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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!
So, I’ve been obsessing, er, thinking a lot lately about my eldest son’s all-too-near-future foray into middle school. I’m worried about him. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting Lucas, let me take a moment to describe my dear son.
Lucas is, well, he’s very much a product of his environment. Take one high-strung, work-her-ass-off, the-sky-is-always-falling lesbian, add a terminally laid-back, slacker, isn’t-that-falling-sky-a-gorgeous-shade-of-blue lesbian, throw in a couple of dysfunctional extended family members with addictive personalities, add a chubby blonde baby to the mix, and you get—Lucas!
Lucas is awesome. Really, he is an amazing kid and I adore him. But he is an enigma, of sorts. He is a math whiz, but struggles with reading and writing. He can remember the words to his entire choir repertoire (many of which are not in English), but can’t seem to remember to flush the toilet. Or change his underwear. Or bring home his homework. He gets nervous. Often. But not over the things you and I might get nervous about.
He is a sociable kid. He can stand up in front of a crowd of hundreds and sing beautifully without so much as hint of nervousness. But he freaks out if the bathroom sink drips. He struggles with anxiety. He doesn’t handle the unknown very well. He has to know what he should be doing at all times. He has to know how things will turn out. He has to know how every story ends. He has attention issues at times. He’s never been diagnosed with attention problems, but he tends to escape to his own thoughts a lot. He’s a thinker. He’s what used to be called a daydreamer.
In a less than two weeks, he will be thrown into a completely different world and I am worried. He has a good group of friends, so I am not so much worried about him being lonely. Or bullied. Or called names. That may happen, of course, but he has a core group of four good boys that he hangs out with. He’s not a loner.
No, I don’t harbor the “normal” parent middle school worries. My worries are irrational. Ridiculous, even.
I worry that he will be unable to remember his locker combination and will start crying in the hallway—a turn of events that would mortify him.
I worry that he won’t remember how to get from one classroom to the next without a kindergarten-style walk-with-your-finger-on-the-wall line of classmates.
I am afraid that the clothes I pick out for him (because he does not care
in the least about clothes and will put on whatever I hand him) will be a little too middle aged lesbian chic for 5th grade.
I am afraid he will start speaking in lingo I don’t know and that I won’t be able to find an appropriate translator.
I am afraid he will begin cursing and, being a less than stellar parent, I will laugh rather than react appropriately, thereby reinforcing a sailor’s mouth in my innocent little boy. And we all know that “shit” and “damn” are gateway words. Before long, my baby boy will be casually spouting the BIG ONES, and it’ll all be my fault because I reacted poorly in middle school.
I am afraid he will not fit into any of the typical middle school cliques. He’s not truly a “geek/nerd” because he is a pretty dang social kid. He’s not really a “brainiac” because, while he is amazing at math, he can’t write a coherent sentence to save his life. He is in no way whatsoever a “jock.” He has neither the interest nor the ability to be athletic. He’s not really “preppy,” as he does not own a single piece of clothing manufactured by Hollister or Abercrombie (we are Old Navy people up in here). He’s never been your typical rough-and-tumble boy. He’s just a regular kid. A good kid. I am hoping there is a group for that.
I am afraid that his friends will find out that 1.) He cannot tie his shoes (seriously…he wears slip-on shoes all the time and has refused to learn to tie his shoes—though his six-year-old sister can tie hers), 2.) He still cannot ride a bike (and has no desire to learn, in part due to his anxiety), and 3.) He still sleeps with the stuffed “doggie” he’s had since birth.
I worry that his homework is going to be beyond me. Fourth grade math was already pretty advanced for my tastes.
I worry that he will stop climbing in bed with his mommas on the weekends. I love that time with him.
I worry that girls will like him. He’s a handsome boy with gorgeous blue eyes and big dimples. He’s smart. Sociable. Kind. Gentle. He’s everything an eleven-year-old girl wants in a steady “boyfriend,” right? I am SO not ready for unworthy little hair-flipping, giggling, make-up-wearing wenches hanging on my son. See…there you go. Proof positive that I am not going to be good at this.
I’m afraid he’ll get lost in the shuffle. An average kid amongst average kids. How will anyone know what an extraordinary child he is?
Transitions are difficult—particularly in parenting. In the end, we simply want the world to be kind to the little people we adore. We want them to recognize the amazing potential that exists behind those radiant blue eyes. We want them to understand what a beautifully crafted, brilliantly original child we created.
And we hope and pray that the world treats them as such.
I LOVE back to school season. I love beginnings and fresh starts and the possibility of a blank slate.
Of course, the best part of back to school season is school supplies! I recently asked everyone over on bluegrass redhead's Facebook what their favorite school supply was and people had some passionate opinions on the superiority of highlighters versus post its.
Got me thinking... you don't have to be a student to enjoy school supplies and what could be better than school supplies that remind you of the Bluegrass state!?!
~ Sarah Stewart Holland