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Small expeditions

So this probably isn’t a big deal, except of course that it’s kind of the biggest deal of all. Beginning this Friday, Schuyler will be going to her marching band’s performances at her high school’s football game halftime without one of her parents present as a chaperone. She’s going to be on her own, like every other kid in the band.

Okay, I’m overstating this. We’re not going to be sitting at home watching tv or going to a bar and tying one on. We’ll be attending the game, but as regular, football-watching, questionable hotdog-eating parents. We’ll be at the stadium if she’s got an emergency, so there’s really not anything to worry about. It’s simply one more step towards whatever level of independence she’s going to achieve in her life.

We’ve been talking about this for a few weeks. Schuyler needed some help with her incredibly complicated band uniform at first, but last week she managed to put it on by herself, or at least with the help of a friend. Our part in her band experience has been gradually changing to one of emotional support and, to be honest, advocating for her in the face of parent volunteers who aren’t privy to her IEP and who don’t understand her needs.

That’s easy to misunderstand. Schuyler presents very much like a typical teenage girl in a lot of ways, and to people who only see her in the context of her band experience, she blends. She passes, which is what she wants but is of course problematic. We had to tell no fewer than three different people that she was allowed to wear her white iPad bag with her uniform, because she’s never supposed to be without her iPad and its speech software. Schuyler gets flustered easily and doesn’t do well in those situations. It’s one of the primary reasons we’ve chaperoned her games all this time. That, and my love of hauling big, heavy drum major stands across all the vast football fields of the earth.

So. In three days, she’ll wing it on her own, mostly. And that’s just prelude. In April, Schuyler may go on the band’s spring trip to Corpus Christi, a drive of roughly seven hours from here. We’re still discussing that particular adventure, whether she’s ready for a solo trip that far away without parental supports. It’s a huge step, and one that neither us nor frankly Schuyler herself are sure is a good idea.

This is a tough transition, and not just for her, if I’m being totally honest. Schuyler may not be emotionally or practically equipped for that much independence. That’s a topic that is getting a great deal of discussion right now. But our own comfort zones stand to be pretty seriously rocked, too. We’re all comfortable with our co-dependent lives, I guess. It’s probably time to shake that up rather vigorously.

That particular adventure lies months in the future, however. For now, we’re taking a small step towards a larger reality. Nothing at all, really. But the first step rarely feels like a big deal. Years from now, I hope we see these small expeditions as the beginning of Schuyler’s true adventure, the one she takes on by herself, in a world that may be as unprepared for her as she is for it, but which will be hers for the taking nevertheless.

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