Sometimes the day ends well. Sometimes our kids have a triumphant moment. Sometimes something great just happens. And when it does we have to celebrate it. We have to celebrate these moments because kids with FASD have such bad self-esteem, such poor self-image that we must do everything we can to build them up. And we have to celebrate them and their achievements because they earn that praise with every fibre of their being when they overcome their difficulties and shine amongst their peers.
Today, for us and for our son, was one of those good days. He had a triumph, and we weren’t even there to see it. But his school friends were. And kids who didn’t even know him until now. And they were cheering him to the rafters.
Today was the first heat of His School’s Got Talent. Our son has been preparing for this for weeks, since he found out it would happen just before half-term. He’s learned the song he wanted to sing – Salute by Little Mix. He’s rehearsed the dance and got it down so well from their video that the members of the school dance club were amazed he could do the whole thing perfectly, no errors, and completely in time with the video.
He’s practised in his bedroom in the mornings and evenings. He’s practised in our hallway. He’s practised in the living room. He’s practised on his way to school and at the breaks. He knew that song so well. And in his head there was going to be confetti. There would be a crowd cheering him along. There’d be a light show. He was going to be a pop star.
And yet we were fearful. As with other FASD kids his organisational skills are poor. The dates for the heats shifted several times, and we only found out by accident this morning that today was the day. We didn’t know if he knew. The school SENCO did, she’d moved a meeting so she could watch him, and be there in case something went wrong. She was sure he knew, but we weren’t. And if the big moment was sprung on him, it might really throw him, and instead of being a good moment it could spark a meltdown and a dreadful time. We worried that he’d always planned to have a stage costume to perform in, but because we didn’t know the day had arrived, he didn’t have one. Would this throw him? The absence of his favourite headband could also provoke a meltdown, it has before, and that was just for a concert in our living room.
We texted his cousins to let them know to go to the hall at lunchtime. We texted his brother and asked him to take some friends along.
And then we got the video his brother made on his phone – made sweeter because we can hear him cheering on his brother. All our worries melted in a feeling of elation. Our youngest son was triumphant. We know he can sing and dance beautifully, but now we know he can perform to a big crowd too. There he was on the stage, the hall darkened and full of kids. And he won them over. The opening act. He was dancing and singing as the spotlights changed from red to green. There was even a smoke machine to build the atmosphere. And when he shouted out ‘Sing it with me’, they did. They sang along and they cheered. And as he belted out the final words and the music died away, the kids in the crowd were chanting his name over and over again. For those moments, he was a pop star. This was everything he could have imagined it would be.
Many of his classmates and the older kids already liked our son, the cute little kid who doesn’t quite fit in. The one who doesn’t really talk right. The one who isn’t quite socially adjusted. And here he was giving the performance of his life and showing them what he can do given the chance. And how.
We met him outside school and waited for his brother. And while we waited the kids flooded by, hundreds of them heading home for the weekend. And they greeted him. High-fived him. Told him he was awesome. One lad came up to him and said ‘Man, you had crazy energy on that stage. You rocked it!’ A groups of older boys came by and we heard them telling each other ‘That’s him, I want him to win, he’s brilliant.’ So many of them just pointing him ‘Look, that’s Tolka, he was great.’ And our son lapped it up. His beaming smile never left his face. He jumped up and down excitedly and sucked in every bit of praise.
He’s had a hard few weeks at school. He’s been in trouble. He’s struggled in lessons. His self-image has taken a few knocks. But in this moment all that was swept away. He felt good about himself, better than good, just great! And he had earned it. He has a beautiful voice. And today he used it to win over a whole school. Today was a good day. Today was a day we can celebrate. And when those days come around, we have to celebrate our kids. They’ve earned it. They need it.