It had been a long day after another long night. So long, in fact, that I’m writing about this day in the past historic tense, even though it was today. Yes, today was that long.
My last task of the day (not really, but my last driving task of the day) was taking Pudding to her swimming lesson. We go twice a week, and normally I don’t mind taking her. Seeing her so happy in the water makes up for the inconvenience of going there. And there is inconvenience.
Sometimes it comes in the form of Cubby, who always feels like he wants to come with us, until we get there and he remembers that sitting on a bench and keeping quiet is the opposite of what he wants to do. Most times I’ll cave in and take him, but occasionally he chooses to stay with Ms. Leia until Daddy gets home. Today, thankfully was one of those days, because with a nasty croupy cough, things could have been much, much worse.
Most of the time, the inconvenience comes in the form of driving the mean streets of Johannesburg. There are all kinds of hazards to deal with, to the point that most days I’m convinced I’ve been sucked into a virtual reality game. If I’m not avoiding kombi buses as they swerve across the lanes while continuously beeping their horns, I’m trying to avoid the erratic truck in front with about 15 men and building equipment piled into the back, or it could be a mother distracted by her toddler IN THE FRONT SEAT, NO CHILD SEAT OR SEAT BELT!!!
Worst of all, though, are the windscreen washers at the lights in this particular route. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Someone offering to clean your windshield as you wait for the lights to change? No. It is an act of aggression. No matter how you shake your head and say no, one of these guys will pull your wipers up, then soapy water will be sprayed on your clean windscreen. And then if you don’t pay (because security has advised you to NEVER open your window, or in any way encourage this kind of activity), they will threaten you, try to pull off your wipers so you can do nothing about the fact that you can’t see, the lights are about to change, and the aforementioned erratic drivers are honking at you to move.
But today, the longest day after the longest night, the 15 minute journey took 50 minutes. It had been raining all day, and traffic was even worse than usual. Even though it was still raining, the windscreen washers were still out. I managed to avoid an incident this time, but my heckles were up.
Pudding’s lesson is only twenty minutes long, with two boys also on the autism spectrum. There are other lessons immediately before and afterwards, and it is a tightly run ship. Even though we’d left the house earlier than usual, we arrived just at the end of the alloted time. I predicted that Pudding wouldn’t be able to swim, but thought I’d try our luck anyway.
Her teacher graciously allowed Pudding to join the next class. I wasn’t sure how well she would do. This class had two other girls and two boys, and they were all neurotypical. I watched her closely to see what would happen.
“New friends, “ she announced, and didn’t try to touch anyone, even though one girl was wearing a Hello Kitty swimsuit. So, yes, her attention did wander a couple of times, but perhaps not even as much as usual.
And get this: when the teacher constructed a foam diving board, and had the kids walk and jump off it she…didn’t do the same. She got down on her bottom and scooched along. A pretty good method for someone whose balance is challenged and can only jump on the spot, not off something. I wasn’t the only one who thought so, because Girl in Hello Kitty did likewise.
But then, get this: she did it! She watched the other kids and imitated them perfectly. She pushed herself to do something that she has never done before, and I’m pretty sure that was because of her peers in the group.
Now, lately, I’ve been mulling over the idea of inclusion. Pudding has so far exclusively been educated in autism-specific environments. There are pros and cons to inclusion, and I’m not certain that it would be The Right Thing for Pudding. But when I see her step up and take a leap like that, it makes me think I should be ready to do the same. I’ll write more about why this will be such a battle, but for now, just consider that including Pudding made this long, long day turn out to be not so bad after all. Still, I’m ready for it to finally be tomorrow.