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.
You know what made today’s kindergarten sneak-a-peek event especially jarring? Remembering going with Corin yesterday. Seriously. I cannot account for the time.
Lina was by turns overwhelmed and excited as she got her first real tour of her new school. Her favorite parts were the bus ride, trying out the play kitchens in the classrooms, discovering the stage in the cafeteria and the Scales Mustang cookie (because that girl never met a dessert she didn’t like). She didn’t much want to talk to anyone, though she did engage in a giggly round of under-the-table peek-a-boo with the little girl across from her. She didn’t much want me to take pictures. There was some finger sucking and a meltdown or two when she didn’t want to stick with the tour program, but overall, she did pretty well.
I’m not sure how I’d rank my own performance. Events like this can be tough, mostly because they throw into sharper relief the differences between Lina and her typically developing peers. There are things she can’t or won’t tell me, and I am left to guess. Does she really understand that she is going to this school next year? What does that mean to her? How does she feel about it? Old worries resurface. How will the other kids respond to her when she doesn’t behave quite like they expect? Will they be patient with her less-clear speech? Will they make the effort to include her in their play? Will she be left behind as they race along at their carefree pace? How will she respond to the greater academic challenges?
I don’t like admitting those fears. I want you to believe that I always see Lina’s strengths and never waiver in my faith that she will conquer every obstacle and prove wrong every doubt. But that’s not real life. I have my struggles with worry and fear. These changes will never not be scary. I will never not feel the ache of the extra challenges my youngest child faces.
But deep down, in the place where it matters, I remain confident in Lina’s ability to navigate this transition. I believe that God has walked with us every step of our path so far, and that He will go beside my girl as I send her into her elementary school experience. I have a tendency – passed down like a treasured heirloom through long generations of worriers – to get ahead of myself. I want to solve problems ten years out. But that’s not how God works, and it’s not a very effective way to live. Instead, our family is learning to take our path one step at a time. God has never failed to provide just what we need for today.
So today, our girl walked through the halls of a fantastic school, where she will have access to excellent teachers, therapists and resources. She connected with a little girl across the table. She discovered favorite books and toys. She found the stage. She ate every morsel of her cookie. It was a good day.
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.
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
Corin’s end-of-school party was today, and in a few hours, he’ll be headed out on his final bus ride as a kindergartner. We weathered all that anxiety last summer, and now he finished the year thriving and confident, a kid in his element with his friends and a teacher he has loved. I’m going to miss kindergarten. Even with the modern change to more academics, it definitely still has that introductory feel. First grade suddenly sounds like real school. Corin is excited about it, but, as usual, I am wishing we could slow things down, just a little.
And so our summer begins, on a cloudy, 67-degree day. We have plenty planned – a week of day camp for Corin in June, swim lessons for both kids, a week of family camp for all of us in July – but there will be some down time, too. I’ve penciled in the building of blanket forts, catching of fireflies, reading of books, watching of movies and roasting of marshmallows over bonfires. I’ll keep you posted.
The kids played some fun relay games out on the blacktop, but we’ll limit the pictures to this one, since I don’t have permission to share the other kids’ photos. I did meet the much-discussed little girl Corin has identified as his future wife.
When Jon asked Corin last night what he would miss most about kindergarten, the answer was immediate: “Miss Davis.”
A successful day two drop-off is in the books. He wore his class shirt, brought an apple for the teacher and didn’t even look back to say good-bye. Next week begins the honest-to-goodness, real deal, riding the bus and staying all day. I say bring it – we’re ready!