There is nothing quiet like the bittersweet ache of these first days… Looking through the lens of my camera this morning nearly took my breath away. I could swear he just started kindergarten.
This is what the older folks mean when they say, “Enjoy every minute. It goes so fast.” It sounds crazy to a frazzled parent just trying to make it through the eternity of an afternoon with little ones. But I get it now. The details we sweat, they matter so little. The hard stuff fades. And suddenly, that baby who wouldn’t feed, the toddler who threw stuff out of the cart at the grocery story: he’s a third grader, still anxious and sleepless the night before his first day, still willing to hold his mama’s hand on the way to his new classroom, but so tall, and every day a little more confident, a little more independent, a little more himself.
I have prayed with him and for him, and I will whisper countless more prayers through this day, and every day. He is my heart, and he is growing into the young man he was designed to be. Thank you, God, for this dimpled, freckled boy of mine.
Happy third grade, Corin.
And here they are, Lina’s first day of school pictures. She was so excited.
Heading to the front steps to wait for the bus
She admittedly looks much fresher in these than she did when the bus finally showed up 25 minutes late. (No pictures of her getting on, thanks to the rush.) She goes in the afternoons this year, and she’s riding the bus to school for the first time. (I’ll be picking her up to spare her the much longer ride home.) She has a new teacher, aids and therapists. It’s a year of changes, but hopefully it will be good preparation for the much bigger ones to come when our girl heads to kindergarten next year. Truthfully, it’s entirely possible I’m the one who most needs to get used to the changes. After two years with a wonderful preschool teacher, I’ve had my worries about having to switch. But then I caught this moment with her new teacher at yesterday’s meet and greet:
These preschool teachers, y’all. They aren’t in this for the money or the easy days, I can tell you. There is no mistaking the love on her teacher’s face; Lina is in good hands again this year.
It’s that time of year again, which comes remarkably early here in the south. The kiddos are headed back to school, with freshly sharpened pencils, unbroken crayons, shiny new lunch boxes and mildew-free water bottles. Corin is beginning second grade, where he has his own desk for the first time. (He sat at group tables the past two years). He was super excited, and while we definitely saw touches of the old anxiety over the past few weeks, he was much more confident walking into his classroom this year.
Every year, we take time to remind Corin that while we want him to do his best in school, the thing that matters most is his ability to show love and kindness to the people around him. “Look for the lonely kids,” his dad and I say. “Stick up for the kids your other friends think are weird. Be a friend to the kids who get left out. We know you’ll be able to do that, because you have Jesus’ love in your heart.”
A fellow mom in our Down syndrome community posts a quote at the beginning of every school year: “I don’t think the worst thing that could happen to me is having a child with special needs. I think the worst thing would be to raise a child who is cruel to people with special needs.” -Matthew Michelson Butman
Special needs come in endless variety, for those who have disabilities and those who don’t. In the end, we all just want to be seen, accepted and included. We all want to belong. I prayed this morning that Corin would be safe, that his mind would be sharp and he would love learning, that he would make good friends. But most of all, I prayed that he would be kind.
Happy second grade, sweet boy. It never stops feeling like I’m leaving a giant piece of me in that classroom.
Tomorrow is sister’s turn to start her last year of preschool.
On Monday, Lina returned to her much-loved early childhood preschool, where she attends four mornings a week. (Yes, I am four days late with this post. My poor youngest got the short shrift of a very busy week.) She was so excited about going back that she spent most of the drive singing, clapping, cheering, signing “school” and saying the names of her teacher and therapists in succession. By the end of her first day, she had learned the names of half her new classmates. She’s the old pro this year, and the staff tell me she is happy to boss everyone else around. Her speech therapist is ecstatic with the speech development she experienced over the summer. She has a new OT who I think will be wonderful, but it’s otherwise the same team as last year, and we are so excited to watch her progress unfold over the year.
From the classroom open house on Friday morning
First full day and ready to go
I am so grateful for the bond these two have developed over the summer. They sometimes drive each other crazy, as all siblings do, but they have had so much fun playing and laughing together.
We have been busy over the last few weeks trying to soak up the last bit of summer. We spent a week at family camp, enjoyed time with friends from out of town, and yesterday closed things out with a pool day and dinner out. Photos of some of those things are forthcoming, but for now, we mark Corin’s first day of the new school year. (Lina had a brief open house and will have her first day on Monday.)
Temperatures outside are still sweltering, but here in the South, we head back to school in August. The lead-up is a little bittersweet as I mark another milestone in my kids’ lives, but there really is something awesome about the first day of school. It has that shiny freshness of a new beginning, with the pent-up anticipation for all that lies ahead. My son’s nervous excitement does something to my heart as he marches off to conquer this newest world.
Happy first grade, Corin!
Corin feels it’s very important for everyone to know that the dinosaurs on his backpack glow in the dark.
Drop-off was a whole new experience compared to last year’s delayed start for kindergartners. Mostly, this year involved a lot more walking.
Straight to business, with barely time for a smile