That time Jackson got a high five from Peyton Manning

It was a beautiful day for college football. Jackson and I were on campus to volunteer at the UKirk house (the Presbyterian Campus Ministry where I serve on the board of directors). We intended to skip over to Peyton Manning Pass, the road that leads directly to Neyland Stadium, to participate in the Vol Walk. We’ve done this several times before. Jackson loves to see the football players, and I love the Pride of the Southland Band. It’s win-win.

However, on Saturday, the Vol Walk seemed extra packed. Sure, it was the Tennessee-Georgia game day, and that’s a big rivalry. But, wow. It was crowded.

The crowd is hard to manage as a tall person, but it is painfully challenging for an 11-year-old. Fortunately, after locating an older woman who I hoped was a grandmother, and therefore understanding, I tapped her on the shoulder and asked if Jackson could stand next to her as the football team walked by. She smiled and said yes and took Jackson into her care. I stood several rows of people behind them. I didn’t need the front row experience, but I wanted it for my son.

Soon the band was playing Rocky Top, and we all looked up the street awaiting the team’s walk towards Neyland. There was yelling and whistling, and the crowd grew with excitement. The Volunteer mascot whooshed by, which meant the team was next.

But the team wasn’t next, at least not yet.

I saw Phillip Fulmer first and Peyton Manning second, and then my heart jumped into my throat because Jackson was about to get a high-five from the Greatest Of All Time.

I wish I could post a photo of the moment when the high-five occurred, but I was wedged behind a tall man who was working on getting his own high-five, so I only caught the second before and the moment after.

If you look directly above the iPhone, you’ll see Jackson’s little hand. Right above him is Peyton Manning. Jackson was next in line.

In a split second, it was over.

The football team was right behind him, so Jackson went on to high-five every player he could.

When the Vol Walk was over, Jackson and I scurried out of the crowd to fully assess WHAT JUST HAPPENED.

“Did Peyton Manning give you a high-five?”

“YES. OH, MY GOODNESS. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT.”

“I can’t believe it!”

“NO, I CAN’T BELIEVE IT EITHER.”

This went on several more times because we had no idea Peyton Manning was going to be there. Jackson had already met Phillip Fulmer, and he had a wonderful random run-in with Josh Dobbs (where hugs were exchanged), but a high-five from Peyton Manning was never on the radar. I quickly set him down on a stone wall and said, “We have to capture this moment.”

On the way back to the UKirk house I received a text from a friend saying Brett Favre was also on campus that day. Since I didn’t know about it beforehand, we missed an opportunity to meet him and get an autograph. I can’t even tell you how bummed I was about that.

And yet, the feeling of disappointment didn’t linger because Jackson was flying high and the smile on his face was quite enough.

Blog Challenge Day 11: Most proud moment

First of all, HOW BOUT THEM VOLS!

So, what’s my most proud moment? 

Let’s go with my most recent, and it happens to be connected to Tennessee Football.

If you know Jackson in real life, then you know how unique he is. Super affectionate, friendly to everyone, and a big time football fan across the board. He loves Tennessee and the Packers (because I’m a good mother), but he loves watching the game no matter who’s playing.

Jackson and Phil Fulmer

The problem occurs when he gets over-excited. One of the things the psychologist explained to us during his evaluations is that Jackson operates at a nine pretty much all the time, on a scale of one to ten. Those of us who are high strung start our day at a five or six, while others who have a calmer disposition hover at a two or three on a regular basis. As conflicts arise, we slowly inch to ten, each reaching that breaking point when we all lose our minds.

Because he struggles with impulse control, living each day at a nine can be really stressful – good or bad. When the Vols are winning, he’s jumping up and down, snapping, clapping, shifting here and there, repeating stats and obsessing over numbers. When the Vols are losing, he’s crying, tossing himself on the ground, sayings things he does not mean.

impulse control autismIt takes a daily reminding – no, hourly – that he needs to recognize his own level of frustration and make the decision to calm down or change his situation (leave the room, change the channel, walk away, etc.) Because when he Reaches 10, it gets ugly.

That brings us to the Tennessee-Arkansas game last Saturday. We found cheap seats online and went as a family. It was a risk, considering how Tennessee has played this season. I was mildly worried about Chuck’s blood pressure, but I was mostly worried about Jackson Reaching 10. And in a crowd of 102,000 fans, how would we handle Jackson Reaching 10?

Throughout each quarter, I had to gently remind Jackson, It’s not a big deal, It’s okay, Calm down, Sit down, It’s okay, It’s not a big deal. But then we reached the fourth quarter and it wasn’t looking good. I could read Jackson’s face quite clearly. If Tennessee did not pull out all the stops, Arkansas was going to win and Jackson was going to melt down. I half-watched the game and half-watched his face.

Tennessee fumbled. The game was going downhill fast. Jackson spun around to me and said boldly, “I NEED TO LEAVE.”

Calmly, I turned to Chuck, who’d driven separately, and said, “Jackson needs to leave.” Then the two stood up, grabbed hands, and left the stadium. Jackson diffused along the way.

While Jeremy and I finished watching the pitifully poor game, I sat proudly. Tennessee was losing to a team that they should have beat, but Jackson totally won that night. He recognized his temper and MADE THE DECISION on HIS OWN to walk away. It was a big move. It was ginormous. To date, it was one of my proudest moments as a mother: Jackson crested the rim of Reaching 10 and decided on his own to turn back.