One of the reasons my father always told me that he became a pediatric rehab physician was because he would have a relationship with his patients for 18+ years (potentially, of course). Teachers, therapists, even family come and go in our children's lives. It's a natural process. It's part of growing up. It's part of maturing. It's one of life's inevitable disappointments. People leave. My son refuses to say "good-bye" to people because he thinks that "good-bye" means you'll never see them again, so he prefers "See you later", or "Keep it real" (I taught him that one). Children have difficulty moving on, especially those who might not be the healthiest emotionally already.
And parents do, too.
We've been having a difficult transition into first grade. As with any rehab process, you just need to keep moving forward. And we're all trying. Lord, we're all trying. One of the biggest consistencies we had going since this all started (Jack's diagnosis - shortly after his 3rd birthday), was Ms. "Sally" (not her real name, so I'm going to stop using quotes, okay?. Okay). Jack went to a blended pre-school. He was doing well and there was one behavioral aide that seemed to take a liking to him. She was in the other classroom, but always had an anecdote, or piece of advice, or a smile for us at pick-up time. So, we were delighted when we asked for her as Jack's one-on-one into Kinder... and won. She was young, energetic, smart as hell, and gave a shit. Something Jack had done was endearing enough to Ms. Sally for her to accept. We had won the BIA lottery. She was with him at summer school, Kindergarten, summer school again, and First Grade.
But first grade didn't go so well and we had to say good-bye to Ms. Sally. Except, the way it worked out, we never got the chance to say good-bye. So here goes...
Ms. Sally, Jack's downturn is not your fault. You could not have worked harder for him. We've known you for over 2 years (a lifetime in this business) and you are the number one reason for his successes. You spent more time with him than anyone. And you remain his biggest champion. We can not thank you enough for always remaining positive with him. Our last conversation was walking back to his classroom after he had forgotten his backpack. I told you that I was losing hope. You asked me not to, because you hadn't. It's so hard to not meet you every morning. It's hard to watch Jack scan the schoolyard and start to stim every morning. He doesn't express this well, but he misses your open arms. He misses the comfort of starting your day with familiarity. The way we feel weird if we didn't kiss our spouse good-bye before we left for work, or didn't end a conversation with "love you".
We know how much you loved him. We may never know, however, how much he loved you. But Julie and I do. Thank you for helping him. Thank you for not giving up hope. Thank you for not mentioning it the times you knew I had been crying. Thanks for the smiles. You are an exceptional young woman. Your compassion without condescension will serve you well. We are forever humbled and indebted to you, and love you.
This blog was intended to be about emotionally challenged children learning to say good bye, but it's clearly about us as parents. Therapists are going to come and go, we've had several who we were very close to... some are even in this blog community. Teachers are going to come and go, we've had several who we were very close to... some are even in this blog community.
But Champions stay forever.
And I still can't say Good-bye.
Keep it real, Ms. Sally, Keep it real.