Next Saturday Milla’s ballet school will be performing their annual concert. As much as Milla has loved her ballet classes this year, she won’t be participating.
We wondered how she would go, as the time grew nearer. Miss Milla is a creature of habit, and the final month in the lead up to the concert has involved ‘rehearsals’; longer class times, held in a different room, with other groups. Her ballet teacher, whom she adores, is heavily pregnant, and has naturally been taking less of a lead role in the classes. I worried about how she would cope, but we thought we’d just tread lightly, give it a go, reassess after each rehearsal. At the very first rehearsal, she refused to dance, and chose to sit on the side and watch. After that class we had a talk, and she made it clear that she would not be dancing again, and would like a ‘break’ from ballet.
In some ways this came as a relief. I had been feeling very anxious about the whole thing, and how she would go during the dress rehearsals at the art centre; then of course the actual performance. At the same time though, it broke my heart, just a tiny bit. The thing is, I know how much Milla enjoys ballet. She has really thrived this year, attending classes independently for the first time. I know how much she really would love to be in the concert; would love to dress up and be on stage.
She just can’t. The anxiety is too much, it overwhelms her. The fear of change is stronger than her desire to perform. She looked at the photos of the dress rehearsal today, and I could see the longing in her face. We talked about it again, she insists she doesn’t want to dance. It’s not fair, I know she’s capable, I know she truly does want to. Her anxiety cripples her, it steals her confidence. Her security is in routine, it makes her feel safe. Any change in routine, and she can take days, sometimes weeks to recover. It’s a reminder that even though we have come so far, we still have these hurdles to overcome.
I admit, it’s difficult not to feel resentful. I see photos on Facebook of other children preparing for their end of year concerts, and it hurts. I want absolutely everything the world has to offer for Milla, it makes me angry all over again at the hold ‘autism’ has over my baby. That my beautiful, intelligent daughter will always have to work that little bit harder at things that come so naturally for everybody else.
I know it seems silly to shed tears over something so insignificant as a ballet concert. Classic first world problem, right?! I think it’s just a funny kind of grief, for parents of children with ‘special needs’ . (Ugh, I hate that term, but can’t think of a more appropriate one for this point) It’s a grief that rears it’s head at every opportunity our children miss out on. At every setback, every regression.
I am so incredibly proud of Milla, so in awe of all she has overcome, of her tenacity. As hard as it is to be reminded of the battle she is fighting every day beneath the surface, it makes me want to be a stronger person, a better person. I want her to trust that whenever she may falter, I’ll always have her back. Because two steps forward,one step back, is still one step forward.