Thursday, August 29, 2019

The First Day

This time of year is always a struggle. For parents. For people longing to be parents. For children too. So much change. So much hope. So much emotion.

Today I read an article on a favorite page of mine, Finding Cooper's Voice. It was a guest post that talked about "This Time It's Different". The blog written by a mother of 3, shares the story of her third child heading to school for the first time and it resonated so much with me.

Today, I watched as the school I intended my children to attend began. I watched as a most adoring, caring leader began her tenure as a full time Principal. I thought about my own children and how I envisioned them going through the school. I envisioned Rosary Group and I did in fact plan to one day be the President of the parent organization. No joke. I had this all mapped out.

Then it changed. Our lives. All of our lives and that plan that I had intended shifted direction. I still remember reeling from the official diagnosis. As I sat sobbing in car line, the President of the parent organization walked up to my window, I rolled it down and he asked how things were? I choked back tears and told him of Serphina's primary diagnosis. Autism. I remember my heart hurting. Physically. I remember his eyes, he looked hurt for me and then he took a deep breath and told me "If anyone can do this, you can". I carry those words. They were not "I'm sorry." or "Are You Sure?" but "If anyone can do this, you can." Still, I remember the warmth of that day. I remember the vision I had and the dream of my children being together in Catholic School forever, stolen. I realized that the dreams I planned, the path I mapped out, was not mine to choose but to follow.

Today, I watched as that school began. I watched as children I knew as babies grew up. I wished my kids had that small connected place that we knew. I will say having been pushed out, much like a mother pushes here babies out of her nest before they feel ready has taught us all to fly. Individually as well as a group. We are different than we were a few years ago. We have found a different and unique sense of self and we are all walking the path we are intended and one may even say liking it--a lot. That being said, there is part of me that wishes, wishes it were easier. I wish my daughter had her ICS Shirt and jumper. I wish there was morning gathering where a priest, layperson or deacon pumped you up while bearing witness to the beauty of our Heavenly Father and yes, I could do that at home but honestly, I don't and reality is I couldn't most days. Today, instead of one bus, we are catching five. Instead of an 8 a.m. start, its 7:30, 8:30 and 9:00. It isn't what was but is what should be on the path chosen for us.

Now, our first days, they don't consist of the pomp and circumstance they used to. I still try to make a fish dinner the night before in following my own mother and yes, we pack bags and pick clothes but until this year I couldn't even take Seraphina to the store successfully, so our first days were different.

There isn't a tradition of reading "The First Day of Kindergarten" or "First Grade" or whatever comes next, but instead the same routine we always follow. We bathe, brush teeth and of course read a story. I am not even sure she will wear the "first day outfit" we pick out or if she will return in the same clothes. Her book bag is packed and she DID in fact pick out her school supplies, but honestly, we don't know how much time she will be included in inclusion. It will be up to her.

Morning will begin early, with the high schooler and middle schooler waking little sis and my sleepily grabbing a cup of coffee while I try to keep Seraphina engaged until her bus comes over two hours later. There may be pictures, but the ones I envisioned with bright smiling eyes may happen or she may stand with her teeth clenched while she announces "CHEESE" through her pursed lips.

Our first day doesn't look like it once did and perhaps that is also a gift. On our first day, I am reminded of what it took to get us to THIS first day. It took a lot. Early Intervention. Preschool, Pre-K, Kindergarten. ABA Therapy. Occupational Therapy. Speech Therapy.  Hours upon hours of it all. It took supportive siblings willing to give up much of what they had. It took my own denial of what I wanted. It took physicians, nurse practitioners, medication and a host of teachers that walked this journey so far. It took an administrator willing to be real with me. It took me advocating for yet another year of school and reminding school of what my child needed and what I needed.

Our first day isn't where I thought it would be or whom I thought it would be with but it is the first day we are living now. So friends, as you feel the drudgery of the mundane, take a deep breath and realize there are so many of us who wish for exactly what you have.

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