Tuesday, January 4, 2011
A New Beginning
Wow! Really? August LAST year since I last posted? How did that happen?
I'll tell you. STRESS! J is off to big school in a matter of weeks and the whole house is consumed with big school nerves. His nerves to be precise. It's been a long road towards big school with many twists and turns and so much other "stuff" going on that although all of our therapy goals until now have been working towards big school and we've been planning the occasion for 2 and a half years now.... Well even with all that planning and work, it's snuck up on us and kicked us all hard up the bottom (will blog about it all soon).
Amidst all of the work and planning our "normal" life has gone on and we've been on our first family holiday since.... Well ever I guess. We've had family dramas (now THAT is a whole blog on it's own too but suffice to say, any elaboration on that will only serve to drum up more drama and considering the drama surrounding us all on a daily basis I'm not that keen on more of the stuff right now.... Perhaps another time). We've said goodbye to J's preschool teachers (although Hunter will be heading to them in a few weeks so it wasn't really goodbye just passing on the batton). So much. Never a dull moment.
The goodbye moment between J's teacher's aide and I is hard to think about but I really want to write about it and acknowledge the momentous impact this woman has had on not only my sons life but my own.... Our whole family in honesty.
We are on the brink of handing our firstborn over to "strangers" at big school in yet another transition process (always hard in our world) and I've got loads to say about the worries we are facing about school and J's feelings and obvious lack of coping well with the process but for now I just want to reflect for a moment and tell you about the angel who gave my baby wings.
Two years ago I was feeling terrified about sending J into the care of "strangers" at preschool. How quickly these strangers became friends, teachers, confidants, trusted allies and bearers of strong and sturdy shoulders to allow my ever present tears to cry upon so often on one of the harder days.
One of these strangers was a woman called Vicki. It was Vicki who was assigned to be my sons aide.
I remember sitting in one of those early IEP (individual education plan) meetings with the cast of thousands necessary to develop the individual education plan suitable for a 3 year old with additional needs to attend preschool. So many goals and strategies to talk about and things to discuss with regards to what were our focus areas for J's development and preschool education. You know..... What were our priorities for J? Was it toileting, behaviour assistance, academics, speech work etc?
I answered a little quietly and also a little embarrassed that perhaps my biggest wish for my sons "progress" was nothing to do with self help skills, verbal skills or academics really.
"I just want him to have a friend."
As I just typed that answer I gave back then the tears automatically welled up again. I go instantly back to the place in time where I thought friendship was almost impossible for a child with an autism diagnosis. I go back to feeling as though my world was inside out and shattered. I go back to feeling sad for my son and so frightened about his future. Sure, I still worry about the long term but for anyone reading this passage now who might be having those same feelings of despair I can assure you that place gets left behind to only visit occasionally as time goes on.
During that meeting though and at that moment I felt hopeless for my son. I cried (I always do in those meetings and quite often other times too really)..... Vicki smiled encouragingly and promised me that goal would be met. Of course J would have a friend.
I'm not sure I believed her totally at the time but I was very grateful nobody scoffed or laughed at what many might think were skewed priorities in an IEP meeting.
I remember dropping J off on the first day and Vicki was waiting for us with her open and warm smile, ready to welcome my boy and hand me the obligatory tissues. I got out of there quick smart clutching those tissues so as not to have the breakdown I knew was coming in front of anyone.
I remember going back the second day and Vicki had the same open and warm smile but J had a meltdown that morning of collossal proportions as I left clutching a fresh batch of tissues. Vicki phoned me within the hour and assured me he was fine, settled, happy and because she is the amazingly intuitive and special person she is, she told me he was playing with another child happily. She said, he was making friends. Nothing could have made me feel more assured. It was that precise moment I trusted her implicitly and never looked back. I knew my boy was in the right place with the right person looking after him. It seems impossible that anyone would love your child as much as you do but I know Vicki would come close. What more can you ask for when you place the trust of your child in someone else's care?
Over the two years of J's preschool adventure, there were so many highlights and great moments of triumph I'll never forget. I wrote of one here about J's Easter Hat Parade that was one which will live on in my heart eternally. There have been times at the end of term singalongs where J has bounded out the front of his class and taken up what I think he quite honestly believes is his rightful position centre stage leading the class in a favourite song and dancing away with an abandon I've only ever seen so happily abundundant in this child I am so proud of.
Vicki happily took on EVERY suggestion all of the numerous therapists gave us to help with whatever speed bump in our road we happened to be dealing with at any given time.
So many memories. Some just of collecting my boy at the end of a day and hearing about how happy he was or who he played with and how far he has progressed. Every time, every day, Vicki took the time to fill me in on the details I'd missed that day whilst he was in her care.
The encouragement Vicki gave not only my son but our whole family is indescribable. She deserves so much more than a mere thank you for her unwavering love and dedication to helping Jackson find a friend as per his nervous and shattered mummy's request so long ago now. Vicki is part of a team of amazing teachers who are not doing a job. They are changing lives. The single best decision I can take any kind of credit for in my son's progress was to send him to a preschool where the staff are committed to the families not their "jobs."
My wish for J to find a friend came true. Vicki was the best friend he could have ever had and seeing as we had 23 children attend Jackson's recent fifth birthday party I can confidently say J has many friends. What a gift this woman and the team of teachers around her was to our family.
I couldn't say any of this in person to our Vicki, or any of the preschool staff actually on the last day of J's time there. I had blurry, tear filled eyes and didn't say much at all. I just handed over the gifts and cards silently, quickly gathered up J's things and left with a wave.
I cried for a long time that night though. Vicki took the time to send me a message thanking me for her present. No present would ever be enough to thank the woman who who took care of my flappy little guy who's so beautiful and delicate in many ways. Fragile but so strong too and it's with the love and help from Vicki he learned to use his strength and fly.
I hope the gift we gave Vicki comes close to what she deserves in return for her love and strength. I found it by what I think was accident. It was one of those serendipitous moments that I just happened to wander past a shop I've never seen before that was filled with Peruvian silver items and butterfly jewellery called Nine50 Peruvian Silver. Something led me inside that shop on J's last day of preschool and to the counter where I found a necklace with a butterfly pendant. The butterfly's wings were real, pressed inside glass and encased in the exquisite Peruvian silver the shop specialises in. I spoke to the owner of the store through tears (as always) and asked about the pendant. She explained the wings were real (no butterflies are harmed of course and they are taken from them post passing on).
What else could I give the woman who saw the metamorphosis of my child and our family? It was so obvious. We gave Vicki her own butterfly wings in that pendant and we hope whenever she wears it she realises how integral she was in bringing our whole family out of a cocoon of darkness and helping us see the butterfly we love so much with his great big wings and ability to fly!
She gave us so much more than we could have ever dreamed of.
I still feel teary that J's time with Vicki is over but how blessed we are that she will remain a part of our lives as we send H into her care with confidence and trust.
A new adventure begins!