Monday, May 30, 2011

As The School Year Closes...

This past week marked two milestones. Ben completed 4th grade. Zachary graduated from kindergarten. I spent their last day at the school, complete with tissues.

We had to say goodbye to the fabulous teacher Ben was lucky enough to have for two years. In this time, the teacher has taken on the daunting task of trying to figure out how Ben operates. What things set him off? What methods work well for him? And what, (because he will never open up), is making him sad on certain days? The teacher has dealt with Ben saying the same line to him, at the same time, every day for two years. Yes, every day after lunch, Ben repeated the same sentence to him. And yet, he never lost patience. We received hand-written notes daily. As a parent of a child with special needs, this is invaluable! I feel so fortunate to have had this truly amazing teacher work with Ben for two years. I am forever grateful to his dedication and his ability to see the potential and the intelligence in Ben. The best part of the last day was seeing Ben's smile as he participated in a party with his seven classmates. He proudly showed off a K-Nex amusement park they had built. It felt like the culmination of what I have known he needed all along, and all I have tried to do for him. This is what I have most wanted for him above everything else: moments of true joy.

Zachary participated in a darling performance on the last day, complete with a kindergarten-sweet rendition of "What A Wonderful World." I sat through the show thinking that, for all the times the special needs of his siblings take over, we have not done too badly after all. The most tear-jerking part of the performance actually came when Zachary's classmate reached out, twice, to help guide a profoundly handicapped girl through the stage movements. It touched me because I knew Zachary, had he been standing next to her, would have done the exact same thing. Like Ben, Zachary had a great teacher this year! She was just the right mix of kind but firm, and he flourished under her guidance. Much like the gifted/special ed class is perfect for Ben, the regular ed classroom is the right fit for Zachary. In every way, he fits in, understands the work, and enjoys the academic challenges without a need for extra assistance.

I know not every day of this past school year was perfect. I know I forgot to sign some papers and that we missed the boat on a few homework assignments. I know there were times that other kids were mean on the playground and I didn't always know what advice to give. I know that I wanted to be there more. But I think the overall picture was one of success. I look forward to the years ahead, even the looming teenage ones. I feel empowered to weather any storm, because we have done it before. What always comes through in the end is the light.. a small ray of hope that is laced with the best emotion one can feel towards their children: PROUD.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What I Wanted To Say...

Last week, I was asked by someone I know if I ever wish I hadn't gone for the third baby, "since he is so much extra work." The question floored me, and I had to remind myself, as I do often, to choose love over anger. I have to assume the question proposed still could have been laced with good intentions. Perhaps this person was trying, in a strange way, to say that he sympathized with the busy days and emotional overload that comes from raising a child with extra needs. Too shocked by what was uttered, though, I could only respond a pathetic, "no" before walking away.

If given another chance, this is what I would say: I do not ever regret having a third child. The hours spent at therapies or doctors' offices exhaust me, but they are not an interruption to my life. They simply ARE my life. The joy that has come from my son outweighs any difficulty. I would feel this way even if the needs at hand were far more severe than they are. I know this in my heart. Everything he accomplishes is a miracle because we never know how far he can go and it all feels such a glorious surprise when he learns a new skill. Yes, I feel bad that things are hard for him, but isn't life, in certain ways, hard for all of us? And think of this: While he may struggle to run and jump and maintain endurance, he is learning, at a tender age, to stop and smell the roses. He appreciates the shape of a leaf, the feel of a raindrop on his skin, or the warmth of the sun. Truly, the observations he makes about things we often overlook astound me.

Due to some portions of his neurological and medical issues, I will admit that in my darkest hours, I worry for his future. Will his left side always be weak? Will his stomach ever learn to handle more food intake? Will he always walk "funny"? Will he require a wheelchair? Will he live to be an old man? But then I come back to this thought: All that truly matters is now. This moment. This child. This life. This miracle I have been entrusted with.

So it isn't about regretting having a third child. It is about what I would have missed if I HADN'T- which is everything.