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.)
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.