“Mom, I had such a good time in Yosemite! It was amazing, so AMAZING,” Oscar shouted as he stepped off the huge white tour bus last Friday afternoon. I wrapped my arms around him even as he was still talking, eager to share every detail.
I’d already spoken to one of his teachers, who had arrived five minutes early. “He did so great!” she said before I could even ask.
There was just one sticky time, on Thursday morning. “My mom said she’d come get me today if I needed to go home,” he’d told her with tears already threatening. But she knew the deal. “Nope, I don’t think so Oscar,” she’d said kindly.
He started to cry then, and argue. He may have flopped to the ground. “He was tired,” she told me, “but I knew you hadn’t said that.” She told me she stepped away with her phone, pretending to call me, and returned using the vocabulary she has learned is most helpful for Oscar. “I checked with your mom, Oscar, and ‘the plan’ is that you’re going to stay.” He turned it around right then, she said, and went on happily with his day -- hiking, chatting with friends, and painting with watercolors down by the river. By removing the possibility of going home she had freed him up to engage the rest of the day.
As Oscar was gathering his luggage from the bus another chaperone approached me. “I had the best time with Oscar. I just love talking to him,” she said. I just smiled and smiled, so thrilled that Oscar manages to find these people that appreciate him. I worried though, did Oscar spend the entire trip glued to an adult? Did he engage with the other kids at all?
I stopped doubting and let the trip’s success sink in during the half-hour car ride home. Oscar and his friend M (an 8th grader) shared their favorite moments while Ruby and I listened in. Oscar added on eagerly to M’s stories about the hike to Lower Yosemite Falls, and recounted his own, about the nature center, the gift shop, and the kids he hung out with. (The kids he hung out with!) He made appropriate comments, showing enthusiasm for the details that M added. “Oh yeah! That was so fun!” he would say. He was confident, quick, and socially engaged in a way I rarely see with peers.
I sighed, letting out that little bubble of anxiety I’d stored up while he was away. The trip really had gone well. (And Oscar is already talking about next year.)