Monday was Noah’s best day at school “EVER”! This is the lovely news that greeted me at the school door as I collected him. His SNA was full of excitement as Noah had completed 2 full Maths sheets all by himself without any help, assistance or even observation. He had worked quietly away by himself and answered all questions correctly. He beamed up at me with his super cute and very excited face as she updated me on his news and announced that all the boys in his class had given him a big round of applause for working so well on his own.
Noah held up the line of children trying to exit the school as he bent down to retrieve the said maths sheets out of his bag to show them off. He proudly modelled the gold star that had been placed on his school jumper as we hugged him and congratulated him on being awesome!
He is in First class now and I will admit that the transition was not easy. I haven’t written for a while because it has been difficult to convey the first few weeks of returning to school. The boys are getting bigger, the gaps more obvious, more apparent. Noah was daunted by the new bigger class and increased workload. He found adapting to a new building, new teacher, new SNA, new principal and new classmates difficult. He was feeling exposed and vulnerable. He was used to being in control of his routine and his feeling of security was gone. He struggled to communicate how he was feeling, the other boys were distracted making new friends and finding their own way. I could see he was sad and missing his usual spark.
However, as we start the second half of his first term, there is a clear new energy and the spark is back! He has discovered his own strength, his ability to adapt to this new and daunting situation. He has discovered kindness and acceptance from his classmates. His teachers and support team have fallen for his charms and have shown him that they believe in his ability. He has shown what he can do, that he is a hard worker, that he is determined and with understanding and support, he will never let himself or others down.
He has found confidence and that kind and cheeky character that we all adore is emerging again as he finds his feet.
For my part, I am always making a new peace with those gaps we tend to become consumed with.
Having a child with a disability in a mainstream school setting comes with this irrational need for your child to “act normal”, to fit in with the rest of the kids, to tip toe through the day without displaying too many quirky tendencies. It is a very unfulfilling quest because our kids have no intention of fitting into any of these expected norms and it is likely to be very disappointing for the rest of the class if they did!
Noah is very comfortable in his own skin and while he does not like to be behind others in academic pursuits, he makes up for those gaps with his amazing sense of spirit and friendship and he is very very funny. He loves to make people laugh. He loves to be praised. He loves to be the centre of attention. He loves to do something completely unexpected just to see other peoples reactions and this incredible strength in his personality just reels people in.
It is wonderful to stand on the sidelines in the mornings and watch the dynamic in the schoolyard. The boys have to line up in their class lines to wait for the bell and they then all walk in an orderly fashion into the school. There are older boys there who have been given the responsibility to maintain order and make sure everybody is ok. Noah has been given the position of “line leader” for his class. He is to stand at the front of the line and lead his class in when the bell goes. His favourite early morning prank is to stand at the front of the wrong line. He stands there with a cheeky grin while the boys in the line he is fronting are trying to get him to move, the boys in his own class line are trying to call him over and the older boys with responsibility are all confused as to what is happening. Within minutes, he has a crowd around him and the entertainment begins. The kids, the teachers, the parents are all smiling despite the cold and wet morning as Noah is up to his tricks. He has done it again!
I could go on for pages with examples of Noah’s mischief, stories other boys tell me about something Noah has done at school that they all think was brilliant. The amazing thing about his super Monday story is that I was not the only person who was very proud of him. The other kids in class were genuinely proud, the parents at the door who witnessed his excitement were proud, there is a whole community of people rooting for him!
The funny thing is, despite this level of pride and how much I talk about embracing difference, it was still a little bitter sweet for me to hear of Noah’s amazing Monday. On the one hand, I am so proud to see that all he has achieved, to see the love and pride on his SNA and teachers faces as well as the faces of his friends and classmates. On the other hand, a round of applause from the class because he has achieved something the others have been doing for months will still pull at the heart strings. It is part of our core to want the best for our children, to want them to achieve and be the best they can be. Of course I wish sometimes that Noah could keep up, that it was easier for him to speak, to decipher words and letters and that he wasn’t so singled out. I often wonder how long he will be able to stay in this wonderful school and if with perseverance we will make it to 6th class.
However, when I look at the pride on his little face, the sense of his own achievement, the fact that he is walking two inches taller all of a sudden, all of these concerns seem simply unimportant. It is Noah who reminds me not to be consumed with these boring ideas of normal, not to focus on the level of work being produced but instead on the passion, drive and commitment it has taken to get there. And it is simply impossible to ignore the sunshine and joy that seems to just exist when he is around, he makes people around him smile and want to be in his company.
All the academia in the world will not achieve that! Keep it up super dude, I love being your mum : )