I always enjoy a good Back to School Night. I like the feeling of being a parent, seeming watchful over the education of my children, living in a small town, and feeling like the only thing that matters in the world is whether or not the PTO has enough volunteers. It makes me feel like we live in Pleasantville.
That being said, when it comes to visiting Max’s class, I feel much more emotional than the neat rows of desks and power point presentations about reading methods and math homework should inspire in a relatively normal person.
Every thing makes me want to cry a mixture of happy and sad tears. The thing about tears is that they look the same no matter what the flavor – which leads one to begin to feel a bit confused. I always feel like some sort of a warped celebrity when I get to sit at the tiny desk that has the new age adapted chair with the various items necessary for Max to sit comfortably in the classroom – the lower desk, the slant board, the wedge, the weighted wrist support. Hey, look at me, my kids has all this stuff and yours doesn’t! Then, I begin to hear the whispers that don’t actually happen. I just imagine that they do. People see me and they know…they know that Max is our child, and he is different. I sometimes think they want to ask for my autograph and other times I think they look at us with unjustified pity and despair.
Around the room we see the work the children do and the projects they prepare. His writing and drawing is amazing for him – improved 10,000 percent since last year…. but there is no way it will ever be confused with anyone else’s. His paper about what his parents’ are most proud of says, ” I am learning to walk with my canes.” A boy near him wrote, ” I can dive off the diving board into the deep end and read a chapter book all by myself.”
The pride I feel when I see that he was even able to finish the assignment is ridiculously large in my chest. The tears begin to well up when I see that he has done everything that everyone else has and that his paper is hanging right there for all to see.
When the teacher talked about the events for the year to come, my heart began to feel heavier. The work is getting much more demanding and I begin to wonder if there is any way Max will ever be able to do it all. Timed math, timed writing, timed reading, essays and books and projects … and while he gets certain accommodations… the work still needs to be done and it has to be done by him.
The special events for this year include a field trip… Instead of fun, I think, “lots and lots and lots of walking, requiring Hun to take off work and join the class. ” I hear “field day” and I think “no way day, again.” I hear class play, and think…. hmmm… that will be tricky. I hear Special Person Tea and begin to wonder how on earth Max will ever pick from the many many special people who have enriched his life and made him whole? And lastly, I hear that a 5th grader will be assigned to interview each child and write a book about what the 2nd grader is like. The book will be presented at the end of the year.
I wonder which 5th grader will it be? Will that child be able to capture one second of what it is like to be Max? I feel a special love for the writer already because he or she might get a chance to learn a little bit about greatness, grace and determination from even a few minutes with Max.
The tears are silent and no one sees them, but I swallow them all night long. I swallow them now as I write this because I am so thankful for Max’s abilities and his gifts. But, I am too cautious to never forget that but for a few minutes in time and pure luck, Max is with us, whole and healthy and safe.