Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: First Day

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

First Day





Okay, I admit I have been a little more stressed than usual regarding Erik's first day of preschool at the tender age of 2 (he's 3 soon). I worried about the fact he isn't toilet trained, can barely hold a crayon, and doesn't always express his needs, especially in a setting with other children, in which he often sits expressionless and motionless for hours at a time. After I was through worrying about those things, I then went on to worry about the fun things, such as getting his birthday photo session scheduled. I purchased new clothing and ordered new shoes in the next size to go over his orthotics for the first day of school. I then stopped worrying altogether, as I recognized I would be dropping him off at the very same building as before for early intervention and have been doing this weekly for a year and a half without much thought at all at the end of this time frame. It would be no different. No worries.

Oh, Nancy. You poor, naive girl.

Monday was Erik's IFSP meeting. Brian dropped Erik off at day care and met me at Erik's school. They neglected to tell us they would be completely retesting Erik and that he needed to be present. In the past, we had simply filled out paperwork. We were instructed to sit in that horrible little room with the two-way glass where our lives began changing almost two years ago. If I hadn't been so annoyed, it would have bothered me more, but I still was acutely aware of that little piece of me that I lost that day still floating in the air like a piece of morbid confetti, trapped and haunting that room forever. We rescheduled the second half of testing and filled out paperwork with the two therapists present (speech and OT/PT). Many of the skills they asked us about were just emerging in Erik, as he is quite young for preschool. I don't miss the days when we answered "No, he doesn't do that yet" to every single question asked.

Tuesday I awoke at 2 a.m. with a now rare case of insomnia. I simply couldn't sleep as Brian and the cat roared through the night snoring. The three hours I was able to catch before awakening for the last time were less than high quality hours. I skipped my workout and had a tiny plate of comfort food--a multigrain waffle, berries, and light syrup. I watched video blogs until the rest of the world caught up with me. My body tingled with exhaustion, and my brain felt as if it was full of smoke.

I dressed Erik in his new clothes, and he came out to the kitchen to ask for a glass of water ("Want some water-please-okay."). As he looked up at me, I experienced a strange moment. I saw his syndrome so very clearly in his face for just a second, making him appear like all of the Williams kids I know combined. I actually saw flashes of them all and could name some of them. He smiled at me, and it only became more pronounced. I felt like I had seen a group of friendly ghosts. I knew then that I was being reminded that the parents with kids like mine had gone through the very same motions that very day to prepare for school. I suddenly felt far from alone. It was strange, to say the least. Maybe it was purely due to sleep deprivation.

We loaded into the Jeep and we began to drive into the most perfect fall day. As we turned the corner in front of Erik's school, we saw the bus sitting silently in the loading area. A round man wearing suspenders stood guard in front of it. His face seemed to display a combination of kindness and sharp-edged strength. I was guessing this was Jeff, Erik's new chauffeur who would be taking him home. He greeted us as we passed and guessed Erik's name correctly. Erik stood with eyes as large as saucers, staring at the large man and the even larger vehicle. In fact, Erik said absolutely nothing and could only walk very slowly backwards as I coaxed him away from his new friend, through the double glass doors, and into the dark hallway of the school. Jeff waved the whole way.

Inside, Brenda, the family advocate, oohed and ahed appropriately over my son. She voiced amazement he had grown and graduated from the early intervention program as we turned the opposite way from his old classroom with the stream of older kids and their parents. Monday one of his EI therapists admitted they would be watching out the windows to catch a glimpse of Erik walking into the building. He is missed already.

Erik's classroom was busy. Two parents sat on a couch in the corner supporting a standing boy Erik's size and smiling almostly manically at him, seemingly completely oblivious to the chaos in the classroom. They wondered aloud if he should be put into his walker or wheelchair. I winced as I saw the room was full of wheels on strollers and equipment to help kids ambulate. Jeannie, Erik's new teacher, greeted me easily and accepted the plastic bag with two of Erik's diapers in it. As much as I was put off by her the last time we had met, she instantly put me at ease. I inadvertantly stepped into the path of a little girl with the familiar features of Down syndrome and a new bobbed haircut. I kneeled in front of her at Erik's level, and Jeannie introduced her as Abby. Abby was obviously not very taken with me but seemed slightly curious about who Erik was. Erik said nothing for a minute but then suddenly and confidently repeated her name. I wondered if Abby knew just what she was getting herself into. We continued into the classroom, and I sat on the floor by a very tightly-wound boy with blond hair. At this point, Erik was attempting to melt into my legs and become part of my attire. The anxiety was beginning to manifest in muscle tightness and an almost invisible tremor, and I could feel both of them against my body as he reacted to the other children in the room. I picked up a colorful, plastic block and inserted it into a musical toy but was immediately scolded by the boy who informed me I hadn't done it properly. In fact, he seemed highly annoyed and slightly agitated by the fact I had touched it at all. I suddenly knew this would NOT be Erik's best friend and scanned the room for Abby, who had disappeared into the miniature crowd. I was happy to see some kids with genetic syndromes of different flavors, some of which I was unable to identify, although Erik, of course, seems to be in a completely different group from children of any kind. He doesn't mix well with children in general while the rest of them seem to do it so easily. I reluctantly left him there on the floor in a state of shock next to Mr. Neurotic and informed Jeannie I was sneaking out. The women at the front desk called out, "Enjoy your morning!" and I bit my lip, looked back at them, and said, "I don't know about this!" They laughed, and I escaped into the sunshine, which was exactly what I used to do when I was terrified of the place. This time, however, I didn't want to go.

Once I reached my Jeep, I hurried inside and sat for a few seconds in the warmth of the sun. My heart was pounding, and I was shaking worse than Erik was. I did a quick inventory. Physiologically, something was happening to me that I was not comprehending. Was I sad? Not really. Happy? Sort of. Anxious? A little. I felt my tear ducts start production, and I grabbed my cell phone without knowing who I would call. My mother? A genetic counselor? Our pastor? Our accountant? Oh, God, Nancy, pull it together. No tears had spilled yet. I resisted the urge to drive to a nearby restaurant and have a Bloody Mary and watch Fox News in an empty bar. I called my business partner, confessed where I was as I began to pull into the street, and informed her I had no desire to fall apart. I told her that I would like to discuss today's work load. That did it. Much better. After our conversation and formulating a plan for the day, I stopped by the grocery store to buy the ingredients to bake a creamy, homemade hamburger casserole and an expensive bouquet of sunshine-yellow lilies, rust-colored mums, and blushing carnations for myself. I also restocked my dwindling supply of diet ice cream bars.

My cell phone rang three times over the course of the morning. My mother called once to ask if it would be okay if they waited with me for Erik to come home, which was a wonderful idea. Erik's teacher called twice--the first time to inform me that Erik was quiet but doing fine and the second time to inform me that he had been placed on the bus and was still quietly doing fine. I couldn't believe the sensitivity of these people! I made a mental note to write them into my will and constructed a shopping list of items I would need to bake them all cookies.

My mother and father arrived after noon with a transparent bag containing Subway sandwiches. We sat on the front porch and waited for Erik's bus to arrive after class. Soon thereafter, the shiny, banana-yellow bus pulled into the gravel drive and began making its way to the house. When it stopped, the door silently opened to accept me. I greeted Jeff and noted the oldies music playing on the surprisingly high-quality sound system. The scent of brand new vehicle met my nostrils. Everything gleamed. I couldn't see my son above the high-backed bench seats, and I took a couple steps down the aisle. There he was, grinning from ear to ear. Erik was the only one of the group left, buckled into his seat and looking even more relaxed than he does atop his favorite horse. Jeff unbuckled him, and I grabbed him to carry him off the bus. No therapeutic stair-walking today. Jeff offered to pick him up for school anytime in addition to bringing him home, and I thanked him.

And that was that.

Labels: , ,

19 Comments:

Blogger Julie said...

I am glad things went well. I think the first day of school is stressful for the parent no matter who the child is. Alexis' first day of kindergarten she forgot to get off at the sitters and rode around in the bus. I had to pick her up at the station where the buses park. Talk about nerve racking. I have decided that Noah is staying here with me forever.:) Oh and by the way I would have stopped for the bloody Mary.

10:07 AM  
Blogger All moments remembered said...

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, I had thought about you soooo much! I have to tell you I sent my baby of four kids off to kindergarten this school yr. Here is is all day even. I had so many of those same feelings. She is very shy around those she does not know and I was sure she would never speak up. Well so far she loves it and is already learning some things. Mom's of all different types of children have a hard time letting go of their babies!! It is very hard to wonder who will do this or that for our child when we are not there. Scary!! It works out though and our kids end up doing well and being happy. I bet Erik is going to do super!! It sounds like you have a great group of people there to watch over him and work with him!! We need to have lunch with a drink to celebrate being moms who sent their babys off to school!!
Hugs to you!!
Stacey

10:27 AM  
Blogger THE PASLAY'S OF MOUNTAIN HOME said...

AFTER BROGAN AND I PICKED BRAYDEN UP FROM KINDERGARTEN WE HURRIED HOME AND HUDDLED AROUND THE COMPUTER TO CHECK OUT ERIK AND HIS FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! I AM NOT SURE WHAT BOY WAS MORE "JEALOUS" ABOUT ERIK GETTING TO RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS! FUN TIMES!!!

LOVE THE PHOTOS... ERIK IN HIS NEW CLOTHES FOR SCHOOL! THAT IS ALWAYS FUN TO GO SHOPPING FOR SCHOOL SUPPLIES AND CLOTHES/SHOES!

WE CAN'T WAIT TO SEE EVERYONE AND CELEBRATE ERIK TURNING THREE!!!!

BIG HUGS,
DAWNITA

HOW FUN THAT YOUR PARENTS STOPPED BY TO GREET ERIK AFTER SCHOOL! I LOOOVE THAT YOU GET TO LIVE SO CLOSE TO YOUR PARENTS! I WISHED THAT WE LIVED A BIT CLOSER TO YOU GUYS!

11:23 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Nancy, I'm glad things went well. I've been wondering how you were handling all of this. Payton started preschool at age 2 as well - and I still feel odd when I take her the first few days. They just seem so young - and just not ready. I'm glad you bought yourself some flowers - you deserve them. And it sounds like your parents are wonderful support. I love the picture of Eric on the bus.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I am right there with you! Scared, proud, uncertain about what the hell you are feeling and supposed to do when you send your kiddo off to preschool. I am proud of you both, sounds like he did great, and you survived. You are now the mother of a preschooler! P.S. please send me recipe for hamburger casseerole, I have been looking for a good one.
XOXO
Amy

12:09 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

I am tearing up over here just thinking about your day...he's too little for preschool! (Well, it seems that way right now; this weekend I think I commented how big he is!) I will totally have a drink with you over the phone -- call anytime~ :) Good job holding it together... the days do come easier to the point that you are WAITING for them to go back to school :)

1:04 PM  
Blogger Aspen said...

Here come the tears I remember so vividly while reading your blog. Sounds like he had an amazing day. Such a big boy riding in the big boy school bus. Whew, I'm gonna need those tissues now please.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Great job you guys! Nancy, I am proud of you for handling it the way you did. It's a huge change. sounds like Erik is in great hands. He will fit in fine for pre-school. They are gonna love him. By the way, that neurotic little one sounds like aspergers to me. We had a couple in our class. Exactly like that!

4:30 PM  
Blogger All moments remembered said...

Hey Nancy,
You don't have to publish this note! Wanted to say THANK YOU for all your sweet comments!! You just send everyone you know my way!!! Yahooooooo!!! I do love blogging!! mom2my6pack has my link on her site now for my store site!! Yipppeeeee!!

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nancy,

Bravo! I dread this day so much, I'm already losing sleep over it, and I've got a while to go still. I'm glad it went well with minimal drama; I hope it remains that way.

Sandra

6:55 PM  
Blogger Every minute counts.... said...

I am so glad that things went well! I am proud of you for being so brave! I admire your positive outlook. I am glad that your school seems to be caring and considerate....okay, I'm more than a little jealous!

Noel

7:31 PM  
Blogger LZ Blogger said...

Thanks Nancy... that had to be very emotional for both you and Erik. Your writing made it feel like I was tagging along. The smile on his face when he came home and saw you must have been PRICELESS? What a cute kid he is! I am glad it went so well for you BOTH! ~ jb///

10:55 PM  
Blogger Lisa R said...

so glad it went well I love the pics....oh how I wish Emma was going to get to ride a bus, were walkers :)First day of school parties rock, so glad I am not alone in that department

1:56 PM  
Blogger Kim, Grandma to Ava,ws said...

What a cute picture! Our baby is growing up, sniff*sniff.

I am so proud of you for handling such a momentous occasion with your typical grace. I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Oh, how well I remember the first day of school. I got a terrible crying jag on Justin's first day of kindergarten. The whole experience was just so profound, at least I thought so. I dressed him in his polo shirt, dress chinos, and loafers. I made my kid a nerd! The other moms were looking at me as if I had a contagious disease. And the other kids were dressed in a variety of summer clothes with Ninja Turtles emblazoned across their chests. Live and learn, huh?

4:19 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

you did so well Nancy!
Liam started pre-school the same day as Jaiden, so after kissing Liam goodbye i had to speed off the 15km down the road to Jaidens EIU Preschool, it dawned on me half way there that i was the only mother who 'kissed & ran'while all the other mums & dads stayed and did puzzles with there kids. Then after dropping Jaiden off with his lovely kind teachers, i got to the car, looked at Lachie and promptly burst into tears. We were alone.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Kim, Grandma to Ava,ws said...

Did I ever tell you that I revisit most of your posts multiple times? Your words take me places. Your description of Erik's school bus takes me right back to Ovid North Elementary school, Kindergarten class of 1969-1970. I can even hear the scuffing of our little feet as we wait in line to enter our classroom.

Thanks for the vacation!

5:17 AM  
Blogger THE PASLAY'S OF MOUNTAIN HOME said...

OKAY... I THINK YOU WILL HAVE NOT ONE BUT TWO MILLION HITS ON YOUR LITTLE MAP OF RED DOTS POINTING STRAIGHT TO MT HOME!!! I AM NOT SURE WHAT BOY WANTS TO SEE ERIK ON THE SCHOOL BUS THE MOST?! TOO FUNNY OVER HERE!

BRAYDEN DID SAY THAT HE HOPES ERIK IS LOVING HIS SCHOOL AND THAT "JEFF" DRIVES SAFELY WITH HIS COUSIN ON THE BUS! YOU KNOW HOW BRAYDEN THINKS.... LOL!

WE ARE MARKING OFF EACH DAY ON THE CALENDAR UNTIL WE SEE YOU GUYS!

BIG HUGS AND I HOPE YOU HAD A GREAT WEEK AND HAVE A FUN WEEKEND!!

DAWNITA

9:32 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

oh those first days of school are so bittersweet, heart-wrenching, and emotional! Sometimes more on us then them! Sounds like you made it through the day, and more importantly sounds like Erik did too! Hope he enjoys his class!

4:18 PM  
Blogger Rosemarie said...

How you take me along in your story, it is simply amazing.

Erik is such a big boy!

Julia will probably miss this preschool year because of potty training, but I'm not sweatin' it. It's more time to spend together and share life!

PS The phoning a friend or relative sounded like me verbatim!

4:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home