Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dear parents of my students, I need you to know that...

You are not alone.
That is the first thing I want you to know.  It is not meant in the cliche "I understand what you're going through" thought.  Rather it truly is myself telling you, you are not alone through this journey. 
I know it may feel like it now, in the beginning.   

But I am here.  I'm more than your child's teacher.  For the 8 hours a day that they are in my care, I want you to know that I protect them, I love them, I guide & direct them, I laugh with them, I even want to shed tears with them when they face difficulties.
I am here, with them, and you [in spirit], as they accomplish a milestone [not matter how large or small].  Myself, my assistants, the therapists in my class, we all smile, clap, cheer when your child makes a leap in their growth, grasping a new concept, skill, or thought!

I saw the uncertainty the first time you met me, came into my room, brought your child.  Full of questions, wondering if maybe this was the best thing, wondering how much your child will learn or grow, perhaps even wondering if they will at all.

I saw your sadness when you had to leave them the first day.  I know it was the most difficult thing to let go of their hand and walk back out the door.

I know that the first day was the longest 8 hours of your life as you waited for your child.  I saw the huge smile and the relief on your face when your child came walking to you at the end of the day. 

I saw it.  I see it.  I know it!
I know it because that was me about 6 years ago.  My own son was not quite 3 years old.  I was so happy he would be going to a wonderful school that could help him, that could give him even more to help him grow and learn, despite his disabilities. 

But it was one of the single hardest things I had to do. 
I remember asking one of the teachers [whom I'm not friends with and have known AND work with] "Can I walk him in?  Should I walk him in, in case he gets scared?"

She was so kind and gentle, and she told me something that was admittedly tough to hear at first.  "We actually find that it is easier on the child to transition into the classroom if you let us take him from you and walk him in."

I can't lie.  I was a little heart broken at first.  But I did it.
On that first day as he walked hand in hand with that teacher, I had many thoughts running through my head.  And of course he was crying.  I had to trust that my child would be comforted.  That was hard to grasp at first.

Some thoughts I had might even seem silly now.  I thought "OH my goodness what if he climbs the fence and runs down into the road?"  [even though he had never climbed a fence in his life!]
"What if he gets lost?  Will they keep a close eye on him?  Will he be feed, changed, played with?" 

It was so tough to let someone else care for my child, to let go, to know that he was in perfectly capable hands.
I can't lie.  I even drove by the school in the middle of the day just to make sure he wasn't running down the busy street!
I was never so glad to see him at the end of that long day.

The next day got a little easier.  And the next, and the next.  After about 2 weeks, when I would see him at the end of every day, excited, smiling, and wanting to go back, my heart melted.
As I began seeing improvements, hearing him say words for the first time where he rarely spoke before, when he shared things he learned, I feel in love with the school and with the teachers.

I realized it was the best thing that could have happened to him.  I still missed him during the day and I still do as I work and he goes to school.  But I've seen how far he's come in 6 years.

I remember a pivotal moment that changed my heart for good.  I had never heard my son sing or hum the little children's songs that most children know.  And then one day when he was about 4, I heard him singing with his grandmother. 
I think the world stopped for several moments.
I knew without a doubt that all the uncertainty, the fear, the questions, the sadness, the struggle, were worth every single moment!

So parents of my students, I want you to know that you are not alone, because your child's teacher has a child of her own [2 actually ;) ], and we have been through the struggle, and still are on the journey.

My promise to you is that your child will be my child for those 8 hours a day.  I will teach, care, love, and do everything in my power for them.  It is a privilege to be able to teach your child!  Thank you!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The truth on a paper bag that pierces my heart.

There are things that my children have faced that have made me sad.  Then, there are things that pierce straight through my heart.  I don't think I will ever forget the evening that David walked out of his room wearing a paper bag [pictured below], and said "Look mom!"
He pointed to the bag and said the words that he had written.  "No fun for me."  Then he took off the bag and read the other part.  "Need a normal life mom."
I asked what he meant.
Immediately tears began to run down his face, and he said.  "I'm tired of people making fun of me at school.  Telling me I'm weird and gross."  And then he broke down and really cried.

And I cried too.  It was incredibly hard to hold back tears, so I didn't.  I hated, HATED that my child had to, and has to face this.  I hate that because of his special needs, he has to face the cruelty of being made fun of, and the ignorance of those who don't educated their children, or care to educated themselves on disabilities.  It is a shame that people don't accept others, but rather would bring another to tears and shame them and make them feel 'less than' because they face challenges.

Frankly it angers me.  Now mind you, I really try to not involve myself in "normal" children's battles.  I try hard to raise them as I was.  To ignore the stinging words and realize that often people who do such things either don't know better or need friends themselves and just don't know how to express it properly. 

I was able to not let such ignorance bother me.  And trust me, I was made fun of.
Heartbreakingly, my son is not able to ignore it.  He takes to to heart.  And that frightens me.  Why?
Because I read terribly tragic stories of YOUNG children and teenagers who take their own lives because of such cruelty.

I realize that the occassional ribbing is normal.  But an everyday thing?  One that sends my child to tears?  One that he comes home at least 4 of the 5 days of school, saying the same thing over and over?  That is not right.  And that ANGERS me!

I realize I can't protect him from every single thing.  I just can't.  And I hate that.  I do know I can control some aspects.  And I'm struggling with that currently.  Do I keep him in his current school or take him back to where he began his school time in Preschool, at Our Children's Academy.
Because this school is special needs based, it's own students are much more accepting of each other.  And as a parent, that is a relief for me.  And I know it would be for him. 

The hard part is that children don't come with a manual.  Especially one on children who face challenges.  The only thing I know to do is look to those who have been through it, and follow my own heart as I try to do what's best for David.

One day at a time, some days with tears.  Some days with smiles.
Some days with the reality of a paper bag.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Come over and visit, but forgive the mess....

The one thing about company is that I know the house will cleaned whether I feel like it or not. 

I'll sweep the kitchen floor, and among the pile of dirt you'll find legos, toy cars, and other miscellaneous  junk that are proclaimed treasures with outcries of "MOM, don't throw that away I NEED that!"  And so it goes back to the their bedrooms, into another junk pile that will eventually and miraculously find it's way back out to the kitchen floor for the next sweeping session.

The furniture will be dusted, wiping away small finger prints that form child drawn pictures.  My "fresh scent" warmer will be turned on to give you the illusion that you smell fresh laundry! 
The bathrooms will sparkle.
And I have high hopes that the boy's rooms will be cleaned since I've sent them there all afternoon to prepare for your arrival.

I go to their rooms after doing all my other work...

Oh those bedrooms, well...the doors will be closed.  If you happen to bring children, eventually the doors will be opened and you will stumble upon rooms that look as if they've been ransacked and searched for the lost city of Gold by a treasure hunter.  Books everywhere, Legos precariously placed, bits of paper that are really everything from "money to hotel tickets" [what imaginations!], Imaginex playsets, space shuttles, crayons, cars, and stuffed toys.
You may fear you won't see your child again if they enter the rooms of doom!  But I assure you, you will!  And they will have had a grand time playing.

By the time you knock on my door I'm probably already exhausted from the cleaning, intermittent refree to fighting siblings, therapist to meltdown children, cook to the hungry masses....
But I'm happy to see you.  The whole time you're here I'll be having fun.  But in the back of my mind I'm constantly thinking, "Oh geez, look at the dirt on the baseboards.  I didn't get to those.  They are going to think we never clean."

"Oy, I forgot to wipe the wall by the trash can.  Please for the love of sweet baby Jesus, don't look at that wall.  It may forever scare them never to eat at my home."
"Dang it, there in the bathroom.  Please don't look in the corners, I didn't sweep that well in there."

Why do I do this I ask myself.  Why? 
Do I think people won't think I can keep it all together?
Do I think they'll have reason to not want to come back and visit?
Do I think they'll think their children will get sick from my dirty house?
I don't know what I think.  I think....there are a myrid of reasons.  But the main one is within myself.
If I can't do all of this, keep house, work, be a mother, be a wife, be an individual, then obviously, I can't keep it together and I'm a dysfunctional mess.

Look at the pictures.  I do have proof that occassionally I go into the boys rooms and gut them.  Today I reorganzied, making it easier for them to keep toys together.  2 toy boxes where they can throw everything in.  The bookshelves need work, but tomorrow they'd be messed up again.
I've decided to hang all shirts and put socks/underwear/PJs in a small rubbermaid cart.  Getting rid of the dresser makes the room look more organzied and clean.
Anyway, there's your proof if you need it.
But I know by tomorrow evening toys will be strewn about again.
I'll find more legos in the kitchen.
I'll find shoes in the bathroom.
Dirty clothes in the hallway [not in the hamper 5 feet away!]
Little bits of paper and drawn pictures throughout the house.
Dust bunnies on the wood laminate floor.
Juice spills on the kitchen floor.
Toothpaste in the bathroom sink.
Towels not hung up.

And not for lack of trying, they are told over and over [that includes the big kid too!  The husband ;) ]

All those "set the timer for 15 minutes and do what you can" approaches, make a daily list, divvy up chores, make a menu, make a schedule, etc....just.don't.work.here.
And frankly I'm exhausted.

I would set that timer and then be interrupted by a child having a meltdown.
Or I would be in the middle of that daily list and notice my Autistic son just standing at the sink playing in the water with his hands, make a mess where I had just cleaned.  So I send him to the tub to take a bath get those sensory needs out, while I re-clean the mess I already cleaned.  Mainly because if I have him do it, bless his heart, I will have more to clean than the original mess.

I'm exhausted by the end of the day.  Emotionally, physically, spiritually.
I have very little to give.
So I'm trying to let some of that go.  That need for "having it all together."
You may see me in the grocery store, or work, or church, or the mall, or any other place, and I'll say everything's fine.  I'll smile.  I'll joke.  But I'm exhausted.
I've probably been in tears that day trying to deal with 2 kiddos with opposite personalities and both with special needs.
I've put out fires, not been a good wife because I was too busy trying to clean or put out a fire.

Now here I sit typing.  It is Sunday evening and for the most part I've spent the last two days catching up on housework.  The house looks good!  Laundry is coming alone.  And I feel proud. 
But it will be short lived, and that's okay.  It has to be okay because that is life. 

To be honest, while of course things need to be in order from time to time in a home, I'm going to worry less about "keeping it together."
Please DO come and visit me.  Let's have a playdate with the kiddos!  I'll make lunch. 
But please forgive me if the house isn't clean that day.  If you see dirt on the floor, toys strewn about, a couple of loads of laundry on the living room floor, sorted and awaiting their turn, bathtub toys on the bathroom sink, and children's rooms that look as if tornadoes have zipped through....just smile and know that I'd love a spotless house 24 hours a day, but some times I just can't do it.

Sometimes when I have a few hours to myself, yes I want to get out and go somewhere, often by myself.  To re-group, people watch, eat culturally diverse food, just have fun.

Because many times I have those best laid plans, but the evening may end with me in tears, my children in tears because we're just trying to get through the moment.

Sometimes I wonder if I was the best choice as mother for my 2 sons.  If I was the best choice as a wife.  Life is tough and sometimes I feel like I don't keep up.
Never the less, I'm here, I'm in it, and I love my family.  And at the end of the day that is what matters [not if the floor is clean or not].

Please come and visit, don't mind the mess!