Today was one of those days as a parent of a child with special needs that I did not enjoy. And it had nothing to do with Braden himself. In fact, this morning he was full of charm and fun which was exactly what his mama needed as I went off to his school's IEP meeting.
I don't care who you are - IEP meetings are not fun. In no way, shape or form. Focusing for hours on your child's areas of concern and intensely debating placement location is not my idea of an enjoyable morning! It's all so personal and emotional and draining. But after all is said and done - Braden will be going to his neighborhood school and mainstreamed with his twin in 3rd grade.
And really all I can do is thank the parents that have gone on ahead of me and paved the way for these opportunities for my little boy. I thank the parents who refused to institutionalize their babies born with that extra 21st chromosome - who said "NO" when doctors and nurses pressured them to make the "right" decision. They went against the grain, took their babies home, loved them and truly realized their potential. I thank the parents who demanded that these children with Down syndrome be given an education. I thank the parents who demanded legislation be enacted to entitle these children to a free and appropriate education in their least restrictive enviroment. Because of their efforts, their advocacy, their sheer determination - my son has options and choices and opportunities!
When Braden started school, his very first day of Kindergarten, I wrote something that certainly still rings true today...
The first day of Kindergarten. A day that I had often thought of and wondered about. Both of them, together, with their backpacks and new school clothes ready to meet the bus. I know all of us mommies shed a tear as we send our babies off that very first day on the big yellow bus to school. But there was more in that tear for me this year than ever before. One of those little boys had almost not made it to this day.
One of those little boys had at once struggled for every breath, for every beat of his heart. And on those days my only prayer was that he would live. Kindergarten was saved for dreams – not prayers.
My twins, together. Most parents get to assume their children will go to the same school. Have the same teachers. Play on the same playground. In our reality, no promises were made. For some still see it as enough that he even gets to go to school. And so, as he climbs those steps up into the bus, he helps forge the way into his neighborhood school, into a regular kindergarten classroom.
On the playground, he is swinging on the very swing his older brother and sister have used.
He has his picture taken in front of the very same school yard sign that is in their scrapbooks.
He has his chair at the same table, in the same class as twenty other children on their first day of school. And this is the way it happens. One chair, one swing, one bus, one community at a time. He belongs!
So as my tears fall on the first morning of Kindergarten, there is much more than sadness over my babies growing up. Most importantly there is an overwhelming sense of pride at this little boy with such a tenacious spirit. Every challenge and every joy has shaped him into the amazing, awe inspiring little fellow that he is. And on this morning, I thank God for not only answering my prayers but for listening to my dreams.