Monday, August 19, 2013

Back to School

They say God never gives you anything you can't handle. Well, before I dive into my intended post, let me share with you this delightful anecdote.

Yesterday I took BOTH Max and Chance to church for the first time. We parked around the block (the church has no lot), I put Chance in the chest carrier, grabbed Max's hand and hefted the large diaper bag containing all the supplies necessary for a successful adventure--Goldfish, lift-the-flap books, sippie full of water, change of clothes for both, and a few diapers. When we got to the VERY long staircase leading to the front door I decided it best to carry Max up or else we'd miss the entire mass.

Finally inside we found an empty pew near the back and I set Max up with a snack. We'd missed the first reading, but that was probably for the best because it meant less time hoping for good behavior. After fifteen minutes or so Max got antsy so I brought out the books which occupied him until the arm hair of the man next to us won him over.

Then it was time for communion. "Alright, Max. Let's go." I grabbed his hand and he obediently trotted with me along the side aisle to the front of the church. Once there I briefly let go of Max's hand to receive the host and that's when it happened. Max bolted for the alter. I grabbed his arm. He went boneless, fell to the ground and screamed. I bumped into someone as I bent over to pick him up. As I righted myself, Max almost on my hip and Chance still in the chest carrier, I lost my balance and fell backward to the floor. Please note that I was wearing an above-the-knee dress. Nobody was hurt (physically), and two parishioners stepped forward to help me up. Thankfully Max recognized the need to keep still so I was able to scoop him up, my arm across his chest, his feet dangling at my side, and make my way back to our seats as people silently stared. I felt stupid. But what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? I think it'll be a few more weeks before we make a second attempt.

Anyhow.... On to today's post.

Driving around town I notice that some of the trees have orange and red leaves signaling the end of summer and the start of the new school year. Every year I feel the same weight and anxiety as I think, "Oh man. What have I gotten myself into?" This year included as I won't have the luxury of staying home with Chance as long as I did with Max. In fact, next Monday is the big day.

This year is chock full of worries. Will I be able to pump enough milk to feed my baby? My lactation consultant assures me that I will. Do we have enough money to pay for childcare for both children? We did the math and the answer is a big fat "NO," at least not with current arrangement. Will the four new teachers in my department enhance or hurt our work environment? We'll have to see. And most importantly for this blog, will Max's transition to preschool go smoothly? Oh man. I hope so.

Actually, he won't start preschool until his third birthday in November. That's when the state hands over the responsibility for Max's services to the town. Our first meeting with his future school is set for next Tuesday--I'll be missing part of my second day back at work. I expect a lot to happen beyond introductions and a general description of program options. Apparently Max will be having a series of evaluations in the weeks ahead to determine his placement.

I feel wedged between a rock and the school district here because I want to be present for all of the evaluations, but I don't have any sick days. Missed days of work will result in loss of pay until sometime in January when the new days are allocated. I think being present for each evaluation will give me the information that I need to advocate for Max to the fullest extent. If I were to miss evaluations and he were placed into a program that I felt did not provide him with the best opportunities I know I'd blame myself. I've heard good things about our local schools, and I do believe that the educators and specialist involved in his assignment will have Max's best interest at heart, but while they are experts on the educational side, I'm the expert on Max. No one knows him better than his daddy and I do. That counts for a whole lot.

My other big worry is a bit less practical, more emotional. What if Max doesn't make any friends? I don't expect the children in his class to bully him for his Down syndrome. It's more a concern that his differences will mean that the other kids won't think to invite him into their lives outside of school. More a passive exclusion than an active one. What I want for Max is a life that is as typical as it can possibly be with playdates and birthday parties and impromptu trips to the park (but not just with Mom). I want the kids to WANT to have him on their team during recess. I want them to WANT to sit with him at lunch. I know that someday (who knows when) Max will realize that he is different in some ways from the other kids his age. My hope is that he comes to that realization on his own, and that it is not brought to stark relief by his classmates.

I can't make the other children be his friends. I can't protect him from every potential hurt. All I can do is help to stack the cards in his favor, and be there for him if they start to tumble. I imagine it's the same for all parents whose children are going off to school for the first time. I don't know. I'm new to this. But you can bet that I won't rest until I'm certain Max has the best path possible laid before him. After all, what else are parents for?

Finally, a few pics of our week.

Looking sharp, boys!


With friends (Caroline) at the farmer's market.

Two peas in a pod.

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