Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Let's Get This Party Started

Today was the first day of school for Rocco at the neurotypical middle school campus. I became convinced that I was actually much more nervous than he was, when, he gave a deep sigh from the back seat of the car and said somberly “let’s get this party started.” 

I tried to suppress the urge to hold his hand as we walked across the campus. I knew that it was possible that it would embarrass him. With his black vans, camouflage pants and long, blond surfer boy hair, he blended right in. The only way you could pick up that he was different, was the battered red flannel jacket that he clutched (his lovey).

We had been to the campus numerous times over the last couple months. My hope was that familiarity with his surroundings would help him adjust. As we walked down the halls, I noticed the hallmark expression of most children entering the middle school world; bewilderment and self consciousness. For a moment, I felt grateful that Rocco would not ever have to feel the pangs of teen angst.

That gratefulness slipped away, when I noticed a couple of older boys wearing death metal tshirts, eyeballing him when he yelled suddenly "yup, that's where we're going!". Probably repeating a conversation we had earlier in the morning. My fear of him being teased ruthlessly, sat heavy in my chest.

The teacher and her aides were warm and welcoming. Rocc already knew where everything in the classroom was placed from his previous visits, so he walked straight to his cubby, put his backpack in and marched to his desk. He grabbed the first item on his visual schedule and sat down at the desk with purpose. He looked up at me anxiously and asked "Can I keep my jacket? I want to hold it." I gave him a little hug (as much as he would allow) and reassured him that he could keep his jacket.

I talked to his teacher about the contingency plan in case things went awry today, and I blathered on about things Rocco liked and didn't like, I'm sure giving her way too much information. Rocco gently put his hand on my arm and looked up at me with those blue eyes, "Can I go with you Mom?" he asked pleadingly. I felt that sharp twinge in my chest and looked back at him reassuringly, while I fought off tears. "No, your going to stay here today with Miss Stacy. You'll have fun, I promise." sounding far more sure than I felt.

The teacher assured me that he was fine, so I left, and just made it to my car, where I choked on a sudden flood of tears. As I drove away, I assured myself that he was going to be just fine. The mental image of him on the swings yesterday materialized soothingly in my head. 

We had been at his sisters school that weekend and she wanted to visit the swing set. Rocco walked right over, sat down on the swing and started using his feet to force the swing higher and higher, a joyful grin on his face. This sounds like an everyday thing. Only it wasn't. Since he was a little guy, the swings terrified him. When I could convince him to even sit on a swing, he would dig his feet into the sand, in order to cease any movement. A few times, he had let me push him very gently, but after a couple moments he would plant his feet back in the sand.

But there he was, feet in the air, the wind in his blond curls, swinging away. As I sat, stunned, watching him, I realized something that I knew, but sometimes forget. He courageously faces challenges every day, with more strength than most of the people I know. He would conquer this as well.

So come on Mom, I told myself, let's get this party started.

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