This month at HerKentucky, we are all thinking about transitions into fall, and for many of us that means sending little ones (or big ones) off to school. I vividly remember the emotions of sending our firstborn son to Kindergarten four years ago. I was appropriately sentimental, apprehensive, and excited because I forced myself to be so. I had to will those emotions to be present because I was, at that time, also lost in the fog of raising a very young child who has special needs, not knowing what his future held, and I was desperately wondering if these milestones were ones I would share with him. (If you don't know me personally, you might not know much about Ben, but you can read about him and his developmental delays and other conditions here.)
The following year, Ben turned three and started at the Frankie Lemmon School. I often wonder what the real, divine reason would be for us moving back and forth between our beloved home in Kentucky and (this also lovely, but not home) North Carolina. I believe unequivocally that the reason is that there is no other place on earth like this school. This is a place where Ben thrived. He surpassed imaginary limits placed upon him by doctors who didn't know what Ben was capable of achieving and probably didn't want to give us what they felt would be false hope. Well. He showed them.
There might not be anything that has gnawed at my gut more than plucking Ben out of his safe and wonderful little school and sending him off to "big school." I'm still not sure that I love it there, mostly because of the long and important shadow cast by the place he outgrew. I know it will never be so good again. I know that I will begin morphing into one of the parents who fights and detests IEP meetings (whereas they have never been anything but delightful up to this point). I know that he is happy every day. I know that even though Ben can do just about anything, he is still going to be seen as different from other kids. I know he distributes hugs for all (whether you want one or not - we're working on it).
I also know that someday, maybe someday soon, someone will not be so kind to Ben. I'm not sure if he will notice that or not, but either way, the way we teach our kids to treat one another matters. This is something that can get buried under pressure to have great test scores, master math strategies, and beat AR goals. Please consider this a call to arms for all of us: parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and neighbors. Just be kind to everyone, all the time. If we can all set a beautiful example for our children to follow, then maybe all of these transitions won't seem so difficult for all of us tender-hearted parents every year. Bonus: You might get a hug from Ben, and you don't want to miss that, trust me!