It has been a rough week with my son, Jacob.
His ninth birthday is fast approaching, he’s not a cute little autistic kid any more. He’s getting willful, obstinate, teenagery.
I had started to write my post for today, titled “Riding the Rollercoaster” about the vast ups and downs we’ve been experiencing. About the bumps and jolts as the school year winds down, transitions towards summer school.
And about how I have been anticipating my near two week’s break with Jake at the end of this month with what, I must truthfully admit, is no small share of dread.
But I didn’t get a chance to finish it yesterday, and then this morning I had to rush off, right after Ethan’s drop-off, to our final parent-teacher conference at Jake’s school. I was going to finish that post upon my return.
Refreshing my memory by looking over his third trimester progress reports on the subway ride down to his school, I felt myself sinking. It’s so hard too see your child’s deficits and struggles spelled out in black and white; cold ink on a page.
Reading lines like: “Jacob’s sensory processing difficulties often impede his ability to remain focused for classroom activities. He will become frustrated during challenging tasks. Jacob has difficulty remaining motivated for school tasks, and requires support during transitional periods. He also has difficulty interacting appropriately with his peers and using his language for self-expression.” just makes the bottom drop out of my heart.
I used to (sort of) brag how Jake was more flexible, less rigid and tied to routine than many other kids on the spectrum. I hope I’d said that sweetly, because I am now in the position of eating those words.
I was thinking about all this as I finished skimming the reports. Last winter my husband had said something to me just before we went in to our meeting that set off a whole chain of thought in my head, opened up a chasm of sadness.
This time was much less eventful. We arrived at Jake’s school, and, fortified with a large iced coffee, I sat down to hear, in person, what I had read in the reports: how slow and incremental Jacob’s progress has been this year.
I steeled myself; I really didn’t want to cry in public today.
But then something else happened.
The room was full of smiling faces.
One by one, Jacob’s therapists and teachers: his OT, his speech therapist, his head teacher, his counselor, his math coach and his assistant teacher all talked about what a wonderful boy he was.
They gave examples of how far he has come in this one year, his first at this school.
They smiled as they recounted how full of joy he is, how eager to learn in spite of his many challenges. How infectious his delight and pride at learning a new skill, mastering a formerly difficult task or concept.
And most of all? They made it clear how much they love him, how happy they are to have him in their classroom, a student at their school.
Some of them will be involved in his summer program, but many will not, needing the break in order to return refreshed and renewed in September. They talked about how much they are going to miss Jake over the summer, how they are looking forward to seeing him again in the fall.
As we were leaving, someone mentioned to us that when they were planning for next year and figuring out the class configurations, his normally soft-spoken head teacher had piped up: “I have to have Jacob again, he’s MINE!”
“Yes,” she’d said, “we are fighting over who gets your son next year, we all want him.”
And then I did nearly cry.
And as we walked out of the cool school building into the blistering June heat, onto the busy New York City street, my heart was glowing like the sun.
I was full of hope for my son Jacob, who now has a whole school full of people who hold him likewise in their hearts; who are happy and willing to do whatever it takes to help him learn, grow, reach sky-high, to his full potential.
I am feeling the love.
And my gratefulness knows no bounds.
Varda writes about "birth, death and all the messy stuff in the middle" on her blog "The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation" She also tweets as @Squashedmom. Varda is proud to be a Hopeful Parent.