“My Story…” Monday: A – The (Hard) Next Step

(I know it’s not Monday- it’s only Sunday!  But tomorrow is a holiday and I, like many of you, will be taking the day off right along with my husband.  I didn’t want to leave you all hanging on A’s story though…)

 

(You can catch up on A’s story right here: The Pregnancy, The Birth, The Infancy, The Quiet Toddler, Advocating, What He COULD Do, Just A Boy)

 

It was becoming apparent that, while A. appeared to be a bright enough and happy enough little boy, he wasn’t making a whole lot of progress when it came to his speech.  I was a stay-at-home mom out in the country and, to be honest, I was good at reading my child and probably didn’t “need” as much communication from him as others might have.  We had learned sign language right along with him, so the 200+ signs he knew were enough to get us through the days without difficulty.

 

But I knew. I KNEW I needed to do more for my son.  I brought it up in conversation with a clinical occupational therapist whom I greatly admired.  I wasn’t expecting her suggestion:

 

“Well, we have a preschool for two-year olds here at the child therapy and development center.”

 

Preschool???  In case you didn’t know, I am absolutely PRO-preschool. I’m not saying I think people who opt out of preschool are bad parents… but I, personally, think a quality preschool can be extremely beneficial in preparing a child for kindergarten.  I had always intended to send A. to preschool… I just hadn’t planned on it being any time that soon.

 

I went home and thought about it.  I looked over the pamphlets and pictures of this development preschool with professional therapists at their disposal.  I talked to my husband about the opportunities for more social interaction and communication that this might provide.  We weighed pros and cons.  I was devastated to miss out on any time with my child, but relieved to find it was only two days a week, for two and a half hours at a stretch.  Five hours a week.  Could I give up my boy for that long?

 

I signed him up and he started the very next week.  The summer session was just beginning and it seemed as good a time as any for him to join the group.

 

That Tuesday morning- his first day of school- I woke and nervously got everything gathered together.  I packed his little backpack with diapers because he was not yet potty-trained.  I fed him a wholesome breakfast.  I dressed him in a blue and green striped t-shirt that looked so cute with his fair skin and dark blue eyes.  I wore a teal tank top my best friend had sent me for my birthday.  I remember it all.  I can still smell the peonies that bloomed near my kitchen porch in Indiana.

I drove the 17 miles into town with my sweet, silent boy in the backseat.  I arrived ridiculously early (an obnoxious trait of mine) and killed some time walking my two littles around the building in a double stroller.

 

And then it was time.

 

I took A. into his classroom and met the teacher.  I watched him wander over to a sensory table and begin to dig and play in the rice.  He played alongside the other children, but he didn’t interact with them.  I tried not to be pesky and annoying (though even then I knew I was) as I pretty much followed the teacher around trying to explain that my child was non-verbal, but that he signed.  Would he be understood?  She assured me that he would be fine, but I was not confident that there was anyone on hand who would be able to understand his sign language.  It was going to have to do.

 

It was time.  I knew I had to leave.  I made my goodbye cheerful and brief, a quick hug and “Bye, A!  See you later!” and I headed to the door.  His eyes filled with alarm… and tears.  But I walked out.

 

Writing that even now breaks me up, but I honestly believe that that was one of the things I did right.   Having seen many parents run back and sob and snuggle and drag the goodbyes on and on over the years, I truly think that’s harder on the child.  My smiling confidence probably played a large role in helping him settle down quickly- which he did.

 

I, however, hurried down the hall, past the preschool director, and into my car.  I pulled away from the school and, when my tears blinded me and my lungs burned, I pulled off into a McDonald’s parking lot and wept.  I was completely torn up.

 

I called my mom because, well, that’s what you do when you need someone in your corner.  She reassured me, of course, and I pulled myself together.  I drove my 18-month old little girl to the grocery store and bought a pint of raspberries.  We headed back to the school and sat under a shady tree and ate them all.

 

I couldn’t wait to hear how his first day had gone.

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