(Written on Monday 8/25/2014)
Today is Aleck’s first official day of preschool and we are in a state of shock and total disbelief. He was such a little man posing for pictures and videos this morning and couldn’t get enough watching himself talk about his teachers, his volunteer, and the school’s bunny rabbit, Oscarina. We brought him to his classroom this morning and right away he found a book he wanted to read, took Daddy to see the bunny, and then found his volunteer and started playing in the water table, even with just one arm. When we left he gave us kisses and was on his way without even a glance back in our direction. I teared up a little, but really Craig and I are just so proud of him and we are astounded by how far he has come and how quickly. When Aleck was born we didn’t dream he’d be starting preschool with his peers and definitely didn’t think it would be at a regular preschool, after all, this was the little boy who wasn’t supposed to be on his feet, using his arms, or out of a wheelchair. In fact, it wasn’t until April that it dawned on me that he could potentially start preschool, that he truly is functioning so closely to the level of his peers. Previously we tried not to think of preschool just like we tried not to think about when/if he’d first walk, just like we don’t put any pressure or much thought into toilet training. The last thing you want to do is compare your child and hold them to some timeline that they might not live up to so we tossed the timeline completely and low and behold, he’s right on schedule; 2.75 years old and starting preschool (he’s peed in the toilet a few times too).
With a therapy schedule and doctor load as heavy as Aleck’s how does one find the time to scout out preschools, compare the pros and cons, and even figure out who would be truly accommodating for Aleck and his special needs? Well, we didn’t look very long, very far, or very hard. My nephew had some physical delays of his own and since my brother in-law and sister in-law are at the top of a very short list of people I’d trust my life with and since we’ve been listening to them talk about how much they love this school and all it’s programs, staff, and people for ages we cut the searching process down to one school, JCYS, and so far they’ve made this the easiest transition for us ever.
In preparation for preschool I rearranged Aleck’s schedule so he could have Mondays and Fridays off thinking how nice it would be to have some days off over the summer, we could go to the zoo more, museums, and spend more days hanging out at my parent’s house at their pool. Instead of my grand plans JCYS opened their doors to us during their summer camp season for Aleck and I to come in and let him acclimate to his room, get to know his teachers, and then they really went above and beyond; they found a fabulous woman to be his one on one volunteer during the school days. We even got the chance to do a test run and left him like a regular preschool day with his volunteer in his classroom and it all went perfectly. I’ve read horror stories about how difficult preschools can be, how hard it can be to find someone to be a one on one, how unsupportive schools can be about trying to acclimate a special needs child into the program and with JCYS we haven’t had a single issue. He’s already in a class with his friend from birth, Eliana, and we know so many people it’s like being welcomed into a family. The principal invited me to come in during their staff week to give a presentation about Aleck, talk about his condition, his needs, and what the staff could expect from him. I was so nervous I had to revert back to sophomore high school speech class tactics and rumor has it I was a hit. Since all the teachers in the school eventually have a hand in all of the kids there I’m glad everyone is now familiar with him and knows what to watch out for during the school day.
While we were there over the summer it was definitely hard for me to watch Aleck in his classroom, to follow him around from room to room, the only parent in there, all hunched over as I’m waddling after my little guy, the staff friendly and sweet but not sure what to make of me or of Aleck yet. After a while it got too difficult for me. We spend so much time at home with therapists, running to doctors, and at the RIC where all I see is a thriving Aleck going above and beyond all expectations and predictions for him. But in this preschool setting it became easier for me to focus on the things he has trouble with, the things he can’t do compared to other kids, and of course I was always nervous as a child came running in his direction ready to elbow anyone out of the way who could knock him down. After two weeks I felt myself getting really blue and feeling really low. Once I left him for his day alone with his volunteer I felt better immediately. The reports from that day, and from today as well since Aleck is home from his first day as I’m still working on this blog, were glowing from his volunteer and her positivity and warmth are too contagious to deny. I’m so thankful to have her waddling around after Aleck instead of me.
Up next on our agenda, we go to the hospital on Wednesday (8/27) to get Aleck’s adenoids removed once again and this time we are hoping they stay away for good. Truly we are approaching something close to “smooth sailing” for a while with Aleck’s care and Craig and I are starting to figure out what we want for ourselves and for our family now that the storm has settled. Craig’s company is restructuring his position so unfortunately he was recently let go and we are both now on the hunt for not just a job but for careers as well. We are so lucky that Aleck is pretty much out of the critical portion of his care. Therapy and upcoming surgeries will still be a part of our lives for a while but the day to day drama is at a much more manageable pace. I joke with old clients but, “I’m dreaming of a corporate job and going to the same place everyday”, sung to the tune of “White Christmas” of course. Any leads or help in this area would be greatly appreciated and you are welcome to email Craig: firstname.lastname@example.org, or me email@example.com, with your ideas, suggestions, and general 2 cents. Hopefully we can get the both of us employed very soon and, dare I say it, planning for our first family vacation together ever.