Never Look Back
"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." (Lao Tzu)
One day Chloe decided that it was the day that she was going to go on a funfair ride all by herself. At her age, this may seem like such a small thing to make such a big deal over but in the world of Autism great things happen through the small steps, through incremental progress - a move forward or a step from where your child is to where they might be going; even if it is not clear if they may ever get there. Chloe had never been on a funfair ride on her own - even the most basic ones. A fear of the unknown or a sense of not being in control is a big barrier for her to overcome for even some of the most simplest of things.
So on this day Chloe seemed more resolute than ever. Like she had been telling herself a story over and over again that she could do something and now was the time to make that happen. It was a half-term and I was working from home. Chloe approached me in the morning fixing her eyes on mine and proclaimed very definitively, "I am going to the funfair today. My Dad is taking me. He is coming for me at 1.00." Chloe's voice was clear and precise; each syllable emphasised and her sentences finished with a tone of 'full-stop.' I sensed that this was more than just the normal fictional story she sometimes tells herself and got her to ring her Dad as he had not told me he was going anywhere with her on that day!
I dialled the number on my mobile and handed it to her. She grabbed it and smiled and I could tell that today something special was about to happen. I heard her Dad's deep tone answer on the other end,
"..Hello Chloe.." he says
"Hello Daddy..." and I stopped her before she launched into her demands and mouth to her silently that she needs to ask how her Dad is.
"..how are you Daddy?.." she smiled at me knowing she had got him right where she needed him.
"Fine Chloe, and you?" he replied. She continued to the real purpose of her call.
"Daddy, are you picking me up at 1:00 today to go to the funfair?" She stopped, waiting for the affirmative response. I heard him chuckling down the other end of the line as he replied,
"Yes Chloe, I will come for you at 1:00" . She smiled as she said see you later.
At this point, Chloe looked vindicated as if her plan is only moments from fruition. After her Dad picks her up I went on a conference call for the rest of the afternoon. My phone pinged and it was the familiar buzz of the shared album on the iPhone that he and I set up to provide each other with the moments of time with our children that we would no longer share with each other, now that we were divorced. In a way it allowed us not to miss out on those moments that were the ones that mattered. Just because we had decided not to be in each other's life anymore as a couple, we were still parents and that has never changed.
My heart opens up as I look at the pictures he has sent. Chloe has achieved her ambition of going on a ride all by herself. She has her jacket on that I got her with writing embroidered in a very embellished and bold style on the back that seems so apt at this moment:
'Never Look Back'
She looks defiant, like she has taken her fears and met them head on. The lights, the noise, the smells of a funfair are at once both excitement and fear for Chloe. They invite her in and also repel her with the sensory overload. But Chloe knows her potential - it's like I can sense she has this ambition in her to achieve and do more. She knows she is different and this self-awareness is becoming clearer the older she gets. However she also knows of her possibilities and she is brave. I see that brave look in the photos her Dad has sent me: the joy and the fear all intermingled in the ecstasy of the achievement. Chloe went on three rides from what I can tell looking at the pictures. I am listening to a meeting with people on it from all over the world talking about a major program of work we are undertaking. I am also looking at this seemingly small but significant moment on my phone. It grounds and anchors me. I know what is important. And so does Chloe. #neverlookback