steel ball, and the high flying gals on circle trapeze, silk ropes, and rings. The pace was good, but not too crazy. The sound was just right.
He didn't ask to go on the floor before the show to ride the elephants or ponies or go down the big slide. He didn't want his picture at half time with the performers, the clowns, the tiger, or a snake. He didn't ask for junk food (we got him some anyways) or beg for the plastic light up junk. So I guess we are a bit off the pace for normal, but really not too bad. I am hoping there will be discussion and questions ongoing. We bought the program and coloring book to help that happen. Maybe I will look up circus books at the library. Yeah, I guess I will. I have to admit, I already snuck in an "I told you so" or two. I couldn't help myself, and he does seem rather proud of himself now.
The circus! The circus? The circus. Once upon a time we went to the circus, and I never knew we would. It feels like we are turning the corner. Heading in a good direction. Doing great. The skeptic in me feels nervous, but the rest of me feels fine. Maybe even more than fine. Only time will tell, of course. Tell if this is a blip, or this is the future. Tell if this is a starting point, or just a high point. I have felt fine before, and then gotten creamed, so I wont be taking any bets. But I have a hopeful feeling, and I look forward to seeing what is around the next corner. I guess I will just keep walking on towards the future, whatever it may hold. Elephants, pretty girls, tigers, and all.