Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Normal" or "Real"?

Week two of Kindergarten, my son was sent home with a poster entitled "All About Me", and a note from his teacher asking for the parents' help with the poster. It would be due back in a week's time. My creative juices started flowing and I had to remind myself that I wouldn't go overboard. This is not about me. However, I can never truly let a creative challenge go unattended, so I talked to Christian about the poster. I asked him for the answers to the questions on the poster. They were:
Name: Christian
Age: 5
Favorite Color: Green ('s really "Green, Blue and Red" and he refuses to choose between them, so I told him that we need to choose just one, so we'll choose green.)
Favorite Animal: Cat
Favorite Food: Fruit
The rest of the questions wanted a drawn picture or a photograph to accompany the answer. They were:
This is what I look like: Attached a photo.
My Family: Attached a photo.
Favorite Place: The beach. Attached a photo.
My Favorite thing to do is: Play with water. (SOOOO True!) Attached a photo.
If I had just one wish, I would wish for: A Dog. Attached a photo by Christian's request of our deceased dog, Buddy. (Cue the heart ache.)

The last question we addressed is a question I've asked my son many times and received the same answer everytime:

When I grow up I want to be....

His answer is the same, everytime.............................When I grow up I want to be: Normal.  When I press him on it, thinking he doesn't really understand the question and offer up answers like Basketball Player? Doctor? City Planner? He says, "NO!! I want to be NORMAL. Like YOU."  I find this answer so amusing. a) Because I don't really know what "Normal" is. and b) "Normal" actually sounds like a pretty great thing to strive to be.  But, just for fun, I considered the picture or photograph that should be attached.  What kind of picture says, Normal?  I giggled to myself as I looked for the funniest, most NOT normal picture of myself that I could find.  I found it in an old folder from a silly book club gathering I attended, where I donned a set of fake teeth and posed with a "What?? Do I look funny?" kind of expression on my face. The photo:

bookclub5 funny face

I added some text across the picture that answered the open ended question of When I grow up I want to be.." my Mom." I took a deep breath and as funny as I thought it was, I realized that I was taking a chance that the Kindergarten teacher would get my sense of humor. I mean, she doesn't know me...In absence of actually knowing me, is this just...freaky???

We finished the poster and handed it in by the due date. Haven't heard a word about it since. Last week, however, we had Back to School Night.  First, there were informal presentations at various booths about the things that concerns school: Spirit wear, Fundraising, Lice, Parent Association, etc. Then there was the more formal presentation in each classroom. I sat thrilled to hear about all of the things they have begun working on and what the year will hold in regard to the curriculum, field trips and behavioral rewards. As the presentation concluded, the teacher invited us to walk between the two adjoining Kindergarten classrooms where we heard the presentation. I strolled around looking at the artwork and began to notice all of the "All About Me" posters. I took note of the answers on one after another, after another...

When I grow up, I want to be...

A Doctor
A Teacher
A Doctor
A Doctor
A Lawyer
A Teacher
A Firefighter


bookclub5 funny face

Normal. Like my Mom.

Oh God.

Luckily, it makes me giggle. It's going to be up on those Kindergarten walls for quite some time. And there's a good chance that the people who have seen it, just think I'm weird. Haha. Yep. That's me! The poster child for Normal.

I shared this story, because I've been thinking about how it would be easy to take life too seriously. I believe that laughter is one of the best medicines and that the ability to laugh at yourself is probably the key to getting through the rough patches. I'm renewing my commitment to surrounding myself only with the people and the things that I truly enjoy. I recently had to take a step back in a social situation because it wasn't healthy for me. This week, in every spare moment of time I can muster, I am going to get rid of the physical clutter that exists in and around my home. Bags going to Goodwill and a truck of Got Junk should be headed out of the house by weeks end. This could be a source of contention between my husband and I.  We deal with clutter a little differently. So, fingers crossed that when we get a small breath of fresh air and hint of feng shui that it will inspire us both to live with less.

I read Kelle Hampton's book, "Bloom", this week. If you're not familiar with her, she writes an enormously popular blog entitled "Enjoying the Small Things". Her blog went viral after she unexpectedly gave birth to a baby girl with Down syndrome. I've been reading her blog since shortly after Elijah was born. Reading her book gave a much fuller insight into who she is and what her story is. While I related to so much of what she went through in her journey of dealing with her daughter's diagnosis, it was really the ending of her book that resonated most with me. She explains that someone emailed her the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, in relation to whether or not people will see her daughter with Down syndrome as beautiful. But she realizes that this story is really more about HER journey. I find the words of The Velveteen Rabbit to be so beautiful, and so wise, so very much about each person's own journey. Here is the snippet I'm speaking of:

The Story of the Velveteen Rabbit
“Real isn’t how you are made…” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand…”


I don't really know what the true definition of "Normal" is, but I'm beginning to understand what it means to be "Real". Maybe "Normal" is what you get to consider yourself after you've gone through the hardships that have shaped you. The place that once you let go of all of the insecurities and fears about what others will think. The time when you stop gossiping or putting others down because you actually feel badly about yourself. Maybe the time when you just are is when you're Normal. If so, I'd like to think that my son's wishes to be Normal when he grows up, might be the very, very best thing he could want to be...

But, just so you know....this week as I drove Christian home from school, he said, "Mom. When I grow up I want to be a Train Conductor."
You couldn't have thought of this 2 weeks ago??

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Day of Jump Start

Elijah started the Jump Start program on Tuesday. The Jump Start program is a center-based, early intervention program that will provide Elijah with all of his one on one therapies: Physical, Occupational, Speech and Child Development Services in one place. It is all combined in a school-like atmosphere, where social skills are learned through circle time and snack time interactions. He had been receiving 6 hours a week of therapy before starting this program. Now he will receive 15 hours a week. 

Day one and my heart cannot even begin to translate the feelings to words, but I'll try.

He wore a backpack. (Okay...I'll admit that it's sort of a dupe backpack. It has nothing in it because I didn't want him to be weighed down, and it wasn't even big enough to fit all of his first day necessities.)

Elijah's 1st Day of Jump StartB

I appreciate my baby boy. I find him generally a joy to be around. He's soft. I mean, he's extra soft...maybe it's the low muscle tone that means he melts into your arms just a little bit more, but he's just soft all-around. His hair is super soft. His skin is super soft. He has a funny sense of humor. He makes us all laugh. A lot. He's smart. He can't say any words yet, but it's easy to "catch his drift" none the less. These things and more are what I appreciate about Elijah. But when I pass him off to strangers, I wonder, Will they see the same thing? Will they "get him"? Will they appreciate him or see him as just a diagnosis?

Morning drop off on Elijah's first day went well. He didn't cry and didn't put up a fight. Like my firstborn at Kindergarten, he confidently went with the therapist who took him to join the other kids for circle time. I got about 1 block away before the tears started. I simply cannot explain these tears. These first days of school tears come unwelcomed. Don't get me wrong: I am looking forward to just a little bit of "me time", where I can run some errands ALONE, take yoga class, concentrate on work, or just- as I did on Elijah's first day- walk aimlessly around CVS. I'll admit that I felt a little lost though. It is weird to drive around in my car, during morning hours without anyone else in it.

The 3 hours passed quickly (read: I barely got anything done) and I returned a little early to witness the kids and therapists doing their closing circle time.  They were singing a song about 5 monkeys (Not the "5 Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed" song) and the therapist gave 5 of the kids little stuffed toy monkeys. Elijah got one. As they sang, he lifted his monkey high into the air, and with as much gusto as I've seen him use, he waved that monkey around. Then he put the monkey in his mouth and shook his head like a dog shakes a toy...okay, I realize that sounds a little crazy, but believe me: it was SUPER cute and funny. He didn't look tired or cranky. He wasn't having a melt down. My fears that the transition would be tough were temporarily allayed. The Goodbye song concluded and the therapist brought him back to me- beaming and happy to see Mommy.

I asked the therapist how he did and she responded with an enthusiastic, "Great! He had a great first day!" She gave me a little report about the things he especially loved (the ball pit, the floor to ceiling windows) and then another therapist standing nearby piped in. She said, "I have been here 4 years, and I have never seen a kid have a better first day than Elijah had."  I was blown away. I felt a resounding relief wash over me. He loves it here. I knew he would!

Today, when I took Elijah back to the program, I half expected it to be more difficult than the first day. It's highly possible that once Elijah realizes that I am going to take him here every weekday, he may resist. But today, again, was easy. When I came to pick him up, the therapist who had him last for circle time joked that she was just going to keep him and not give him back to me. She said, "He's so much fun! We love having him here!!" Cue the warm fuzzies. They "get him". I know I sound surprised...I am just a little bit. The people who are around Elijah for any length of time at all, fall in love with him. He casts his spell. But, there are a large majority of people who know us and even love us, but haven't really spent any significant amount of time around Elijah. They, while loving, still see a "challenge" that I am handling well. Elijah's diagnosis might bring with it some extra challenges. I expect there will be some challenges to face when we get to Kindergarten and beyond. However, right now, I'm not lying. I'm not pretending things are easier than they are. The extra things I have to do for Elijah, don't feel like extra things. It's just what we have to do. A friend who has twins once put it so succinctly, "People say Oh twins must be SO hard, but it's all I know. I've only ever had twins, so I don't know any differently. Is it more work than one child? Maybe. But it's all I know and I love it." 

Elijah gives so much more than he takes. I wouldn't trade him for the world. I got lucky. God decided that I was the right one for Elijah and that he was the right one for me.

And in my book, God is ALWAYS right.