"Is the flag out?...is the flag out?...is the flag out?"...Addie is shrieking from the back seat. Every morning at 8:50 the "welcome" flag is put out at her school....and we can start our journey inside. It is truly a journey.
We walk towards the doors silently...trying to stay as calm as possible. I can see that she's deep in thought...trying to hold onto her lunch bag and navigate across the street. I'm praying urgently and silently that no one will to talk to us...
All the sudden...."HELLLOO ADDIE"...her preschool director booms with her loud southern drawl. Addie immediately covers her ears and begins to crumble...."nooooooo don't...ahhhh". As if her booming voice wasn't enough...she proceeds to pat Addie on the head and say loudly "I LOVE YOUR SHOES ADDIE". In my head I'm thinking "stop...stop....ignore us...what are you thinking??...please please dear God ignore us". Secretly wishing I could scream....I smile at the director and try to calm Addie back down...
After finally coaxing Addie through the doors... we see the RED LINE...HER red line "Stay on the red line... on the red line...on the red line"...Addie chants as she walks down the hall...every footstep carefully on the red line in the middle of the hall. Amidst all the commotion and "hello's" and shoulder brushes as kids rush by...Addie looks down and chants about the red line trying to cope with it all. But with every "HELLO" and passer by...she falls apart even more...her chanting gets louder & louder...."stay on the red line...STAY ON THE RED LINE"....I silently march behind her...as we get many confused looks...
Then IT happens!! Someone is standing in the middle of HER red line. In tears...she drops her lunch bag...she begins SHRIEKING and flailing. The mom on HER red line continues to chat to another mom...oblivious to what is happening...chatting about playing tennis or getting her nails done. I wanted to scream...but instead I apologized... and after giving me a confused and mildly offended look...she finally moved.
And thus we proceed... "stay on the red line....stay on the red line"...we chant all the way to her class. Finally we made it to the door....and now to begin the challenges of taking off our coat...putting away our lunch...washing our hands...and joining a classroom of kids darting this way and that. It's a process...and a journey... I definitely have to pray myself through every morning.
Some days it's tough to get to my car without falling apart myself. Driving to work in tears...I think about how hard it is for her...or I start to feel sorry for her...or guilty for not being able to "help her" more. But then I remind myself that the Lord made her just the way that she is. He made her that way on purpose. She is perfect and made in His image. She works so hard to do the things that come naturally to her peers. She is my inspiration and I'm SO proud of her.
Walking that red line every morning with Addie is an adventure. It can be smooth sailing or gut wrenching or ear piercing. It's just one small part of our day....but it's a glimpse of the challenges that face those touched by autism.
What seems like normal everyday experiences to most people can be completely assaulting to someone like Addie. It could be a tag in their shirt...or a wrinkle in their sock...the lights could be buzzing...the wind could be blowing...or they may just not want you to look at them. The world is FULL of confusing sensations. I may never fully understand...but I don't have to. It's Addie... and that's what makes her...her...my unique and perfect little girl.
Addie is already so much stronger than I could ever be. Her days are full of challenges...and she continues to amaze me with her triumphs. She truly inspires me and I will proudly walk that red line with Addie every day.