Wow! What a roller-coaster of a 24 hrs.! Yesterday, the school year got off to a rousing start with mommy completely failing the first day of kindergarten E-learning. Due to extreme sleep deprivation causing a total inability to concentrate on much of anything these days, I somehow misunderstood that there was, in fact, much more to our Remote School day than simply a 45 min zoom check in. Needless to say, mommy earned an F for today’s life skills and a free pass back to kindergarten to re-up on critical listening lessons!
Today was Oliver’s first day of in-person learning and it got off to an equally rocky start. We were blessed with a sleepless night, once again last night, with Oliver screaming from 3-5am and Nicco waking up on either end of that. When my 6:00 alarm blared its god-awful siren into my ears this morning I immediately thought to myself, this new addition of a school schedule is either going to kill me once and for all, or finally be the force that transforms our less-than-stellar life habits into far healthier routines. I’m really hoping for the latter.
After hitting the snooze too many times to be considered a real adult, I dragged my sleepy ass out of bed and proceeded to guzzle as much caffeine as my nervous system would allow. I clumsily yanked Oliver from his slumber and attempted to spoon puree into his barely functioning mouth. I went through the motions at lightening speed, while trying to convince my newly minted stay-at-home-parent husband that it really WAS going to take a full 35 minutes to drive into town and get everything unloaded and that I definitely did NOT have plenty of time. After yesterday’s E-schooling fail, I desperately wanted to make up for my inadequacies by, at least, being on time to class this morning.
I jammed Oliver into his car seat and peeled out of the driveway, leaving a cloud of gravel dust in my wake. I may have broken several traffic laws (MUCH harder to get away with in a rural community than in LA) Mini-Van Momma-ing it to arrive at the school parking lot JUST in time.
I flung open the doors to the van and ran around to the back to wrench his chair clunkily out onto the pavement, silently cursing myself for sucking at schedules and life in general.
Just then, a woman walked out of the building with what I could tell was a big smile hidden behind her mask and asked excitedly “Is this Oliver?!” Immediately, his teacher followed and then another woman and another and then a man too. I had FULLY planned on fixing my hair, straightening my crooked shirt and attempting to appear NOT like I was in the midst of a full-blown caffeine fueled psychosis, before ANY of these people saw me today. LOL
Not the case. Oliver’s entire team was standing in front of us taking in the HOT MESS that is our life. Embarrassed, I tried to quickly shut the doors of the van so as to obscure from view, the flowerpots, water bottles, diaper wipes, and my pathetic attempt at a last minute breakfast, an uneaten waffle sitting amidst the receipts and headphones on the center counsel.
Oh well, I thought, I am on this whole authenticity and vulnerability kick so, why not allow people to see the real me? Whatever. I’m unorganized and also chronically rushing to be on time. Welcome to the Odyssey.
So instead of continuing my self-degradation, I turned my attention to the incredible team standing before me. The answer to my prayers. Everything I had hoped for. They welcomed us and asked me to come in to train the staff… those words were music to my ears. Now I wouldn’t have to wonder if they would understand his expressions for yes and no or if they’d recognize his seizures or know how to change his diaper while managing his spasticity. They were gifting me this morning to be able to explain all of those things and set my mind at ease. I took a deep breath for the first time all morning and wheeled Oliver in, flanked by an entourage that I’ve obsessed over not having for the last 6 months. Here they are. Our angels.
We rolled down the hall with the smiling faces beneath masks, all of us newcomers in this pandemic world of the unknown. His teacher offered kind and reassuring words about my E-schooling attempt and said she didn’t give me an F at all. I loved her immediately.
I spent the next hour and a half reviewing all the intricacies of Oliver’s care. Everyone was engaged and willing to learn all about my lucky little boy. By the end of the morning, my momma heart felt at ease for the first time in many months.
Since we arrived here, just as the pandemic hit 6 months ago, a part of me has been withheld. Although the scenery is stunning, the air is the cleanest I’ve breathed in years and my family finally gets to spend its days together, Oliver’s support network and quality of life here have been unknown. He has been bored A LOT without the many hours of therapy and one-on-one interaction he was used to. Every single day that we’ve been here, I have questioned if this was the right decision or if we made him sacrifice way too much for the betterment of the whole.
Like it or not, he and I exist as one being, twin flames, flickering through the ups and downs of life in unison. When he is not thriving, neither am I, and vis versa. Oliver’s team, up until now, was a mystery and a source of many sleepless nights and worried days. What would it look like? Would the people truly love him? Would he get enough support here? When would the pieces fall into place? Will he be happy here? My anxiety over these questions nearly ate me alive this summer. But this morning, it was finally put to rest.
His team is amazing. They are passionate and caring and excited to have him in their school. They’re already working hard to support him in every way possible and seem genuinely excited to spend their days with my little cutie pie on wheels. And he’s already rolling down the hallway, flashing that signature Oliver smile at the ladies and loving all the attention he receives. I am so happy for him. I am so happy for us. Today I finally feel at peace.
To anyone starting out on this journey, lost, hopeless and lonely… the best advice I can give you is to build a team. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and ask for the help you need. Allow people into your world, even knowing they will see the messiness and imperfections of your life. Be authentic. Be you. And be open to their support. These are the people who will come in fresh every day without the baggage of grief, guilt and emotion that most of us carry. Continue looking, advocating and when necessary, fighting, until you find the people who believe in your child and lift your family up. And when you find them, let them know how much they are valued and loved because they are essential pieces to the special needs puzzle.
The only thing that I have been sure of during these last 6 months, is how critical our network of angels is to our family’s well-being. Now I can finally breathe easy in our beautiful forest home.