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Today I cried.

But they were happy tears…tears that have been a long time coming.

***

Five years ago I sat in a parking lot, with little Brookelette sitting in the back of the car, all dressed up in her leotard and tutu; her hair up in a bun; and I cried. I sat there in that parking lot, crying uncontrollably for a good twenty minutes. Brooke had just participated in her ballet class’s final dress rehearsal before the big academy recital the following two days. She hadn’t been able to follow along. Initially she had followed the instructions of the dance instructor, but very quickly decided she was going to do her own thing up on the stage. I was in the balcony recording it and felt terribly for the girl that was supposed to be her dance partner as Brooke started to run circles around the group.

To be clear, the moms that were there were not only understanding, but supportive. They all knew of Brooke’s diagnosis, and as I began to talk aloud of pulling her out of the performance, almost every one of them protested; but I couldn’t do this to the little girls up there on the stage. Yes, kids will be kids, and you never know what will happen when they get on stage, but I just couldn’t put my little one through the craziness of what those recitals are like and I did not want her to disrupt what her classmates had been working on all year.

After the rehearsal, I spoke to the instructor and told her I didn’t think my little one could handle it. Part of me was crushed even further when she agreed so readily. In retrospect, I don’t blame her.

After saying good-bye to the moms and the girls in the class I had gotten to know over the course of the school year, Brooke and I went back to the car, I buckled her in, gave her a snack, told her how proud I was of her, got into the diver’s seat and proceeded to cry…and cry…and cry.

It was probably one of my lowest moments as a parent ever. Had I let her down? Had I sold her short? Did I make the right decision? Over the next day or so, I took the video I had taken of her and made a “Brooke’s Big Recital” movie. I still can’t watch it without crying and so I don’t anymore. It hurts too much.

Flash forward a couple of years. We are talking to someone who runs a dance school and they mention that they would love to have Brooke in the school and they’ll even put in an aide just for her. I am so excited. This is just what she needs, right? With the proper support, she can dance just like all the other little girls in her class.

The dance instructor is absolutely amazing…the aide, not so much.

The “aide”, it turns out, is someone who was to be in the class regardless, and she has absolutely no clue as to how to work with my baby.

That’s okay, I think, I can give her plenty of pointers as to what works best with her!

My heart sinks as I watch the “aide’s” eyes glaze over as I try to explain how best to keep Brooke focused on the class and how best to redirect her. She could not care less. She has no interest in working with a special needs child. Honestly, I don’t like her, but I do not hold it against her. Some people are not wired to handle kids like my little one. The school should have put someone else in.

Despite the incredible efforts of the instructor, after several months of watching Brooke get lost in the class, I pull her. Again it is unfair to her classmates; it is unfair to the parents who are spending an exorbitant amount of money to have their children in the class to keep Brooke in.

Again, I sit and I cry.

All she wants to do is dance. Why isn’t there a place for her to do that?

At the beginning of the following school year, I meet a mom on back to school night. Her daughter is in Brooke’s class. We chat for a little while. I tell her a little bit about Brooke and her autism and even mention the whole dancing thing. She pauses and then mentions the Boston Ballet. I nod. The Boston Ballet always seemed to me to be the serious school – the place where future lifers went. She then mentions a program they are developing for those on the spectrum. My interest is piqued, but I’ve been burned before.

I tell her that I will definitely check it out…

…and then I don’t. I’m not ready. And for that I will kick myself for quite a while. Brooke doesn’t mention dance for a little while, but then starts asking again, “when will I be going to ballet class again?”

Oh, boy!

Finally, this summer, I decide it’s time to explore this Boston Ballet thing. After speaking with the mom from Brooke’s class and then the person in charge of the program at the school, I am convinced. They say all the right things – they’re working with Children’s Hospital, looking for parent input, using their 10 year experience of running an adaptive class for those with Down’s Syndrome. I am so hopeful.

There’s a tryout/placement class in August. Despite the dance saga being my baby, I let Jess go. She is home from work on two weeks vacation – there will be other classes I can go to, I am sure.

It goes fantastically and I am envious. A week later we get Brooke’s placement. Again, Jess goes to the first class and then the next. She sends pictures, tells me about how awesome Mr. Gino is and how well Brooke is doing…but I want to see it for myself.

In my head I still see the defiant kid sticking out her butt at the rest of the class:

Today I got to go to Brooke’s class for the first time this year:

She’s dancing…she’s moving…

…she’s performing for the class…

but most importantly…

she’s happy!!!

…and so today I cried and I cried and I cried some more…but it was so different from that day 5 years ago. Thank you Boston Ballet. You have healed what has been an open wound on my heart and soul for the last five years. To watch my baby dance so freely, so happily is pure joy. Thank you.

Okay, I’m off to go cry a little bit more.

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