As a parent there is nothing more heartwarming than seeing your children overcome something that has given your child fear. A couple of weekends ago, my daughter, who has autism, had the privilege of attending a Girl Scout Encampment.For most girl scouts, camping isn't such a big deal, but for us, this was a huge step for my daughter, as she had never been overnight camping with her brownie troop before. Before we left, I had braced myself with the possibility that this weekend might either be a good experience or a not so good experience, but whatever the outcome, I was to be proud of my daughter for wanting to step out of her comfort zone and try something new. This weekend, my daughter blew me away as well as the support and love her troop had for her.
This weekend was a weekend of conquering fears. Not just for her, but for myself. In a way I was afraid of how she would do and if and when we had a meltdown, just how she was going to be seen by the rest of the girls.I will state that this girl proved me wrong. And it was one of those times, that I liked being proved wrong. Not only did she not have a meltdown, but when she knew herself that she needed to clock out for a while, she did it on her own terms. Calmly and collectively. And when her troop, saw that she was getting overwhelmed, they helped her out. For an autistic, that normally has a hard time with social cues and relation to certain situations, this little girl proved not only to world, but to herself, that she can among her peers, without worrying. With all that being said, there were times, that she doubted herself, thinking that she couldn't so something, because of this fear she had within herself. As I saw the battle going on within her head, of whether or not to participate or not, I stood back and let her figure it out for herself. I think that was the best thing I could have done for her.
During camp, we had work stations that we went to as a troop. Rock Climbing, Quilting, Kayaking and Archery.Our Saturday was shaping up to be busy day. I already knew that my daughter was a bit discombobulated, with her routine being out of whack. Our first station was rock climbing. When we approached the wall, I could see in my daughter's eyes a sense of dread. Her first response was "No, Momma, No" I told her that, if she didn't want to do it, that was fine, but we will stand and support our troopmates as they climbed the wall. She sat back and watched all her troopmates get suited up to climb. Every so often she would wander over to the wall and look up and then shy away from it. She watched as girl after girl climbed up and rang the bell at the top of wall. But it wasn't until the instructor, who was this woman, that drove a Harley into camp and looked as though she has enjoyed every facet life could offer, came over to ask if my daughter wanted to climb. I explained that she was scared and that we were a little out of our norm. The instructor got down to my daughter's level and told her, it was ok to be scared and that if she just wanted to touch the wall, that would be fine. In that spit second, my daughter, who was tucked up into my hip, decided, that Yes, in fact she wanted to try climbing the wall. So the instructor suited her up and put the helmet on my daughter's head. As my daughter got closer to the wall, I could see her shaking a little, but before I could step in, the instructor got down on her knee and quietly told my daughter, " Its ok. If you just want to stand next to the wall, its ok. If you want to touch the wall, its ok. And if you want to climb the wall, its ok. Why? Because all of those things are things you didn't do yesterday and things you can say you did today." Internally, my heart was singing. Watching this rough, spitfire of a woman, talking to my daughter in a way that was gentle and supporting. My daughter tells her to hook her up to the belaying line, and as my daughter took the first step up, she just kept on going. As her other troopmates,who where standing below her, cheering her on. Supporting her. She didn't get up to the top to ring the bell, but she did get half up the wall and then came down. When her feet hit the ground with all of the grace of a cat, the instructor unhooked the belaying line and gave my daughter a big hug. She told my daughter, that no matter how many girls come to climb the wall, my daughter was going to be her rockstar for the day. As my daughter went off to take her gear off, I took the instructor aside, and told just how much this meant her and myself. I explained that my daughter was autistic. And her reply was this. "Don't ever let that stop her from things." I could not stop the tears from escaping from my eyes.
For the rest of the day, it didn't matter what else we had going on. Both my daughter and I felt that we could conquer anything. She went on to sew a quilting square, just like her Amah. She tried her hand at Kayaking and Archery, without an element of fear. At the end of the day, she even wanted to sit at a campfire for as long as she could bear it, with her troopmates. We came back from this camping trip, feeling renewed. I think she surprised herself, when she put her own guard down, and she surprised me in doing just that. Both us came back from Encampment, learning a little bit more about each other, thanks the support and kindness of other people, but more so for because of both us putting aside the fear we had going into this adventure.