Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I will not cry when my kid goes to Kindergarten

I will not cry when my son goes to Kindergarten. It's not because I'm tougher than other parents or
that I'm cold-hearted. I love my child just as much as other mothers. I simply have a very different experience than some that makes me less likely to cling onto my child's image as my baby. I'm so used to wanting him to grow up and that hasn't changed for me yet.

When my son was born, it was far from your average situation. Every time the little 4 1/2 pound nugget gained an ounce, he was closer to coming home from the hospital. Every pound he gained or inch he grew meant he was leaving preemiehood behind. Only after we escaped physical preemiehood, did I realize that neurological preemiehood is more lasting. Life for us was full of setbacks followed by celebrations

As a baby, my son hit every milestone at an adjusted age, but then at around the 2 1/2 to 3 year old phase we started to notice he was developing a bit different from other toddlers--nothing profound, but just small things that added up. Oh, yeah, and he was hyper as all Hell and easily overexcited. We
were growing concerned. He obviously wasn't "normal" in the broad sense of the word. Looks from other mothers and whispers about autism freaked me out enough to go to the doctor and specialist. Repeated visits and testing yielded in a diagnosis of developmental delay in social skills and language. This would be something he may outgrow or the diagnosis may turn into something else. Only time would tell.

Then there was preschool at 3. I wasn't excited; I was scared of rejection for my son. And despite the multiple warnings I gave the preschool director about his delay, he was rejected, kicked out, and not because he hurt anyone or himself, or did anything "wrong." He was too hyper and she was convinced (although not certified to diagnose) he was autistic (he's be cleared by 5 professionals) and couldn't go to a normal school (read about it here).These are when my tears came: when someone judged my son (after 1 day!) and wrote him off as an unsolvable enigma. Friends consoled me that she was just one person, but it wasn't just one person. The judgments and offhand comments came more often than smiles or compliments.

So I worried, researched, took him to professionals, and together we realized he also has a few sensory issues. He cannot sit still and gets over excited for a legitimate reason. He attended a special needs Pre-K with access to therapists. He worked hard. We worked hard. We learned to say he was special needs with pride. His language caught up and he proved he should be in a typical kindergarten. We adapt. We make it work. We are prevailing.

Throughout all these struggles, I recognized how good we have it.  Some kids have disabilities beyond what we will ever have to face. The number one thing that breaks special needs parents, as discussed in group meetings, is not their child's lack of skills, not the fact their children may never grow into autonomous adults, but the fact other people judge them and their children. It is an awful feeling of utter helplessness that description cannot give justice.

Throughout these conversations, I also saw a trend in that none of us would exchange our child for a "normal" one. Sure, it would be easier to have a neurotypical child, and yet I resent the idea. I'm so used to the socially unsure, intelligent, creative, hyperactive, mature little man I'm raising that I wouldn't change him for the world. Every milestone he hits, is a celebration. Every new thing he says or does that shows social skills or a life skill, I celebrate. He celebrates.

My son starts kindergarten in a week but I will not cry. I will celebrate that all our hard work and his has paid off so he can go to school. I will rejoice in how he is growing up and not cling onto the idea of keeping him my baby forever. And for those who stand and cry the first day because your child is too grown up for your liking, just remember how great you have it and celebrate milestones rather than mourn them; think of those parents who are desperate for that to happen, for those who it may never happen for, and you'll realize you have so much to be thankful for. If you cry, let them be tears of joy, of celebration, of thankfulness for being given such a precious gift.

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