Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Making up for lost joy

It started a couple of Fridays ago, when Sabrina went to kindergarten orientation. Sabrina? Graduating preschool? Already?! CLASS OF 2024? When and exactly how did this happen? This shock despite the fact that sometimes, she sounds far older than her years. Tonight she was play-wrestling with Max on a blowup mattress and when I warned her that he could fall off she said, "But Mommy, it's not steep." That word I used in the car this weekend when I was describing going up a hill. Wow.

This is Sabrina on her first day of preschool. Back then, she hardly ever spoke up in class (although she was plenty loud at home). When I'd ask, "Sabrina, why are you so quiet at school?" she'd answer, ever so reasonably, "Because I don't talk."

Friday's preschool "moving on ceremony" kicked off with a little concert by the kids; they sang classics like "This Land Is Your Land" and a few adorable songs I'd never heard of. I thought I was going to sob nonstop, but I only choked up a few times. Then the teachers handed out certificates, the kids hit the playground for one last time, and there was a big indoor picnic.

The kids were really into picking each other up as if to prove that, yes, they're really growing up.

There weren't many dry eyes during that ceremony, and I'm talking both moms and dads. It's hard to see your kids getting older, because they are so delicious when they're little-little, because they'll never be delicious in quite the same way again and because it's a reminder that you're getting older, too. Me, I had a whole bunch of other emotions mixed in there. Unless we have a third kid, and who knows if we can make that happen, this is my only experience of doing preschool with a typical child. No IEPs, no therapies, no calls about potential seizure activity, no battles to get services, just pure preschool. And I treasure that.

Occasions like this make me realize I've felt gypped of that whole typical-school thing with Max. To be sure, there are plenty of joys I experienced with him during his preschool days. His school firsts—first time he tried to sing a song, first drawing he did on his own, first time he used a speech device—seemed like small miracles. His ability to learn and his focus made me proud. His interactions with other kids gave me new hope.

And, wow, was he cute. But there were joys I'd been expecting with his early childhood, preconceived expectations I'd had, that my head and heart never adjusted to not getting. These are joys that I experienced with Sabrina. Like the joy of hearing your child's voice raised in chorus with a dozen other tiny voices singing the simple, sweet, innocent songs kids sing, some of which you fondly recall from your own childhood. Like the joy of opening your child's knapsack to find pictures she'd colored of Mommy and Daddy, with the words written in squiggly handwriting with backwards letters. Like the joy of overhearing your child chat with another kid in her class about, oh, her visit to grandma's house or her new doll or any of the other things that get kids so excited.

I didn't just savor these joys; I devoured them. And so I am reluctant to let go of this time in Sabrina's life. I want to milk it even more, get out every last bit of pleasure I can to make up for what was lost.

This is the song I can't get out of my head that Sabrina sang on Friday at school. Tonight, I asked her to sing it to me, again.


  1. You do have adorable kids! And you take great pics of them, too.

    Never fear, Ellen--there will be more "firsts" for you to enjoy, with both of your precious little darlings!

    Congratulations to Sabrina on her achievement!

  2. She is so adorable! And you know what? The fun never ends -- really. My youngest is now nine years old, and he's still cracking me up, making me cry, etc. etc.

    Keep on enjoying!

  3. So sweet, Ellen! She sure does look like you! It is so hard to watch them grow up. It makes me sick to my stomach sometimes.

  4. Tell Sabrina that 2-year-old Nicolas smiled and clapped watching her sing on the computer. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Of my 6 kids, my 3 oldest are neurotypical and my 3 youngest have some special needs. So I had the typical preschool experiences with my typical kids, but that was such a long time ago. I've forgotten what it was like to have a typically developing little kid. Thanks for reminding my what it was like.

  6. How sweet! She is so cute! It is hard to see our kids growing up so fast! Where DOES the time go?

  7. I liked this post a lot. I have two kids--both neurotypical, and I think that I don't pay attention enough to the "firsts." You notice and chronicle your kids' lives in a much more attentive way than I have. I learn a lot about parenting from your blog (and a couple of magazine articles of yours that I've seen!).

    It's paired with a strange anxiety too--I feel that I've been so lucky that part of me is always waiting for something to go wrong with my kids, my husband, or myself. I get a sinking feeling just thinking about them navigating in the world.

    I try every day to live in the moment, and every day to be more present than the day before.


  8. I've made a very conscious effort to never let myself feel jipped with Graham. After he was supposed to die, several times... it has all been extra, stolen and borrowed time. I relished in his prolonged babyhood.

    And I ALWAYS bawl my eyes out at school functions. His is this friday...I'm gonna be a mess.

  9. Minutes ago, we were told that Marissa did qualify for Special Education, so school for Marissa in the Fall.

    Her little (3 month old) brother has passed her in many ways. I'm not sure I'm up to making up for lost joy just yet- I'm still dealing with the differences in development between the two.

  10. I think I feel this less now because I have zero expectations about this age. When we get to middle and high school I know it will hurt that Charlie doesn't have the same experiences that I equate with a "normal" high school experience.

  11. I know this is totally not the point of the post but it's driving me a little nuts. She'll be in the graduating class of 2023 if she starts Kindergarten this fall. They miscalculated.

    (She will graduate kindergarten in spring of 2011, and then has another 12 years of grade school after that - 2023)

  12. Ha ha...I didn't notice that mistake in the grad year, but I am no math whiz....maybe they are factoring in a "red shirt" year for the athletes, or attendance at one of those fancy five year prep schools?????

  13. OK, that really is sadly funny that they got the graduation date wrong. I'm a math blockhead, so didn't notice, but obviously some of you aren't. What's awful is that I already had some qualms about the school, a certain leader there did not seem all that bright. This kind of confirms it. Eek.


Thanks for sharing!

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