Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Happy Fourth of July

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth of July

"Basically, it's hotter than a snake's ass in a wagon rut."

-- Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams), Good Morning Vietnam

I'm sweating in my bathrobe at 9:15 a.m., and, to top it off, I just dragged myself out of bed! I have been sleeping incredibly well lately, with actual dreams and everything. Last night Lisa from next door called and asked if I would like to try a concoction she created from the thick meat of crushed dark cherries, mint leaves, diet cherry sparkling water, and a little Crater Lake vodka. We sat on her back deck while her husband pushed the lawn mower around the yard. The sun was sinking behind the mountains to the occasional sharp crack of fireworks that left smoky, brown smudges on the evening sky. After we went inside and watched a little of America's Got Talent (Who can resist watching a man prance around in platform heels?), Rob took me back to my door in their sputtering but surprisingly speedy golf cart. When I arrived, Erik was at his bedroom window bouncing up and down, his mouth forming the words "GOLF CART!" behind the glass.

Lisa told me she wishes she knew me better after I had Erik. She is one of the few people that admit they knew something was wrong with our baby right away. I explained to her that not many people did, and the ones who knew were understandably silent. I said that that there's just no great way to tell someone you think there's something horribly wrong with their baby. Even if there was, most of the people who love us were praying that they were wrong. I wish I had known her better, too, but, in any case, she does me a lot of good now. I am so lucky to have all of the friends I do. Most of the friends I have are of the tell-it-like-it-is variety. They tell me the truth and will defend me to the end if I need their help. I just don't ask them if my bottom looks big in a new outfit unless I truly want to know the answer.

The Wall Street Journal article about mainstreaming our children with WS has finally hit me. Basically, it was stated that mainstreaming children with special needs like WS is backfiring for a variety of reasons. The example they chose to use was unfortunate, as this student had what was obviously severe WS, and her teacher, who had not been given appropriate training, admitted she hated her job so much that she was becoming physically ill from the stress of handling children like these. I think this article was upsetting on many levels, but I am trying to turn the disappointment I feel into fuel for the battle in the school system. I am not out to create a perfectly normal life for Erik or pretend he doesn't have challenges. Normal is simply not going to happen one hundred percent of the time. What I plan on doing is providing him tools to live the life that he desires, including the best education possible to mainstream him in the real world, not just a classroom setting. If something works, we'll go for it. If it doesn't, we'll try something else, plain and simple. I will fight for whatever works, no matter what it takes. I may end up on the state capitol steps with a large sign at some point, and I'm okay with that. I know I won't be alone. The goal is to educate my son and train him to lead a happy, productive life. If there's one thing I have learned, it's that school is NOT and will never be the real world. I was very relieved to find that out for myself. The real world is so much better than I was led to believe as I sat in various classrooms. It wasn't until I left school in my 20s that I realized I could do anything I set my mind to.

How sad is that?

On that note, I need to work out and prepare a potato salad. My parents are coming to visit this evening, and I am barbecuing steaks and chicken. We will sit on our back porch with warm bowls of fluffy, sweet kettle corn and watch the fireworks explode off the cinder cone in the middle of town. We have a great view from here and will have the hoses ready!

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Blogger kathi said...

Thank God life isn't what's we learned (or lived) in school.

You're very blessed to have a neighbor that's such a good friend. Your 4th sounds wonderful, enjoy the fireworks, and if you've got free hands at any time, take some pictures.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Aspen said...

That article has struck me in many different ways as well. I absolutely understand how the presence of that little girl was a distraction to every other child in the room, while yet understanding the benefits of mainstreaming. Oh the battles we are sure to have!

I hope you have a fantastic day. Enjoy the warm weather (as much as possible without completely dehydrating!) and enjoy the fireworks.


12:26 PM  

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