Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fitting in

A New Student Orientation was held yesterday at the school where our younger son will start attending in September. I'll be honest, I haven't given his transition much thought lately. I negotiated his IEP a month or so ago and since then, as usual, his brother has taken up most of my time.

Actually, it seems as though his brother's needs COMMAND most of my time. Sitting in the auditorium among the other parents of new students yesterday, I was reminded that our younger son's needs are certainly there. Perhaps they just aren't noticed at first or second glance. They aren't as emergent as some of his brother's, but that doesn't mean that they aren't important.

I was the last to arrive to the auditorium because I needed to smooth over the transition for our son. He was going on a tour of the building with some other children. And, as I mentally regrouped and took in the people around me, I suddenly felt out of place.

Up until that point, our younger son had attended a private montessori school in town. It was a smaller atmosphere and run entirely differently from public schools. There in the auditorium yesterday, I felt the culture shock. There were perky members of the PTSA talking about welcome back to school picnics and sporting activities and social clubs...all things in which my family has not been able to participate due to the various special needs of our kids.

Before I knew it, I felt a tear roll down my cheek. And then another. And another.

Good thing I was in the back of the room. I didn't even know what brought on the emotion at first. Wiping the tears, I took a deep breath and realized, yes, this was the life we do not lead.

These were the moms at Gymboree who talked while their babies played politely on the colorful gym mats. Our kids cried and did all they could to leave.

These were the moms of the kids in swimming and soccer and music and a whole host of other classes we tried along the way only to realize that our kids couldn't handle the group.

I've run into these moms a million times over the years. In the early days, I tried desperately to be like them. Somewhere along the way, I gave up. We started leading parallel lives. And now, I only see them in passing. It's been a long time since we have shared the same stage.

Looking at them, I wondered when it would happen that they would learn what kind of mom I am. Typically, in the school environment, the "special" moms don't mix with the "regular" moms. It makes sense, really. Our kids are not doing the same sort of things. I don't particularly blame anyone.

I just hate the look of realization on their faces. I do not like being the new mom among a group of "regular" moms and watching them process that we are a family of special needs. Yes, their processing is normal. No, I don't blame anyone. It just hurts. I hurt for me, and I hurt for my child.

The parent orientation ended, and we were told to meet our children on the playground. When I rounded the corner, I saw the familiar sight of our son standing alone on the playground equipment among a sea of children.

We are in a transition, he and I. I hope that I am able to navigate the waters for him successfully so that he learns and can finally have some friends at school. I don't want him to be the weird kid or the kid with the paraprofessional or that new kid that has problems.

I want in the very worst way for him to be happy.


  1. Mothering is such a joyful/painful/exciting/exhausting endeavor. I felt your words in my heart as a mother--when they hurt, we hurt. I guess that part is the same for all of us, but you are faced with those moments so much more frequently than most of us.

    It's funny that you mentioned the feeling of not belonging because even with all of the advancements we've made as far as being inclusive in our school systems, people still (and will always, I suppose) congregate with those who are most like them--who spend their time in the same places, doing the same things, with pretty much the same levels of abilities. That's normal enough, but it still means that inclusive can only be so inclusive. Wearing matching tee-shirts doesn't make kids and families connected, and attending school in the same location doesn't mean that the kids are in the same place.

    I hope that both of your boys find one true friend at school--a buddy with whom they feel a sense of genuine connectedness; a kid partner-in-crime to goof around with. Some kids have a gaggle of friends and some don't function that way. But one great friend is enough to make school--and childhood--magical.

    My hope is that one of these days, I'll pop in here to read and you'll have written: I went to pick up my son from school and stopped in my tracks when I saw it. He and a classmate were on the swings, laughing, and when they saw me, they both stopped. My son looked at his friend, rolled his eyes, and said, "My mom. I gotta go," and the other boy nodded and rolled his eyes, too.

    It will happen. They will--each of them--find their way.

  2. Beautifully written, Amy~~thank you for writing this, and reminding me that I'm not alone.The differences will remain, but the positives will outnumber (or at least equal) the negatives. My son won an award this past Spring in high school. As he stood up at the front of the auditorium with the other award recipients, it was painfully obvious how unlike the others he was. He obviously wasn't a "regular" kid! And in front of a whole auditorium of parents~~ This fact was so heartbreaking to me that the joy of his earning an award was temporarily lost. I feel ashamed for this, but there you have it~~it still hurt.

    Beth said the words that have kept me going on many occasions; words of wisdom that my husband has repeated to me many times over the years: "He will find his way." I KNOW your son will too! I hope he has many successes at his new school! I will be eagerly reading to learn how his first days are.

  3. Karen, thank you for your response. Always, at the stage where we are, it is hard to picture the future. And, how, just HOW does one find the internal CALM to say, "He will find is way"?

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