Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Back to School

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My son starts school this fall in a new class, at a new location, with new kids and a new teacher. A week before school began, I stopped by to drop off his things. Behind the classroom, a school district employee welded a new railing, one my blind son will use to navigate the steps from the classroom to the snack area. "That's for my son," I told the man above the din of his tools. "Thank you for doing this." He smiled and kept at the job.

Another employee helped me carry a last box of Evan's toys and books into the classroom. "This is my son's new classroom," I said. "He's starting kindergarten."

For years, I joked that Evan would stay in preschool until his voice changed and he grew facial hair. Believe me, the teacher would have kept him, but those kids are babies now; my son has lost three teeth and is definitely a little man, one who needs to be moving on.

For him, and for us, this means a new school in our district, one with other special education kids. Some of them Evan might remember from his preschool days -- good old Ethan and Zach and Matthew who were in Miss Myrna's pre-K with him -- but many others will be new, along with that new room, new teacher, new playground and all else.

On my daughter's first day of kindergarten, I cried as I dropped her off. I'm sure I will do the same this time, but for different reasons. With my daughter, I was ready to see her on her way. We'd shared intense preschool years, those mixed with devotion and frustration; I knew in my heart that what she needed most (other people in her life) was not what she thought she needed (me). Kindergarten was a way out of the dilemma, a day rich with other people, but also with me, her mother, waiting at the end.

With my son, his life is ripe already with others: therapists, caregivers, teachers, aides, service coordinators, you name it. The unscheduled time we have together remains unique and comforting to us both. I jump him on the trampoline, sing along to his favorite Pooh CD, tickle him and say, over and over, "Mommy, I love you, Mommy, where are you?" He laughs and laughs and I get time with my toothless boy, the one I came to know in my very bones during the crucible of his first few months on earth.

Now he's headed off to a new school -- kindergarten! -- with a longer schedule and all those new people. I'm cracking the bottle of champagne across the bow of this new adventure, and wondering, the way I always do, what it will feel like to take this next step.

I'm sure the new teacher will learn to read his cues, just as I'm positive he'll adjust to the new classroom and campus. Even without his precious "mum mum," Evan will do just fine. It's me who is nervous about this new terrain, the unfamiliarity of it all.

~

A few weeks ago, I packed up the stack of toys, therapy balls, Braille calendars, assistive technology devices and books on tape that my son has collected during his preschool years. I made sure to include his favorite CD of harmonica music, the one his teacher bought to sooth him during a tantrum. This pile filled my little station wagon and as I drove up to his new school, I told myself that by doing this, I ensured that Evan's transition to kindergarten would be a smooth one.

He'd have his things, I'd find the right place for them all, the teacher would appreciate my efforts. We'd be ready.

That morning, as I sorted the toys and calendars and devices, putting them on the new bookshelf reserved just for Evan, I tried to picture him sitting in a big boy chair, at a big boy table. "Is there a cube chair here for him?" I asked, unable to move, in my mind, past
pre-school seating arrangements. "Do the kids ever sit on the rug?"

When Evan first started preschool, he couldn't even sit up by himself. Now, at the age of seven he could easily become a little Boy Goldilocks, and try out every chair in the room. But in my mind I plotted his seating choices, and hoped that by micromanaging his bottom, I'd make sure that the rest of him would also be just fine.

"There are lots of different chairs here," the teacher said, indicating them with a glance across the room. "I'm sure we'll find the right one."

~

A few days later, I transported another round of necessary objects from Evan's old classroom to his new: his sit and spin, the doll and baby bottle we hope will teach him imaginative play, some sorting buckets and a puzzle. This time, I let myself into the classroom, dropped off his things and tried not to look back. I didn't count the chairs or wonder about how my blind son would find his way around a new environment. He might grope, he might trip, but knowing Evan he'd probably pick himself right back up again.

In the office, the secretary gave me a pile of forms to fill out, which I took in confusion. Hadn't we already "enrolled" Evan? After a six-hour planning and transition meeting how could we have forgotten something so minor? At first I bristled at the formality, and then I remembered: every child entering kindergarten has these forms on file, the proof of residency and health and safety information and emergency contact numbers. Five years ago, I filled out precisely these forms for my daughter. Now I was being asked to do something so inanely ordinary, this time for my son.

For the secretary, the teacher, the welder, the therapist and the school district employee, my son is just another kid, albeit one with a lot of stuff, who needs forms filled out and a railing into the snack area on the first day of school.

For me, my miracle boy is a kindergartner now, and that puts him in a league all his own.


Vicki Forman is the author of This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood and
teaches creative writing at the University of Southern California. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart and has appeared in Philosophical Mother, The Santa Monica Review, Writer to Writer and Faultline. She lives in Southern California with her husband and child.


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Loved the article, Vicki. My son just stared 1st grade and I realize it is so much easier this year! I know that he can handle his school. The staff know him (and me) and I have confidence that they will educate him and make sure he is safe while he is in school.
I just wanted to let you know that your essay touched something in me, as my son Evan just started kindergarten too. He also has special needs and I worry everytime he starts something new. Thanks for sharing your journey.
Congratulations on Evan starting kindergarten!! I hope it goes well for him and that you both are proud of his accomplishments!
Yay, Evan!!!!! And Vicki!
Thank you again for sharing your life with us. I can't imagine starting school, I am already sweating preschool decisions and I have another FULL year to worry about that. I think our lives are so filled with routine that new things....new phases terrify us. Probably more than our special kids!
Vicki, this is just beautiful. Tears to my eyes, beautiful. Here's to you and Evan and new beginnings!
Vicki, Your article brought tears to my eyes. My own daughter has special needs and just started preschool. I know how hard it is to let go of these special kids with so many more things to adjust to. You bring me hope also. My daughter is just starting to sit on her own, and I hope someday she will be walking too. Please keep writing about your journey. Evan sounds like an amazing kid and I love to read about him.
Evan is my hero!
With tears of Joy I am giving you a big HIGH FIVE!!!!! Miss T is only almost 15mos but our new adventure is leaving her in the church nursery for both Sunday School and Church... Yes I have checked in on her and suspect I will continue to do so :) It is what it is. Thank you again for sharing your beautiful Son with us. I always look forward to your articles. Peace Be With You Kim and Miss T
"We" just started kindergarten, too (it feels like the whole family's transition) and though my son doesn't share Evan's special needs, your column really resonated with me. Congratulations on this huge milestone for your family!
Congratulations to your kindergartner - and to you.
Another lovely piece, Vicki I am so excited for you all...it's a huge step. I feel like I'm right there with you. XOX
Vicki, Congrats! And thanks for another great post. It's such a glimpse of the future, at a time when I get so caught up in the eternal present. All good wishes (again), Sara (and Brian and Graham)
Maybe not so much "this, too, shall pass," but definitely "what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger."
congratulations... My angel started K'garten too. With an aid beside her who is not me, She loves being there...
You remind me that miracles happen constantly. What a wonderful thought. What a wonderful mommy.
Vicki, I can relate so much to this beatuifully written article. You articulate so well the experience of difference with a second child after going through the "normal" process with the first. Congrats to you and Evan for making the transition!
Hooray for Evan, and hooray for his mama, too!
Congratutions on this great milestone. Your articles always touch me, but this one even more since my 3 year old will start in a new developmental classroom in two weeks where he will ride a bus and have new teachers and class mates. Needless to say I'm very nervous, but your article has given me a little lift to get me through this. After all, he's not the first kid to do this. Thanks so much and keep writing these wonderful articles.
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