In August 2017, I reflected on the philosophical meaning behind my first child’s admittance into pre-kindergarten in a blog post. I talked about adjusting to a new wake-up time and an odd pick-up time. Jrue used to verbally disgorge everything he’d heard in a day in to-the-minute vocal tones and in his specific brand of monologued dialogue. It was amusing how quickly he adapted to the routine of his class schedule. His teachers raved about his optimistic attitude and willingness to do as instructed.
After a host of tests, we learned that our little boy, with his script echoing and body rocking and ability to physically be in a room, but tune out reciprocal conversation, has ASD. It isn’t a debilitative life sentence, though. We were invited to place him in a special classroom at our zoned elementary school so that his dedicated education could continue with supplemental care from a speech pathologist, a psychologist, and an occupational therapist.
We had to work towards cracking open his brain to unscramble the sparkle within those depths.
Allow me to unveil that Jrue is making such sophisticated strides in his development that his teachers see no problem in matriculating him into kindergarten in August. They’ve even foregone a need to do what is called an extended school year where he’d continue services through the summer months. They trust that he will not regress, as long as mom and dad are helping in regular reviews. Jrue will move into the general education kindergarten classroom with his age-appropriate peers, as he has the maturity and skills to handle it, and his team will work with him throughout the school week as he advances in his goals.
My baby graduated from pre-K last Friday, and all of the knowledge regarding assessments and all of the prayers and all of the overwhelming-ness of these babies getting their first diplomas in front of caring family members through so much adversity and through the challenges of their individual conditions honestly gave me…major ugly cry syndrome.
Thankfully, the lights in the classroom were dimmed low during the ceremony so that I could ugly cry in relative anonymity.
I was honestly fine for a while. The teachers introduced the event and gave a subsequent slideshow of the school year. The presentation was precious…the children were shown in various stages of learning and playing. Teachers were covered in paint. Hands were dipped in dough. Smiles beamed all around. Since my son didn’t join the class until January, he was absent from most of the onset of pictures and video clips.
Then, he popped up. Flashing that effortless grin with almost fully-closed eyes that we absolutely love. Looking so comfortable and so aware and so…happy…at his “new” school. The pictures kept coming. Him on the playground when we know he used to be afraid to go down the slide. Him dancing in a snippet, surrounded by other gyrating bodies, also dancing like no one was watching (and filming). Various pictures indicated some level of interaction reciprocity with his friends at school, probably “unprompted,” which was one of his initial goals to hit that was actually achieved early, according to daily home reports.
And that graduation music that flowed from the background? All sad and happy, simultaneously?
The theater opened. I couldn’t hold the flood. The sudden increase in running snot gave me away to the hubs standing nearby. I didn’t want to be teased, but I took it anyway.
Now I’m thinking about what I would advise for my son since he is at the starting line of his K-12 journey. There’s only 13 stepping stones, and I know that the years are going to speed up, judging from how quickly we got to this point.
I usually emphasize the importance of all levels of education in our home. The hubs and I remain heavily involved in Jrue’s practicing and considering and rewriting. We often time lessons to music to make retention easier because of Jrue’s musical learning style. We cheer when correct; we redirect when more is needed. I want Jrue to know that formal schooling is not the end-all, be-all, but it may make progression that much easier for him. We try to make learning fun. As he gets older, we’ll make it relevant.
I want my son’s takeaway as he jumps from this starting line to be that life is like a theater. There’s many chairs placed there, many opportunities to welcome wonder and glory along these essential years. But, also, those occupants can encourage criticism and misfortune. They may boo. They may heckle. However, his stage is his. No one will be allowed to step onto it, even mom and dad. Mom and dad will remain front and center as he graduates kindergarten and fifth grade and eighth grade and twelfth grade. We have lifetime seats. We are right there when he becomes an astronaut, and on the day of his wedding, and at the birth of his son, and when they rescue that cat they’ll name “Meow.”
We’ll look back and remember when it all started.