Gymnastics, Saying Goodbye, and Stepping Stones

We tried gymnastics class Wednesday! I’m going to say it went pretty well. The owner of Kilgore Gymnastics (highly recommended from me~if you’re looking!) and I had spoken several times over the phone and she was both aware of and knowledgeable about Javan’s Asperger’s. I did not mention to her his bipolar disorder, since this is often met with much skepticism. She is aware that group gymnastics may not work for Javan and has offered private lessons FOR THE SAME PRICE if he needs them, because “it isn’t fair to tax someone for having a disability.” I’m pretty sure I died when she said that and was supernaturally revived sometime after. She spoke those words to me on the phone without ever having met me. Or him. I knew right away that this would be the place for us.

I was a bit nervous to go to his first lesson, a free trial of course. He was soooo excited, which is perhaps part of the reason why I was nervous. He is very visual and very literal. He loved the Youtube videos I used to get him interested in gymnastics (I let him watch clips of soccer, baseball, etc., too. He chose this one). But I also knew that he was expecting the gym to look like the amazing ones that professional gymnasts use. The trampoline, the pit of foam squares, all that jazz. And he did experience a few disappointments owing to the lack of those things, but he did well with it and accepted the gym as it was. Eventually.

He took to the owner, who is also a teacher, right away. Mrs. Ada. She asked him if he’d like to come back to her office and he said yes and followed her. I glued my feet to the floor of the main viewing area and forced myself not to follow him. Independence is the goal. After a while, I did want to make sure that he wasn’t flipping out or anything, I sneaked back there and peaked around the corner of the office. He was signing his name for her! In his best writing, of course. You never know who he’s going to take to and who he’s not, but once he’s taken to someone, it sticks.

They came back out, joined the class, and he almost sort of kind of participated a little. These little girls were jumping around the gym like froggies IN SWIMSUITS and he was looking at them like they’d lost their friggin’ little minds. Ada took him by the hand with a smile, and got him to jump once. Then he took off. He was the highest leaping frog of them all! He didn’t make it as long as the girls though. He had started his new medicine a few days before and his energy level was completely drained. In fact, I thought we might not make it that day at all because he slept most of the day before that.

Then he suddenly left the gym floor, came to the viewing area (which is just separated from the main floor by a partial wall), and hid behind the wall growling at anyone who dared move their feet too near him, smile at him, or so much as breathe in his general direction. He finally peeked his eyes barely above the waist-high wall and pointed out the source of his anxiety. A little girl wearing a purple swimsuit. She had curly hair. Oh, the horror! Great.

I finally got him back out there by kicking off my own shoes and making a complete fool out of myself side-jumping pony style around the gym as the other girls were doing. He held my hand for half a round, then let go and took off. He is one fast pony. Then everyone sat in a circle and did stretches peanut butter and jelly style, flew on our bellies like supermen, and other activities that are cute for slim gymnastics instructors and five year olds. Not so cute for a 200 pound Momma trying to coerce her son into doing it too, all the while receiving an I-ain’t-gonna-embarrass-myself-like-that-get-up-off-the-floor-woman stare.

Then, and I think this will turn out to be perfect for us, all of the girls…so all of the other students in the class…go to ballet for the second half of the session. So, Javan gets the full, individual attention of Ada’s son, Matthew, 16-year-old gymnast. He loves gymnastics and at leastlikes kids. And several of the older (10-12ish) kids were just off the side of the main floor doing weight exercises and the like, so they came over and showed Javan some of their tricks, which he loved.

Just before the girlies left for ballet, they each had to show Mrs. Ada a skill of their choice…cartwheels or flips or whatever else. Matthew taught Javan a skill! Oh, he was so very proud! He started at one end of the room, ran down a mat, jumped onto a tiny trampoline, and flipped over onto “the lake,” which is a gigantic mattress of some sort. Very cozy. In Javan’s mind, he is now in line for the Olympic Gold in lake flippery. He showed his skill to everyone~ mostly the older kids, but even one girl in his own age class who came out of ballet early. So he now has a gymnastics friend! Yay! And Matthew is going to be his gymnastics class Buddy so maybe I will be able to wean him off the Mommy embarrassment.


Matthew helping Javan “climb” the rope.

Ok, Ok, that was a lot of gymnastics talk. But it was a BIG DEAL!!! In other news, he has been sleeping so, so very much since starting Kapvay, his new ADHD medicine. Non-stimulant. It’s so hard not knowing what the best thing is for him. He is getting gradually used to it so I’m not making any decisions about it yet. I have had several people telling me how much more focused and engaged he seems. In fact, his Weebow and Pops (my hubby’s folks, who spend lots of time with him) noticed that the several visits he’s made there since starting this medicine have been the first times in his entire life when he’s interacted with his favorite TV shows like Blue’s Clues, Dora, and Diego. I’ve noticed it at home too. He has never interacted with shows like that – you know, when they ask something like, “Which path should the baby chinchilla take?” and you answer, “The middle one!” In fact, in the past, anytime that I or anyone else has attempted to interact with the shows it has made him angry and he’s asked us to stop. Now he’s engaging quite well.

In other, other news, yes there’s been a lot, I had to break some hard news to him. Weebow and Pops’ oldest dog, Gabby, needs to be put down this week. He isn’t particularly close with her as she is older, in pain, and generally stand-offish to small children, other dogs, or anyone besides a select few adults that she loves. But Javan is an extremely, extremely, tender-hearted and loves so very deeply. I had barely begun telling him about Gabby when he walked calmly and solemnly into the living room, laid on the couch, and began to weep. Loudly. My heart hurts for him still. I held him intermittently, as he was comfortable, but he tends to be a lone weeper at times. He sobbed so hard there is still a snot stain on the couch. And he just repeated over and over, again loudly, “Oh, how I love her so much. OOOHHH, how I love her so much!” And that, folks, is the sound of my heart breaking.

I had already shed my tears the night before. I have known Gabby for about 10 of her 13 years. She was my husband’s dog when we met. She slept in his bed. We had hopes of keeping her as our own when we wed, but could not due to “No Pets Allowed” living arrangements. Gabby had been abused at some early point in her life before my in-laws took her in and she did not trust easily. She never trusted many people, but she did love fiercely those who she let in. I got to be one of those. I remember my joy at being “accepted” the first time she let me pet her. I remember right where I was standing.

I kept close reign on my emotions today, allowing Javan to express his own grief without feeding off of me. Not to say that I didn’t cry. But I think that Javan knew and felt the connection between Gabby and myself and my husband and took the feelings of that protected relationship into his own heart. Finally, after many, many “Oh, how I love her so much”es, he calmed down. Then maybe 15 minutes later, another wave of grief hit him. This time the repeated phrase was, “I want my Gabby right now! I want my Gabby right this minute!” And his Gabby he got. I told him it was to say goodbye. That we would not see her again. He, of course,of course, darn him,asked what happens to doggies after they die. I told him I wasn’t sure that the Bible gave us a clear answer either way, but that I really, really hoped they go to Heaven.


We got to Weebow and Pops’. He was very sad, but calm. Weebow explained how much pain Gabby is in and how she’s getting snappy with others. And how we love Gabby so much we don’t want her to hurt anymore. He buried his face in her shirt the whole time and cried silent tears. Ok, man, the silent tears ripped my heart a new one. Ouch. Then he wanted his Mommy. I’m so glad he still wants me to hold him when he cries. I don’t think I’ll stand the day when I can’t comfort him and I have to stand by and watch those tears fall from an unheld face.

Then he was ready. He asked me to come with him to see Gabby. She was in “her” window. Her place in the sun. It had always been her place. I was worried that she would feel cornered or trapped by his presence, but she seemed to feel the calm and sadness. I think she knew it was goodbye. I think she was okay with it. And I think she said goodbye and I love you right back to us. Javan simply pet her gently, small soft strokes on her back, and whispered, “Goodbye, Gabby. I love you. I will miss you. Goodbye.” Then we sat there and cried softly and stroked softly for as long as he wanted. A peaceful, hot, sunshiny eternity.

He left her bravely. I, maybe not as much. As he walked out to say goodbye to Weebow and Pops, I said my own final goodbye. I looked her in the eyes and she looked back at me, trusting, loving, knowing. I tried to embrace her gently. She whined in pain. We locked eyes again and she said, “Yes. It is time. Goodbye. I love you.” I repeated the words to her, stroked her softly, and took my leave. She was something special and I’m so thankful for getting to love her.

So far, the only effect this has seemed to have on him throughout the rest of the day is that he absolutely, positively does not want to leave my side. And I’m okay with that.

In other, other, other news, and to end things on a lighter note, Javan willingly cleaned out some things from his playroom today. Well, actually, he just watched me label the things that I’d pulled out and he didn’t complain. Usually, his anxiety is far to great to handle the leaving of “things.” They are security, normalcy, shelter. But, I explained to him how the consignment even we were sending the things to worked. That they would sell the things and then send HIM a check in the mail so he could go buy a new toy. He seemed pretty stoked about that. It was progress. A sign of maturity. A stepping-stone. And once he gets that big fat check and realizes that he traded his “baby toys” in for the power and opportunity to buy a big boy toy, I think he’ll be less reluctant to do it again next time. My big boy is growing up so fast.

(I hope to upload a video of Javan’s gymnastics skill…as soon as I figure out how to transfer video from my non-smart phone to my computer.)


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