Today Ezzy did something that, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure she would ever do.
Today Ez went to school.
Now, I can imagine what you are thinking…some kind of first day of school activity–complete with a yellow school bus, a new outfit, and her hair properly done–like you see everyone posting in August and September on Facebook.
It wasn’t like this at all, though. Esmé went to school today for one hour. Her outfit wasn’t new–but we did pick it out hastily the night before when I remembered (for the 40th time that day) what I was trying to block out: Esmé’s first day of school was already here. I packed some of her things in the school bag I’d bought two years ago when we’d hoped she might start a program, but couldn’t because she was too sick. Her hair was, in fact, sprayed with detangler, but not really brushed because she was too upset to handle it.
There was no yellow bus stopping at our corner. I drove Ez (and her nurse Denise) to school in my minivan–still deciding along the way whether it was ok to take her in since she’d been up half the night with kidney pain.
But we just went ahead and tried. Because, there never is a perfect time after all…in fact it really just seems that there are just decent tries at making a go of imperfect timing.
(Evidence of Esmé’s backpack and recognition of imperfect timing:)
At this point Esmé’s special ed teacher, who had been inside, came out to help us head in–she said that all the kids in Esmé’s classroom kept asking when Esmé would be there. This piece of information was really the only way I made it inside…knowing that there were kiddos Ezzy’s age who were so excited to meet her.
A few minutes later Ez joined a handful of kids in music class…and I kissed her and backed out of the room–leaving her with the children, the music teacher, her nurse, and her teacher.
I wanted to stay and watch, but I know that Esmé doesn’t need me to interfere…because this experience, this is all about her independence. It is all about her freedom.
So I stepped away and hung around with the Director of Student Affairs while doing my very best impression of a mother who is not a over-protective mess. With her I learned that the children had been so well prepared for Esmé’s arrival that they were really excited to meet her–that they knew she had a cat named Chicken, that the children who were in the class but split off for music time were sad they didn’t get to be with her this week–but excited that they will be with her next week, that they each had made a page to tell Esmé about who they are.
And honestly, I cannot explain what it means to know that even if she is there only for one hour a week–that she is welcomed in this way. It isn’t just that the adults see her as an asset to the classroom (which they do)–because there are plenty of adults out there that see her as exciting, interesting, and special. It is that her peers were excited to meet her…that they want to be her friend.
No matter how much time I spend with her, no matter what I do, I can never give her the experience of being her peer, her friend. I can only find a place that will safely provide that environment, take her there…and then let go.
And, when my best impression of a confident mother broke and I had to watch her for the last half of the visit what I saw told me–at least in this moment, for now–we had done the right thing.
Esmé sat upright on the floor close to the teacher while she read a Wheels on the Bus book to the class. One of the other little girls came over and squeezed in right next to Esmé, pointedly choosing to sit next to her. Sure, there were a couple times Ez tried to steal the book and chew it, but she also sat up tall and paid attention…for a few moments almost indistinguishable from her peers.
Toward the end of the book I could tell from where I was watching just outside the classroom that she was fatiguing a bit, she she wanted to flop back down on the her back…her spine curving just a bit to the side.
But then she turned her head and looked over her shoulder at the other kids sitting on the floor. Something clicked for her…and as she turned back to the book she sat herself up a little bit taller for just a little bit longer.