Think primary school is just like Mean Girls? This story will make your heart melt.
My daughter Harper had her school concert recently, and I had tears in my eyes the whole time she was on stage. No, she wasn’t the star. She was just there, one of the dancers, in the back row. But there was a time I thought I might never get to see her in a school concert.
From a very young age, Harper seemed different from other children.
She would rather read books than play with kids. She was very sensitive to certain noises. She had to do things her way, and nothing could convince her to change her mind. I kept coming up with excuses for her behaviour, thinking it was all to do with my style of parenting. But at the age of four, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s.
I’d had so many dreams for her school years. I’d imagined her excelling in her favourite subjects and shining in all sorts of after-school activities.
When she started school, those dreams faded, and I was left with smaller ones.
I just wanted her to get through the day without having a meltdown because someone had put her crayons in the wrong order. I just wanted her to blend in with the other kids.
There were a lot of things that made me cry in Harper’s first few years of school. With her first disco, she got as far as the door, heard the loud music, turned around and walked out. With the annual Book Week parade, she stood off to the side and watched the other kids. With school concerts, the teachers suggested that it might be better if she didn’t take part.
I cried for her, for all the things she was missing out on.
But this year things have changed. It’s thanks to time, and it’s also thanks to Harper’s three best friends.
At the school disco, Best Friend Number One took Harper’s hand and promised to share her jewellery if Harper would go inside. With earplugs, she made it through the disco, and loved it.
At the Book Week parade, Harper dressed as Selby the talking dog, and Best Friend Number Two dressed the same. Best Friend Number Two told Harper how great she looked, and encouraged her to sit close by. Harper went in the parade – sprinting instead of walking – but she did it.