For those of you that unaware, my daughter is on the autism spectrum. Over the past year I’ve written a mostly new act which discusses the journey I have been on since becoming a father. One of my daughters former teachers had seen this new show of mine and asked if I would do a truncated version of it show for current parents of students in the local early childhood program.
A little background on what early childhood programs are, they are set up for pre-K (3-5 year olds) who are developmentally delayed. What that means is that some of these kids just need some extra attention to catch up, but a majority are looking at a future where they will have academic challenges the rest of the life. With the exploding growth of autism, my guess is that the majority of these parents have a child on the spectrum.
The director of the program was excited to have me, but also was very nervous that I would say something that would cause problems. This was ironic to me, since that was how my teachers felt in most classrooms I ever stepped in. I understood, though.
I understood her concern. Think about having this child that you love unconditionally. Then noticing that they aren’t developing at the rate they should be. Then to find out sometime between 2 and 3 years old that they are have some disorder like autism. You research the autism subject and learn that many on the spectrum never build real friendships or are able to ever live on their own.
My daughter is 9 now, and I am know who she is and have a good idea of what her future holds. I have come to an understanding. When your child is 3 or 4 years old, though, you have in the back of your mind that some type of miracle is around the corner. A miracle that will cause the love of their life to be able to live a typical life. Eventually to be able to hold a job, make a real connective friendship, or even get married. The older a child with special needs becomes, the more you learn to accept it and in some ways, embrace it. These parents I would be performing for were still in the rawest time. The time where you are confused, heartbroken, and praying for a miracle.
Sounds like a tricky situation. Well I was only doing 25 minutes, so I did my abbreviated version of my show, but made it more conversational and definitely more confessional. I stood in front of the classrooom and told my story of how my life had changed from having my girl Maddie. The story I tell is the evolution of me from learning from my daughter. It’s dark at times, but I try to throw in plenty of silly to keep the laughs going.
I like that I usually perform my show in front of people who know little about people with special needs because I have never wanted to preach to the converted. I like being able to raise awareness and understanding. I will admit, though, that there was something cool going on in that classroom the other night, as I had a group of parents who I could tell felt very connected to what I was discussing. When you have a child with special needs most of your emotions are amplified. You are sadder, you are happier, you are angrier, and you definitely have less time to accept any bullshit. What’s interesting is that you become way more accepting of people who have disabilities, while being more irritated dealing with typical people who who behave or act in a way they should know better. You gain a different perspective and have little patience for those who bitch about their imaginary problems. (See every Real Housewife, for example)
So the show went well. This was an event set up by the school where some of the early childhood teachers gave up their time that night to watch the children in another classroom, while the parents had an hour to escape from the reality they live. You see, when you have a child with type of special needs, especially when they are younger, you can’t just call up the local high school girl in your neighborhood to babysit. It takes someone with experience for you to trust them. It might have been the only hour these couples were together without their child for the whole month/year. I know this reality well.
While I prefer to do shows without any restrictions, I have done few shows where I felt more appreciation. That is a weird feeling, but it felt good. Now back to my full-time job–slinging jokes to drunks!
Here’s a compilation clip of what my fundraiser show is like.