"Mama, when can I do archery?"
The words seemed to burst from her like she was waiting for a lifetime to say it. And all she had to do was, in fact, say it. Well...and she had to turn eight....and she had to wait until January for our local 4H group to start up their archery sessions.
And like eager first time parents awaiting the birth of their first baby researching the top of the line car seat for their precious bundle, we went from sporting goods store to sporting goods store seeking out the best bow for our precious eight year old.
We talked to the sales guys, we discovered she is a lefty since her left eye is her "strong eye" - her words, we found all the different specs, we gasped at the price tags.
It is the first time that Maddy has ever asked to do something that wasn't a video game. The first interest in something that is physical. Something outside the house.
And it's almost perfect because it is an individual sport.
We always knew sports would never be Maddy's forte. The chaos of organized sports is beyond what her brain would want to process. Then there is the noise of the buzzers, the crowd, the people, the contact, the hype.
But archery? Well, archery is just down right cool. And you can do it solo. And be cool. And accepted. And still interact with others.
We knew that in order for her to follow through with this, we would need as much positive reinforcement as we could muster. We are beyond the days of basic ABA where the correct response warrants an M&M.
So we backed off a bit, didn't purchase a $$$ bow...but decided to let the kid try it. Maddy is Maddy and if she suddenly decides that she hates something, there is no persuading her else wise. Trust me. Ask her about ketchup....you will get an earful about how apparently EVIL it is...and don't get me started on peanut butter....or riding a bike....
Tonight was the night. She said she wanted to hit a bulls eye. I reminded her that she had never actually shot a bow and aimed an arrow before in her life. Let's just be happy to hit anything!
She hit the target five times. The first 30 minutes of her shooting went excellent. Then she got tired. And the arrows starting going in directions that she didn't approve of. Those arms and already weak fingers were tired. There was a mini outburst and tears. But we rallied her back to shoot her last round of arrows and she finished strong.
Does she want to go back next week? YES!!
Lesson learned: We will have her shoot for only 30 minutes of the hour long session so she can continue having positive experiences and build up her muscles.
I am proud of the little spitfire. I am also proud of the amazing group of kids and adults that encouraged her tonight. That told her good job when she hit the target. That didn't laugh at her over abundant joy but smiled and encouraged. That didn't scoff when she quickly turned to anger and tears but let her work through it. To the older kids who said, "Hey Maddy! Come check this out! I shot an arrow into another arrow!" And let her tag along and pull out the arrows from the target.
All of these crazy blessings in the blessing of autism.
She's going to conquer the world....and now she's armed! Look out, world!