Monday, April 23, 2018

Thank You, Kindergarten

In less than thirty days our kindergarten year will be over. I say our because this has been a team effort.

We are a few weeks away from summer and Pandora is almost a first grader. I could cry, actually I am crying, just typing those words. I cannot believe kindergarten is over. I cannot believe E2 not only survived kindergarten, but rocked it.

Let's be honest, I was not expecting Pandora to rock it. Hell, if I am being real fucking honest, I figured she would be home schooled by Halloween. The hubs and I were prepared for public school not to work out. I was petrified to send Pandora to school. Pandora, however, was ready, willing, and excited to go to big kid school like her sister.

Being my controlling self, I met with the principal and explained all of Pandora's struggles and cried while she assured me there was an amazing teacher for my daughter. Our teacher letter arrived in August and the name on that letter forever changed the course of Pandora's life.

Meet the teacher happened and because I cannot help myself, I followed up with an email. You see, I am that mom. I am that mom every day, but for Pandora, I am that mom, every day, hour, minute, second, of her life. In that email I explained Pandora the best I could. I was overwhelming, crazy, overbearing, and basically said "Yep. I am THAT mom and I am saying sorry for all I will do before we even have day one." While not my proudest moment, it was a necessary one. You see, when your kid has special needs there is no off button. There is no wait and see. There is no let things happen and see where we are at Halloween. There is now. And now cannot wait.

My email was received with grace and a tad confusion, but within a few days our kindergarten teacher began to see examples of the struggles I had described. Emails were exchanged and conferences were had and trust was formed. This phenomenal woman knew Pandora as well as I did....some days I felt like she knew her better.

Our kindergarten teacher, yes OUR.
Sure, she spends her day teaching Pandora, but she has taught me so much more. It's true what the poem says- everything you need to learn, you learn in kindergarten.

I have learned that advocating for your child is necessary and if done properly, you will find a fierce advocate in your teacher. I have learned that honesty is the best policy. I have learned to appreciate the smallest of gestures. I have learned to celebrate every victory no matter how big or small. I have learned that crying in a parent teacher conference is a-o-k. The tears are not a sign of weakness, but validation of what you've been thinking all along. I have learned to listen, to truly listen to someone who has been there. I have learned to trust my instinct. I have learned that a label will never define Pandora, for greatness is always within arm's reach. I have learned to trust. I have learned letting Pandora fall in order to teach her how to get back up is exactly what she needed. I have learned what an amazing, dedicated, hard working person our kindergarten teacher truly is.

While I cried through my Kindergarten lessons, Pandora soared. She became a new version of herself. From day one to now, I have watched her go from a baby lamb trying to walk to running with grace like a cheetah in the wild. Pandora has learned to make friends, share, problem solve, speak up for herself, engage with others, resolve conflict, ask for help. She has gained independence, become more generous and thoughtful, and learned how to be a part of a community. She grew. She went from little Pandora to big kid. She learned what you are supposed to learn in kindergarten - Pandora learned how to be successful without her mom in her corner.

And did she succeed? She did indeed. Mid way through this year we received Pandora's Cerebral Palsy diagnosis and with a hug our teacher let me know the only thing that changed is now we know why Pandora struggles. Knowing why didn't change our expectations and it didn't change our teacher's expectations. Striving to be better is what life is all about. Being pushed (gently) to be better is how we grow as people. Pandora has been pushed and pushed and pushed. And when I didn't think she could do anything more, she and our teacher proved me wrong. From mathematics to writing to learning to read, my daughter has done the impossible. Pandora has become a successful student.

Our kindergarten teacher knows I think she hung the moon, but I have never really been able to express fully how she has changed our lives. Each day as summer draws near, I get a little twinge in my stomach. I know Pandora is ready to move on, but when I look back on the year she has had I cannot begin to think how we will all say good bye. First grade is only a hallway over, but light years away from our comfort zone.

And just like last summer, Pandora is excited and ready to go to first grade. She is ready to tackle new challenges while I sit here crying, anticipating what I will say in my "Yep. I am THAT mom" email.

To our kindergarten teacher, THANK YOU. Thank you for seeing past the toothless smile, the happy green eyes, and her big Texas bow. Thank you for seeing a clean slate and drawing the first steps in what will prove to be a bright future.


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