We’re almost running late, and since it’s the first time Zach, my young son with mild autism and ADHD, will be meeting his potential kindergarten teachers, I’m silently begging the lights to remain green. It was a bit of a struggle to get him out of the house, no different than many that have occurred over the last week or so.
I’m pretty certain his departure in behavior is due to the impending finale of pre-school, a place where he’s laughed and learned with the same incredible staff for two-and-a-half years (at least I hope that closure is the reason). While I sympathize with him, this “tour” that we’re about to take is important, will give him the lay of the land so to speak of a new facility, and will hopefully endear him to his new educators. He needs to get it together.
After all, first impressions are everything.
I arrive in the parking lot with a minute to spare, rush into the building, and am relieved to know we have a few minutes before the “event” begins. Zach’s case manager is wonderful, and has graciously offered to continue attending to his needs next year, a decision for which I am grateful. Since he’s going to have to readjust to an entirely new set of staff this fall, it will be lovely for him to see a familiar face.
It will be lovely for his mommy too.
Eventually our fabulous child study team member comes to collect us, and Zach eagerly takes her proffered hand, and I smile. We start the tour on a high note (the science room, where my son has the opportunity to witness tadpoles and frogs in action), a locale which I quickly see ignites a spark of longing in him, a desire to return.
In quick succession we check out the auditorium, the mainstream classroom and teacher where he’ll hopefully spend his entire morning, and the educator of the self-contained classroom in which he’ll conclude his day. Everyone is so welcoming, and so clearly excited to meet their prospective student. I watch Zach soak up their warmth like strong rays of sun on his skin, and I see the dawning in his eyes of an exciting future. He can’t wait to attend this school.
And although part of me is scared for him, I can’t wait for him to attend it either.
All too soon our roaming ends, with a trip to the boys’ bathroom acting as our finale. Due to our case manager’s thoughtfulness Zach even receives a parting gift of goodies, which he eagerly explores and wants to play with immediately. I temper his enthusiasm a bit by promising him access in the car, thank our tour guide, and offer him my hand.
My appendage is resoundingly rejected. Zach is, after all, going to kindergarten this fall.
I know it will be only one of a thousand ways in which he’ll slowly leave, will exert the subtle shift from dependence to independence that an entire team of people have worked so diligently towards for four consecutive years. He does permit me to grasp his fingers as we enter the parking lot, and I listen as he chatters on enthusiastically about what he’s seen. He’s already spinning me a story about the amphibians he’s obviously taken to heart, one with woods and an evil witch who thankfully doesn’t sound anything like the teachers he’s just met.
When asked, he says he loves his new teachers. Thank God.
I’ve barely strapped him into his car seat when he asks for his “goody bag”, and I retrieve it for him from the front seat, reminding him not to lose the little pieces anywhere. He promises to be good and take care of them, and again I smile, because I know he will do his best, as he does in so many other areas of his life. I squeeze his hand and lean in for a kiss, one which he dutifully bestows upon his mommy, then turns back to his newfound treasure. I release his fingers reluctantly as I ponder how much more difficult this will be in September. Zach gives me his trademark glorious smile, and I close his door, knowing a new one will open for him soon.
It’s time to let go, and watch him fly.