They just don't come any cuter than Bud.
This morning I attended the first-grade poetry reading, a Valentines Day event that had been postponed earlier in the week because of inclement weather. When we entered Bud's classroom, we found all the desks pushed to the side, the chairs lined up for the audience of parents, and a space cleared on the carpet for the children to take the stage.
Bud stayed close - but didn't seem anxious - as the room filled up with children and parents. While the rest of the children took their places on the carpet, Bud slid onto my lap in the front row. His neurotypical friend Michael - also not inclined to perform in public - slipped into the seat behind us, next to his mom.
The program included songs and poems performed by the children solo and in small groups, with a couple of numbers from the whole ensemble. Bud sat happily, smiling as he watched his friends, applauding enthusiastically after each performance. When the time came for his assigned poem, the one he's been practicing at home for weeks, the other children in his group formed a line on the carpet. Ms. Parker turned to us, and before she finished asking "Bud, would you like to join your friends?" he was on his feet and rushing to stand just behind his group.
His group recited the poem - a call-and-response rhyme with a complicated meter - while he read along silently behind them. When the poem ended, he bounded back joyfully to where I was sitting.
A short time later, the program called for Maddi to sing a solo. There must be some history here that I don't know, because Ms. Parker once again turned and asked Bud if he'd like to come up. Bud jumped up and joined Maddi, and while she sang a sweet song about chicken soup, Bud stood next to her, waved to his friends and flashed a "thumbs-up" to the audience. When the song ended, I let out a loud whoot as the rest of the parents applauded politely. Bud ran into my arms and bowed repeatedly as the applause continued.
When the program ended, Ms. Parker asked parents to help get the desks back in place, and suddenly the room was filled with noise and movement. Bud's friend Kelly dashed across the room to where Bud was standing. "Bud!" she cried, "You did a great job!" He hugged her, then turned to look for me in the swarming mass of parents, desks, and children. I suggested that we take a break and go to the bathroom, and he readily agreed.
When we emerged a minute later, the room was still loud and buzzing with activity, but one girl, Jamie, stood patiently outside the bathroom door holding sound-blocking headphones, one of the tools for self-regulation that Bud has available in the classroom. Jamie held out the headphones and said, "Bud, would you like to use these?"
Bud murmured a "yes," took them from her, and slipped them over his ears.
"Thank you, Jamie," I said. "You are such a good friend!" Jamie smiled as she walked away.
Bud had a wonderful belated Valentines celebration with his friends. And I don't know - I could be wrong here - but watching Kelly and Jamie today... well, something tells me that I'm not the only person who thinks that they don't come any cuter than Bud.