23 August, 2010

Who's Your Teacher?

This morning I was talking with my friend Pollyanna. We've known each other since our first kids were babies. Jake was less than 6 months old and her daughter was nearly 2 months old. I had specifically chosen a playgroup of first time moms with babies who were younger than Jake. I knew already that something was different about my son, and the longer we could "look normal" while I figured out what was wrong, the better. Of course the playgroup was all girls, and they all passed him by in a matter of months, but by that time I had somehow managed to rope in a few women to be my friends, in spite of my different, but beautiful boy. While I don't see all of those women now, I know that in addition to Pollyanna, I could probably call at least two of them right now and they would help me if they could. It was, for the most part, a great group of people.

So, of course our first children are all the same age, and should be going into the same grades, etc. When I was talking with Pollyanna, I had to ask what grade her daughter was going into. Perhaps if I were a better friend, I would know these things, but mostly, I realized, I should know because my son should be going into the same grade, or it should be close, maybe he should be in the grade above hers. I should be at least as accurate as to be within 2 years...and I had no idea; just couldn't come up with it without asking, or starting to do some math, or counting all of Jake's teachers, which would just put me in a dark place because I am still not over kindergarten.

And while my conversation was such a nice welcome home after so many days away from my community, my tribe, after I hung up I was melancholy. A piece of my heart, in spite of being so full of joy it could burst, was sad. This has nothing to do with Pollyanna, or either of her beautiful, talented children... in fact I should celebrate the problem I have... I will never need to worry about what grade Jake is going into ever again; as long as he stays at WunderSkool, it will never matter. He may change classrooms, and certainly, at eighteen or so he will switch to the adult program, but as long as he is a part of that program, it just won't matter. All that matters there is his development, his needs, his growth, his happiness; the things that are important.

So why the frowny face jennyalice?

Markers, milestones, certification, progress checks... they are those bits of childhood that made our parents proud, or got us grounded. The little slips of paper in the mail from the state, "Your child is gifted." or "Your child meets the state standards for reading." There was the "N" for "needs improvement" I received erroneously in second grade, right before spring break, which made me lose my sh*t so badly that I cried all the way home on the bus (having looked at my report card even though you weren't supposed to look at it before your parents did...). That little "N" made me so upset that my dad, who was somehow home, and not at work, drove me back to school so he could speak with my teacher who thankfully was still there. Those report cards, checking the list on the wall the week before school started to see who your teacher would be, the anticipation of a new desk...shopping for school supplies and back-to-school fashionable clothing purchases... I don't really need to worry about any of that for Jake. None of it.

I buy clothes in the fall because he normally has grown so much over the summer it's a necessity. I clean out his backpack and lunch box, because they are filthy, but he's been using the same backpack and lunch box since I put him on that little yellow short bus 7 years ago. He will go to the same classroom, at the same school, for a very long time, and he can't even tell me if he has apprehension about the one new thing he'll have tomorrow... the bus driver.

I'm not grieving really. I'm not feeling all that left out. I just noticed. I noticed that we are different at our house, again. Even in the simplest ways, our house will continue to run differently than other houses with kids the same age. And while we will go through many of these little things with Jake's little sister, we aren't racing to Target today to get Jake a pencil case, and some wide-ruled paper.
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