Clouds, May 2010

Clouds, May 2010

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

a day in the life

Even though I am the one going through the routine of the day, I often feel as if I'm looking in from the outside. 

There is this 35 year old woman, whose face and skin may appear younger than that, but overall she also looks like someone who could take better care of herself. (Not to mention her truck.) But her son never leaves the house looking anything less than a ten, and his backpack will always have everything he needs for the day. And maybe an extra one of this or that, just in case. 

She is dropping this handsome child off at school. The students are waiting in the front with the teacher and Aides, until everyone is present so they can walk to the classroom together. A few of the students in his program who happen to be paying attention, turn and greet him with enthusiasm. One places a hand on his shoulder, and another says, "Hi, Hayden!" excitedly, closer to his face than is necessary. 

The woman smiles at how happy they are to see him. She yells goodbye to him and says, "have a good day!" 
"Grandma will be there when you get home," she reminds him, "and then I'll see you later. I'll pick you up from daycare."
He says, "Bye, Mom!" or "Peace Out, Mom!" -- usually without actually turning around.

He has come such a long way-- when he started school a few years ago the separation anxiety was unbearable. Real tears that would escalate into borderline-choking, and the teacher would usually have to pick him up and carry him inside. The woman would drive away crying. 

But today she looks at the sweet, friendly kids welcoming him. They are all part of the same special ed program at the public school. They have various developmental delays-- none of them with the same diagnosis as Hayden, but all of them with something. 

The very first day the woman dropped him off at school back in 2008, she was not prepared when she saw the other children in the class. She hadn't thought about what might be different. One little boy found comfort in licking his right sleeve; he would be instructed not to, but he'd continue anyway. Another child seemed underdeveloped for her height and her uneven hips only allowed her a slow walking pace. One foot dragged a little bit. Another little girl was in a wheelchair. She had a trach tube, and Hayden's mom noticed her bottom lip was quivering. Even though it was quite warm out, she asked the nurse accompanying this little girl if she was cold. One of the teachers answered that she would be ok, she was just a little bit upset. "You won't hear a peep from her, but that's how she cries," another Aide added. 

The woman had to swallow back tears, and immediately thought of the little girl's mom. How she coached herself to ever be brave enough to put this fragile child on a bus to school. Even though she had a nurse with her.

Three years later, here the woman was dropping her son off and again there was another little girl who caught her eye. She looked up to see who Hayden's mom was, and his mother forced a smile at the young girl. But inside she was taken by surprise at the disproportionate features on this child's face. The woman was immediately angry at herself. 

The only other children at the school during summer, are incoming Kindergarteners who are dropped off every day for a ten-day safety program. Hayden is eligible to participate, but it is a community program so the school has no obligation to provide him the necessary Aide. Each child's attendance is voluntary and paid for by the parent(s) or guardian(s), not the school. 

The woman's mind gets stuck for a moment, mourning what could have been for her now 6-year-old if he was typical. He would be able to read, write, and count on the same level as his peers. He would be a regular first-grader... with normal toileting skills. 

But her happy child doesn't know life any other way, and he is not mourning anything. Rather, he is enjoying everything. 

That evening while the woman is preparing dinner, Hayden wants to help. He enters the room carrying half of the stuff from his play kitchen, the sedar plate from his Passover set, and dressed the part wearing his chef jacket from an old Halloween costume. Unable to locate the chef hat, his revised costume looked more like Florence Nightingale as his head was decorated with the matzoh cover from the aforementioned set.

The woman began giggling uncontrollably. Hayden began to laugh with her. He looked like the absolute weirdest, most odd, unique, silliest, and beyond beautifully adorable jewish-nurse-chef she would ever see in her entire life. 

She tried to capture the memory on camera but he turned his head every time it clicked. She tried once more with her phone, and then decided to join him instead. Together they grilled a delicious (yet non-kosher) wooden hamburger with a piece of plastic bacon.

A perfectly typical 6-year-old thing to do, except Hayden's version was more creative.

No comments:

Post a Comment