I have been in denial about the upcoming preschool year. In denial, telling myself I wouldn’t be worried or stressed at all, because Kiran would be in the same classroom with the same teacher and some of the same associates, and I know it’s a great environment for him. He is well loved, there, and they know him. They know how to feed him via g-tube, they know how to read his body cues, and they know what an absolute joy and asset he is to their learning environment.
The families are new. The kids, new. So while some of my fears and concerns are absolutely gone from last year’s school year, I still have plenty.
I would imagine (Kiran is my only, so I can only assume here) ALL parents hope similar things for their kids as the school year starts: They hope they learn and grow academically, yes. I would assume they also hope they will be kind and make friends and feel like they belong in this world.
And that’s the part that’s harder. Because I have those same hopes for a special little boy that this world is not made for. Inclusion and celebrating diversity are becoming more of a “thing” in popular culture lately, as you see kids with varying abilities in inspiring commercials and as models – and as big stores are now carrying clothes and other products catered to a diverse group of kids. And I love it. I do. It’s inspiring and people tear up and it’s oh so feel-good….
But it really isn’t translating to much of the real world, just yet. The social bubble people put around us is real – it’s not just us; I’ve checked with other special needs families. When people are uncomfortable or they don’t know what to say, they simply pretend we aren’t there.
I’m doing my best to break the bubble. Fair or not, I know it falls on me. I’m about the worst person it could fall on, too, because I am about as introverted and socially awkward as they come. It takes a lot for me to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation, and small talk is excruciating for me. But I know it starts with me.
And I know preschool is a great place to hone these skills, because it only gets harder from here. As the gap of what Kiran can do and what his peers can do gets wider as he grows (I am not being pessimistic here – I know Kiran will continue to make progress, but I also have to be realistic that this gap will grow as time goes on), it will be harder and harder for him to make friends. As much as I hate that, because I know he brings so much to the table. It shouldn’t – but it will – take special kids who choose to befriend him and understand him and who will see his joy and spirit.
I can work myself into a panic with this. I really can. It was my biggest worry going into the school year last year, too, but Kiran was very well liked in the classroom. Peers loved playing with him, and he made a long-lasting special, true friend. I know it’s in the cards this year, too. But it’s hard, starting out.
And ultimately, I know Kiran will never have a shortage of people who love him. It may not be the peer friendships I long for him to have, but the love will be there.
Oh, buddy. Back to school night last night made me realize I am really not ready for this again. My mama heart longs to protect you and shield you from the hurt … and yet, at this point, I carry it all for you. So maybe I’m trying to protect my heart. I knew what I was getting into, with this, when I chose to be a mom. My heart is going to break – over and over and over and over again – but it is all worth it. Being your mom. Man, I am lucky. I promise to keep pushing against the bubble, even when it’s really hard. I pray you know how much you are loved as you go into this new year. You’ve got this, Kiran.