Up until yesterday afternoon, I hadn't seen my son for ten whole days. He was with his grandparents on Keuka Lake in the town of Hammondsport (recently dubbed the "Coolest Small Town in America") taking a 2-week course with the Keuka Yacht Club Jr. Sailing Program.
Most readers know my son has Aspergers, so I had some real reservations about letting him participate in the program: A) he'd never been away from home for that long, B) I was concerned the class might go over his head and he'd be bored, C) I was afraid he wouldn't follow directions and end up hurting himself or others. The one consolation was that his grandparents would be with him the entire time, if only cheering him on from shore. Still, I had the biggest knot in my stomach the day we dropped him off, and it didn't help that he started expressing concerns of his own, which were practically identical to mine. If it had been up to me, I might have called the whole thing off and let him stay home (neither one of us is particularly good about stepping outside our comfort zone). Thankfully, we have loving and supportive family members that give us the extra little push we need to branch out and try new things.
The night after his first sailing class, we received a call from Jake telling us how much fun he was having. He bragged that he'd been the only one brave enough to intentionally capsize his boat (he was with an instructor, of course). Over the next few days we received similar calls about motorboat rides and sailing from one side of the lake to the other to have lunch at The Switz, a new friend he'd made (he admittedly wasn't fond of a few of the more "sassy" and "whiney" girls) and injuries sustained (which was all part of the glamour and fun, I think). I also received lots of assurance from my mother-in-law that the injuries were NOT severe (my son is a big fan of hyperbole) and that Jake was following directions, participating, and genuinely having a fun time. Slowly, I let myself relax . . .
And then yesterday my husband, two girls, and I made the trip out to Keuka Lake to pick him up. When we arrived, his class had just come in off the water and was busy putting away all the boats and supplies. To see him actually working with the other students and looking like he knew what he was doing . . . that was awesome. And then he looked up and saw us, and the smile on his face gave me the most wonderful and uplifting feeling I'd had in a long time. He immediately came over and gave each of us a great big hug! But instead of sticking around with us, he chose to hang out with his friends for a little while longer. He was finally part of something and actively participating instead of being forced to cooperate, which almost always ruins it for everyone else. No words can describe the intense feeling of pride I had in my son at that moment. And the kicker? When his 13-year-old friend came over and said to my husband and me, "You're Jake's parents? He's really cool. We had a fun time together."
For once, Jake wasn't the "weird kid" or the one on the periphery of things. He was part of a group; an important member of the team. And not only did Jake learn that he can insert himself and actually have fun in an unfamiliar situation with people he doesn't know, my husband and (more importantly) I learned that we can loosen the reins a little more and give our son the space he needs to have fun and thrive without
us me holding his hand.
Here are a few pictures my older daughter took: