Thursday, November 29, 2007

For Whom the (School) Bell Tolls

Today was the last Wednesday that I’ll be sweetly awakened by a four year old saying…

Say a prayer, Mommy….say a prayer….

This is the way Sophie wakes me every morning. Just before we roll out of bed after a little cuddling and hugging, we say a prayer to thank God for the day that He has given us and to ask for help getting through it. Sophie knows that as soon as the prayer is over, we will roll out of bed and proceed to the kitchen for her favorite meal of the day : breffess.

I say this is our last Wednesday because Sophie will be starting school on Monday. On Monday, she will be starting Pre-K. On Monday, I will wake her, dress her, feed her, buckle her into her carseat, and drive her to her very first day of school.

Gulp.

As I sit here with tears welling, I find it hard to believe that I have been fighting for this for almost a year now. Endless calls to administrators, counselors, psychoeducational therapists, pediatricians, teachers, school secretaries and eventually my local area representative have been made for the past nine months. Most of them telling me to wait it out, we’ll see what we can do, give us a call back Monday, her evaluation is scheduled. I hoped that Carmen (the secretary at Child Find) didn’t have caller ID because I blew up her phone for 9 months trying to move things along.

In the beginning, my calls were hopeful. After the fifth month, they were mostly angry and tired. So I decided to pursue a private facility. I called a service named “Family Central”. They were incredibly helpful, sending me twenty-six pages of local pre-schools and childcare facilities that would take special needs kids. I called every one. Every single one wouldn’t take a four year old that wasn’t potty trained.

Meanwhile, Charley is potty training and getting it. She is successful and proud. And so am I.

Yet I grieve.

I thought I was past the ‘missed milestones’ chapter. Sophie is walking, skipping, jumping, running…Sophie is verbal and talkative. Sophie is riding a tricycle!

So to have someone tell me that she would not be accepted for this reason….this hurt. This hurt badly. I remember thinking…if they only knew her…if they only knew her they would take her. Give us an audition…let us try you out for a couple of days..you’ll see, she’ll be fine….if she needs her diaper changed, just call me…I’ll be right around the corner, I swear.

But no one does. In four year old pre-k classes, there is no running hot water. According to state regs, there must be running hot water in any classroom with children with diapers.

I made about three calls at a time. It was too frustrating to hear that she would not be accepted more than three times at a time. Too hard and too emotional.

Meanwhile our precious friends are going to school and coming home with beautiful artwork that can only be produced by the hands of a four year old…and with their stickers that tell us what job they had in school that day: LIGHTS or LINE LEADER or SNACK HELPER. It was so sweet to see those little stickers. I was so excited for them…and anxious to get Sophie to be line leader. That was ALWAYS the best job, wasn’t it?

So the pressure became greater to potty train and to try every method available. But she just wasn’t (isn’t) ready. And I had to come to terms with that…and I had to continue to remain diligent in getting Sophie the best services possible.

I kept calling, and finally, one day, Lo and Behold, I dialed the right number. I spoke to a woman who initially rubbed me the wrong way, and made me feel like I was being selfish to be advocating for my child. By the end of the conversation, she was telling me that she would be making a couple of phone calls…oh thank you, thank you so much

The ball was rolling. The county scheduled an evaluation. We went in at 9:30am for psychoeducational assessment. Soph had to answer lots of questions. When she knew the answers, she’d shout them out, proud as pie. When she didn’t, she’d bust into her rendition of the ABC’s. The examiners were in love with her within the first ten minutes, saying “She is so charming,” and “What a character.” I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree does it? ;)

At the conclusion of the exam, we make the appointment for her follow up. There they will determine which, if any, services she may need.

Fast forward: November 13. The entire family packs up and drives to Central Area Child Find offices. We are so excited. We hope to hear that Sophie will get services. We discuss the results of her testing..they tell us what we already know..kinda. They tell us she’s delayed in life skills, but above average for social skills. No kidding.

So what does this all mean…I’m waiting with baited breath for the word “placement.” We finally hear it. They are recommending Sophie be placed at the ESE Pre-K class at the Royal Palm School. I am so excited and so emotional. I keep saying to myself keep it together, Julie…keep it together…keep it together… And I do. I am fine. I give the group a big Julie style WOO HOO and I am so excited. They continue to tell me about the class and then they drop this bomb on me.

“Sophie will be eligible for transportation if you would like her to ride the bus.”

And that my friend is where I lost it. Sophie watches the bus go by our house everyday. She asks if one day she will ride it. I am crying…Daddy is vaclempt…the case worker is choking up…we are thrilled. Alex apologizes for my crying with his "I'm so sorry you had to see that" joke. Sophie comes over and asks my why I’m crying. I tell her I’m happy. She looks confused. The speech therapist hands me some tissues and Sophie wipes the tears from my eyes and tells me “Iz okay, Momma.”

It is. It is okay. It’s better than ok. We’ve been waiting for this forEVER it seems.

And now it is just five days away. It is so bittersweet to think of her riding off to school (the buses have car seats) without me. And I don’t think she’ll be riding the bus for the first couple of weeks. I think it would be a little too traumatic for me. I’m a lightweight.

I know that other Moms have experienced this. This feeling is not exclusive to me, Julie…Sophie’s Mom. I know this because I have some very special friends that have offered to meet me for some Starbucks therapy Monday morning.

So when the bell rings at 8:00am Monday morning, please pray for me….pray that I would have confidence and peace. Pray that the chunk of my heart that goes to the Royal Palm School on Monday will be safe, happy, and loved. Pray that the time for Charley, Edie and I will be sweet and safe as well.

And pray that I will remember that this was what I’ve wanted all along…a backpack, a lunchbox, and the little girl that will carry them home.

2 comments:

Emily said...

OH. OH GIRL. OH JESUS.

Tears are flowing. And I didn't expect it. But. They are. Praise God. I pack two backpacks every morning and I wish to God I was packing three. It is hard to see them big enough to carry little backpacks... but it's a blessing, too. And to think that you will never, ever know the pain of only being able to pack two of the three backpacks? THAT, my friend, is where I lose it.

Imagining a smiling Sophie waving through the window of real live yellow school bus gives me joy way down deep in my heart... the kind that makes me gulp for air. You go, God. You put that baby girl with that microcephaly label on that school bus and y'all just GO. :)

I love you. I'm thankful for you. And I just praise God for Sophie. I just know Miller Grace is going to waving back....

Tirza said...

Good words.