Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Importance of a Number

This week has been a doozy.  It's been such a doozy, in fact, that it has taken this long to sort out the things that rock our little corner.  If you missed that and would like to catch up, click here. In the middle of all that, Ryan went back to school.

Yes, he was cute and it was fun.  We were tickled pink about who his teacher would be.  As a matter of fact, she had him for three years already.

Then there are the great pictures of all our friends' kids with the cute little signs depicting their kids' grade levels.  Did I mention they're cute?  Super idea.  Love it.  Only it won't work for us.

At one point, after about an hour long ARD (or IEP meeting, for you non-Texans), we grew curious.  After acknowledging the elephant of Ryan's inability to process anything or learn well in a regular classroom, we hashed through where he'd be and what he'd be doing all day.  It's seriously cool, y'all.  We picked and chose... and by "we" I mean the ARD committee, not Eric and I... the things Ryan would do throughout the day for his next year of school.  And the meeting only took place after I panicked and practically knocked over Ryan's dear CE aid at church, spilling over with "is this right for him?"

So what were we curious about?   We had received and shared more about our son's education in an hour than most parents get in a year.  What was the big question?  It loomed on my mind, but I felt it might be selfish or insensitive to ask.  I didn't want to care.  I just wanted to be wholly grateful for the people not just accommodating, not just tolerating, but boosting our child in ways that will cause him to thrive.  They spent hours if not days preparing for this meeting, talking, studying, comparing... and we want this one thing... just this one more thing.

During a conversational lull, my dear husband finally asked.

"So, when people ask what grade he's in, what do we say?"

They all looked at each other.  Twenty eyes, darting to and fro, looking to each other for answers.

"Well, he's going to be at the intermediate school, and they're all 3rd through 6th graders."

"Can't call him second grade, because he's not in a second grade classroom."

"If we call him third grade, he has to take the state testing..."  To that one, I must add, we all quickly agreed that we don't want that.

Then it got quiet.  Being who I am, knowing my husband wanted an answer and so did I, but we weren't going to get a clear one because there simply wasn't one, I had to say something.

"I've got it.  His grade level is pi."

And we laughed and laughed, masking our slightly stunned, moderately confused minds and kept pedaling with the important stuff.

But when people ask, it becomes the important stuff.  It's a little number, but it's huge when you're thinking about what to write on that adorable little sign.

In my mind, I know we did the right thing letting him go to Life Skills.  It's been great so far, and he's still getting the academics he needs, but in an environment where he can thrive.  He's also learning stuff like how to do laundry, wash dishes, and seemingly endless other tasks he could have to perform at any given time.  All these things are great.  Really. He's working on motor skills, planning, all kinds of things he needs to function in the world.

But the lack of that number still hurts a little.  Why?  

No matter how long we do this special needs parenting thing, no matter how long we live in the club we didn't intend to join, no matter how many posts about how great Ryan is and how amazing his mind is and how I wouldn't trade him I write... no matter how far down I think I've crammed my preconceived expectations about what our children would do, be, and how they'd do them and be them,     every now and again we're surprised by their presence.

Every time I wish I had a grade level to tell people... every time I remember all the great things about typical classroom settings that are different for him... every time I think about band coming up, and that he might not be able to handle it... I panic a little.  Then I remember what an amazing child he is, and immediately I'm so disappointed in myself.

I'm realizing, slowly, that there will always be disappointment in this world, and this is no exception.  But the important thing to remember is that it doesn't mean I don't love him, and it doesn't make me a bad mom.  It just means that I'm a mom.  I had dreams and goals for my kids, and still do.  I'm grateful for all my kids and who they are, but the truth is that Ryan's normal still flies in the face of my normal, and that's... well... it's normal.

So I've enjoyed all your pictures with the cute grade-level markers in them.  Adorable!  And I'm going to do that with Richie and Maelynn.  But for Ryan?

I'm just super excited that he's learning and happy.  There's no number that's more important than that.

Thanks be to God for the cultures in which we live, and for the contrast that grows our worldviews... sometimes within our own homes.

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