It’a almost a week now since Noah started school and my experience so far is that while it is a big deal, it’s not as scary as I expected. Proudly dressed up in his green and yellow school tracksuit, he looks just like all the other kids. An air of mischief and excitement, curiosity and anxiety across all their little faces, small boys and girls starting out on a big journey in their little worlds!
I found the first few days daunting. It’s somewhat unfair on Noah but I am so keen for him to fit in that I push him harder then I should. I want him to perform, to act mature, to look ready and to do himself proud. I fiddle way too much with his uniform, fix the hair, ensure the toothpaste hasn’t dripped anywhere. We walk to school to ensure he has come around to the idea before we get there, we don’t want any last minute unexpected outbursts. I’m not sure there are many 5 year olds who can perform under the kind of pressure I put Noah under, but he does! He arrives into his classroom with enthusiasm, hangs up his coat, smiles at his friends and sits politely in his seat. At collection time, he stands patiently in the line until it’s his turn to be picked up. There were no tears, no tantrums and he comes out every day with a huge proud and happy smile on his face.
Yesterday was a big fat highlight. As I stood at the door waiting for the class to come out, a mother approached me. She told me she is so happy that Noah is in her son’s class. Her little boy was so anxious starting school but when he saw his friend Noah was in his class he felt so much more relaxed. They had been in preschool together and she was so delighted to see her little boy with his friends.
She has no idea the spiral of self reflection that went on in my head after that conversation. I suddenly realised that while worrying so much that Noah might not have friends in school, I forget how much he brings to the table. I tend to see those who play with him as nurturing, helpful and kind. I find myself being thankful for them and wondering how long it will last, will he be able to keep up with them?
But Noah is a wonderful friend. He is honest, playful, kind, strong willed, cheeky and funny. He is a cool little dude and has more charm in his little finger then most of us in our whole bodies. Language and academia are challenges for him but maybe we should give kids some credit. They are not as shallow as adults and can recognise the wonderful traits in their friend. He is as important to them as they are to him.
I thought I might feel uncomfortable at the school door. There are so many parents that I don’t know and you can become self conscious. People notice us. They notice Noah and naturally I suppose they wonder about him, about how he will get on in the class. Maybe they wonder what it is like to have a child with Down Syndrome. But in my experience so far, people are interested in us, interested in him, kind and well meaning and in the case of this particular mum, delighted to have him in her son’s life.
Everybody has their own story and the only one I am qualified to tell is my own. We have worries and anxieties on this adventure but when I look at the faces of all the mums and dads at the school door, they too have worries and anxieties about their kids. I don’t feel uncomfortable at the school door, I don’t feel that my child is any less deserving or valued then any other child. On the contrary, I feel so very proud and excited for him as he sets out on his journey. This little dude surprises me every day!