There is no doubting that children with PDA are a challenge. They can bring out the very worst in a parent owing to their incredible ability to push exactly the right buttons at exactly the right time. I’m sure many of us are familiar with the kicking off in the car scenario when Mummy is strapped into a chair, committed to facing forward and unable to control anything that is going on behind her. Could there be a more vulnerable situation?!
However, today, I don’t want to talk about any of the negative instances that arise from the world of PDA, but more heart-warmingly, I want to talk about the successes. Last night I discovered that whilst I often wish that I could take away this condition from my daughter, I can also celebrate it to the extreme.
Yesterday we attended the wedding of a close friend near Bury St Edmunds. My daughter Grace embraced this day with so much enthusiasm that it will be etched in all of our memories for many years to come. During the rather tedious drive across the country, Grace suddenly declared that she would like to sing a song at the wedding and the song of choice was to be a tune by the songstress Adele …my first rather dubious thought was yikes!! Really?! I had a number of concerns with this announcement. Firstly, does she know the lyrics? Secondly, will she bottle it on stage in front of 150 people and run off stage kicking the drum kit over on route? Thirdly, can she actually carry it off? Having the voice of a strangled cat myself, I didn’t have much faith in my daughter’s ability to prevent the other wedding guests from covering their ears. But, worse than any of this, my thoughts led me to the question, what if the bride or groom or the six piece jazz band say NO?!! That would surely put the stoppers of any possibility of a pleasant weekend for us all.
So, in my efforts to protect Grace from embarrassment and me from being persecuted for the whole of the summer holidays, I tried to play down her request with comments such as “oh let’s wait and see what happens on the day”. In my mind though, I know that once Grace has decided on something, there is no going back. When it was mentioned again on the morning of the wedding, I realised the severity of my daughter’s need to make this moment happen. So my damage limitation kicks in as I hear myself suggesting that she might like to sing a song that she sang at the end of term service the day before, rather than one from one of the best grammy winning singer-songwriters in the country. This recommendation fell on deaf ears as and was rejected immediately. Afterall, what better song to sing at a wedding than one that reminisces about the end of a relationship?!
The wedding day was the most perfect scenario for my daughter. A trip to the hair salon in the morning, a beautiful dress to wear, the important responsibility of bridesmaid (with the added bonus of having younger flower girls to boss about) live music on tap, a bouncy castle and as much dessert as it is possible to cram into ones mouth whilst no one is looking.
With all the excitement, I forgot about the request to sing until at about 8pm, when my daughter suddenly appeared on the stage and appeared to be instructing the band of what was required for her song.
The keyboard player was taking notes whilst the lead singer was lowering the microphone. The music started and my beautiful, brave warrior of a daughter, belted out Adele’s ‘someone like you’ to a roomful of slightly inebriated, but non-the-less attentive, wedding guests.
I watched in awe as this young lady who faces so many struggles every single day of her life, fearlessly sang her little heart out to an audience of admirers. Ok, so some of the high notes were fairly shaky, but it didn’t matter, she totally nailed it! The room erupted into applause as she finished the song, and her father and I beamed with pride, and perhaps a little bit of relief!
Two questions came to my mind….
Would I have sung on stage at 9 years old (or any other age for that matter?) ABSOLUTELY NOT! Would I have loved to have the courage and skill to do it? YES, ABSOLUTELY!
My daughter was living the life that I would have been way too scared to even contemplate. Her steely determination was allowing her to follow her dreams whilst looking everyone in that room in the eye and letting them know that she was incredibly proud of who she is and what she can achieve. There was no visible indication of nerves or self-doubt that the job she had taken on was too big for her or that people would judge her for it.
For these reasons, my daughter has my true admiration and (yes I have to admit it) slight envy. Do I think that her autism and ADHD has contributed to this fearless persona? Yes, undoubtedly. But more than that is the recognition that my daughter, like all of our children, is unique. She has her strengths and her weaknesses. The weaknesses need recognising and sometimes working on, but the strengths need celebrating with enthusiasm.
One thing is for sure, I am an extremely proud Mum today!