If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you know I hate field trips.
I’m a natural introvert (though I can fake extroversion pretty easily after years of practice), so being in a group with strangers and casual acquaintances is draining, not energizing. For years, field trips were also a punch in the gut. There’s nothing like seeing your developmentally delayed child in the middle of a herd of developmentally appropriate children to make you want to devour a whole carton of Blue Bell coffee ice cream. Then there’s the whole I-don’t-like-kids-all-that-much thing I probably shouldn’t admit but is absolutely true.
So for years I avoided Sarah Kate’s field trips like the plague.
Nathan’s preschool (the private one, not the developmental one) does a few field trips, and on Wednesday they went to Oak Hollow Farm (reality TV junkies note: it’s the place a friend of mine calls the “Barn of Doom” from the CMT show Sweet Home Alabama). When the information sheet came home, I stared long and hard at the “I plan to attend with my child” line item.
I didn’t want to go, but I felt obligated.
Nathan is a runner, a wanderer, and mischievous. As much as I didn’t want to go on that field trip, I hated to relegate some other mom/teacher/farm employee to the dubious honor of chasing him around for three hours. So I went. And … it wasn’t that bad.
He decorated his pumpkin.
He climbed the slide, and slid – over and over and over again.
He let me push him on the swing, and he even gave me a big smile for the camera.
And, of course, he wandered…
But it was okay.
In some ways, Nathan is different from the other kids – most notably in his speech delay. I saw firsthand how little he was willing to talk to anyone other than me (and to me largely when we were alone, apart from everyone else). But in most ways, he was just like them, and to the other kids he was, without a doubt, one of them. His lack of speech didn’t matter, because they still greeted him upon arrival with cries of “Hey, Nay-fun!”
Near the end of the outing, Nay-fun and another little boy wandered down the hillside and his teacher encouraged them to turn around and come back. As I hesitated, wondering if I should go and fetch him, they both meandered back in our direction, holding hands as they walked back up the hill. I let go of the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding.
And the small talk? Well, I managed that, too.
One of the parents recognized us from church, a few others I know from birthday parties Nay-fun has attended, and one mom approached me for information about Down syndrome because a friend recently had a baby with trisomy-21. I gave her my card.
Field trips for my family will never quite be the same as they are for typical families, but after a mostly-normal outing I realized they don’t have to be torture, either. I expected to have Nathan’s differences stand in stark contrast to his typical peers, but instead I saw a little boy with (almost) everything in common with them.