Every once in a while, the truth that my baby is no longer a baby, nor a toddler, catches me off guard. I’m reminded by little things,* like when Tucker asks me to carry him, which I used to do oh-so-gently, barely able to trust myself to carry him up the stairs, and remembering to “mind his head!” Later, I carried him more easily, slung on a hip, while I fed myself, went about chores, and peed. Today, it’s hard to carry him up the stairs, or for more than a block or two, coming home from a playground.
I’m caught off guard when I catch a sideways glimpse of how huge his feet have gotten, and end up doing a double take, marveling at how my once teenytiny human is becoming a little boy. Is already one, no matter my level, or lack, of preparation.
I marvel that he will become an elementary student, a hormonal teenager, and, one day, much too soon, a man.
As Tucker’s vocabulary, social desire, and increasing understanding of emotions and the world around him expand along with his feet, my pride, amazement, and worry grow. He’ll be entering kindergarten this fall.
It doesn’t seem possible that four and a half years have been filled with his giggles, his tears, and the fact that he turned my heart upside down in the best of ways by mattering more to me than anything else. I feel immense gratitude over the fact that he now wakes me up in the morning by climbing into my bed, rather than crying at me from his, and that he enjoys the simple act of burying me under a mountain of pillows to crash into.
He often follows that play with “Wake up, Mommy.”
“Wake UP, Mommy. Both your eyes.”
Seeing him grow and absorb is a wake-up in itself. A both-my-eyes kind of wake up.
While today, he is not aware that his language, handwriting (if you can call it that), and his childhood milestones are grossly behind those of his typically developing peers, one day, he may be.
And that, my dear friends, fucking terrifies me.
Today, at work, a friend who has a now grown, dyslexic son and I were talking about school. Kindergarten. Private. Public. Elementary. IEPs and advocacy for special needs rights.
While I understand that each school experience is different, her words continue to rumble, cycle through, and ferment in every part of my brain.
I feel Worry.
Grief, at how his experience may be.
“He will feel dumb,” she said. “It’ll probably happen around the third grade, and it will crush him.”
“By that time,” she said, “it may be too late. There’s no fixing low self-esteem.”
There’s no fixing low self-esteem. There’s no fixing low self-esteem. There’s no fixing low self-esteem.
Her personal experience with public school was nothing less than horrific. Her son’s, too. While I’m terrified, I am also hopeful.
Although I obviously have continually evolving dreams for my little boy, they do not include excelling at particular school subjects, nor getting into Stanford. To me, now, that doesn’t have anything to do with the Point of All.
I’d like for Tucker to be his best him, whoever he is, and whoever (whomever?) he becomes. And I believe that in order for him to be his best him, that it’s critical that he not feel like a dummy.
I dread the potential day when an insensitive teacher asks him to perform an impossible-for-him task, in front of his class, feeling like she’s doing him a favor. Making him “man up.”
I dread the mean kid asking Tucker why he is allowed extra time to complete his exams, if he’s even taking them, and I dread the innocent child who asks my son why he can’t read a certain something. I dread those kids’ parents. Which means, I maybe dread you.
How is my son expected to be his best him, for all of his life, if he feels like the him that he is – is something less than?
Is it true that school can crush a child?
Will School Crush My Special Needs Kid?
Yes. I fear so.
That school has the ability to crush those that we love the very most is why some special needs families end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on primary education (and also why I want The Best Special Needs School in the World – taking donations).
It is, in part, why my friend Jen from My Skewed View continues to home school her son, who has Sensory Processing Disorder. She home schools him because teachers judge. Parents judge, and students judge. Early on, she “came out” to other parents in a home school tribe. She shared about her son, and rather than embracing her, and him, the parent that Jen confided in told her older son about Jen’s son. He, of course, turned around, and told all of his peers. And all of a sudden, Jen’s son was “that weird kid.” No wonder she keeps him at home (uses with permission).
You, and your kids, are the people who have an opportunity to help my kid to live his life with peace, self acceptance, and to become his best him.
I don’t think it’s very complicated. We have the power to make the world a better place for all of our kids.
My friend Kerri from Undiagnosed But Okay will fill you in soon, on her blog, but has led an initiative in her community to educate elementary and junior high school aged students about special needs.
Their motto is “Every kid has a challenge. What’s yours?” The children participate in activities like doing art with the opposite hand, and filling out an anonymous paper saying what their personal challenges are.
A young student said that it was “Catching butterflies.”
A fourth grader wrote “My mom died.”
We ALL have challenges. While I did fairly well in school, had an (over)active social life, and friends, I had challenges. Differences. My dad raised my brothers and I from the time I was in ninth grade. While this is not the time to get into my challenges, the fact is that we each have them. Whether it one, or, more likely, many.
I think that before we worry about our children’s potential leadership skills and meaningless campaigns about whether or not the word “bossy” is good or bad (NOTE that I said the campaign is meaningless. My friend Deb from Urban Moo Cow contributed to an amazing pro/con article about the word “bossy” that is thought-provoking, well-written, and raises some really important points and you should check it out, as the article and their view points are very meaninful), that we need to focus on what’s the most important piece of childhood development is.
Please, can we begin to educate our children on worth? Let’s educate them on the magnitude of self-importance, regardless of ability and challenges.
Let’s educate about worth within their differing abilities. Let’s talk.
Let’s explain autism, Down Syndrome, PPD-NOS, developmental delays, sensory processing disorder, tics, and mental health issues.
Let’s explain culture, skin color, eye color, sock color preferences, and sexual orientation. Let’s explain that everybody is important. Let’s educate on empathy and wonder.
On that if your baby were the one who may feel “retarded” and bullied, you’d want me to listen.
Let’s educate on Being Human, 101.
It feels like a start.
This has been a too-late finished Finish the Sentence Friday Post. Today’s sentence, “I’m done with school, but…” and was contributed by April of 100 Pound Countdown so show her some clicks, m’kay?
*Kenya – Don’t Mind the Little Things