“Hopes and Dreams,” it said on top of the page. Brooke’s first grade teacher had sent it home for us to fill it out before meeting with her.
What are your hopes and dreams for your child’s academic learning this year?
The question should have been innocent enough, but the blank page taunted me. Come on, Jess. What are your hopes for your daughter? Whatcha got, kid? What are your dreams? Write us a story. Make it good.
I chose my words with care. The dam was threatening to burst. I chose the following:
“To keep pace with her peers and to acquire all of the tools that she will need to succeed in second grade and beyond.”
Sounded reasonable, I thought. It wasn’t even half the story.
Please, God, PLEASE let all of the supports that we have in place for her make this possible. Because honestly, right now, right in this moment, I can’t imagine how this can be possible.
She had brought home her first-ever homework assignment that afternoon. It was an outline of an umbrella to be colored in according to a key determined by some very simple math. 2+2 =? As we’d worked on it together after dinner – slowly, painfully – I’d thought, “There’s just no way.”
I was sick to my stomach. My kid deserves better. She has the fundamental right to a mother who believes that this is possible. That anything is possible. We can do this, damn it. We WILL do this. There was no mention of doubt in the question. The question was about HOPE.
Yes, ‘to keep pace with her peers and to acquire all of the tools that she will need to succeed in second grade and beyond’.
What are your hopes and dreams for your child’s social development this year?
I hung on by a thread. Slowly, I crafted what I thought was an acceptable answer. What does anyone want for their child?
“To make friends and to be a part of a community that appreciates her for who she is.”
The answer was the tip of one hell of an iceberg. There was a hanging ‘and …’
… who see past her flat-footed attempts to engage them.
… who see the gift that this child is.
That she is HAPPY. God, please, just let her be HAPPY.
That she strikes a comfortable balance – that she somehow finds the ever elusive middle ground between amassing and using the tools that will allow her to interact successfully with the world around her and embracing and celebrating who she is at her core.
That she avoids hurt and ridicule until she’s ready to make the decision for herself that maybe it’s o.k. once in a while – until a day that she may choose not to give a damn what people think. At least sometimes.
But not yet. Please not while she can’t understand it. Not while her world consists of only three identifiable emotions – happy, sad and scared.
No, not yet.
What are some other things that you would like me to know about your child?
Ha! How much time do you have?
“She is sweet and loving and far brighter than she may first appear given her difficulty with language. She loves people and desperately, if not somewhat awkwardly seeks attention and interaction.”
That she defies categorization.
That she can’t possibly be lassoed with words on a page.
That she has exploded through any and all perceived limitations since the day that she was born.
That she will touch you.
That she will crawl inside your soul and you will never be the same.
That in her six and a half years on this planet, she has already taught me far more than I will ever teach her.
That she outshines the brightest stars in the heavens.
That her laughter heals my soul.
That I love her with every fiber of my being.
That my heart is in my mouth every time that she walks out into the world and out of my reach.
That there’s not a single damned thing on this earth that I would not do for her.
That I implore you to look out for my girl.
You’ve got my heart there, lady. Please protect her.
In the meantime, I’ll be here.
Hanging on to hope.
Jess can typically be found at A Diary of a Mom where she writes about her life with her husband Luau* and their two beautiful daughters, Brooke*, who is nearly 9 and has autism, pervasive anxiety, and sensory processing disorders, along with a wicked sense of humor, and Katie*, who is soon to be 11 and has been diagnosed by her mother with typical tweendom and a heart the size of Montana.
Jess is proud to be featured in the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism and to have been a regular contributor to Hopeful Parents, Autism Speaks, The Oxygen Mask Project, and the Sensory Processing Disorder Blogger Network (SPDBN).