My oldest is coming up on the end of his Junior year in high school and yesterday was the first of three AP college exams he will be taking in the next ten days. Only about a dozen or so kids in our county were willing to attempt the AP Chemistry exam, and he walked out feeling okay with how he did, though we won’t know for a few months still. We were warned that the exam was incredibly tough, so much so that his Junior year chem class began their work immediately after the 4th of July last summer. They wouldn’t have enough time in a regular school year to cover what needed to be covered, so Connor essentially began preparing last July, and he was not deterred. He took on the challenge.
Last Friday night, he stayed in so that he could take the full practice SAT online again before taking the actual exam on Saturday morning. He did incredibly well on the practice, though again we won’t know those results for quite some time either. For months, when he wasn’t finishing up daily homework, running track or practicing his guitar, he was studying for his AP exams. It was not unusual to walk into his room at 3pm on a Sunday and find him in bed, AP study guide on his lap, brow furrowed in concentration.
Flashback to a few weeks ago, and I was walking into Corrigan’s school for his annual IEP meeting. There I sat as his team presented their reports and we discussed his needs for the next school year. We talked about whether or not he may be better suited in a regular classroom, with adult assistance, or if instead another year of contained class might be better. Each team member went over his strengths and weaknesses and everyone was genuinely pleased with his progress but admit that we have so so so so much more work to do.
It’s a weird place to be as a parent, with one child gifted and self-driven and the other delayed and in need of so much assistance and I can’t help but feel pretty angry some days that Corrigan was dealt this hand. Corrigan was born with a perfect brain and may have likely been as smart as his older brother, were it not for medical ignorance and my faulty genes. However, Connor could have just as easily been born under the same circumstances as Corrigan, symptomatic of a genetic disorder that would rob him of his ability to learn as easily as others. It can be tough to not play the “what if” game, you know.
I don’t have the knowledge to be of any help to Connor in his education, he far surpasses my brain power, that’s for sure. When he slams his fists on the table in frustration at some complex chemical equation, I can only rub his back and tell him that I am proud of him. The same is true for Corrigan, oddly enough, in that his educational needs surpass my knowledge as well, as I am at the mercy of those who have spent their entire careers in the Special Education field. I feel like a bystander in my both of my children’s educations.
I send them both off each day and for seven hours a day someone else teaches them the things that they need to know. Connor is plowing through Honors Trig and Corrigan is plowing through Occupational Therapy. Connor is working his tail off to get into a good college and Corrigan is working his tail off to use therapy scissors. Connor is socializing with friends and meeting his girlfriend at his locker for a quick hello between classes and Corrigan is learning how to share a toy with hand-over-hand assistance and learning to reply when someone says “hello” to him.
Their paths are so very different, that much is true. We rented a tuxedo for Connor’s prom and I can’t help but wonder if I will ever rent one for Corrigan. Will his prom be one of those “special” proms for the developmentally disabled or will some kind-hearted, “normal” girl ask him to go to regular prom out of pity? Will the newspaper pick up the story and the world goes “awwwww” because she did “such a nice thing?” Will he run track like his brother, but the Special Olympics event instead of County Regionals? Will we forever be repeating the things that older brother did through alternate, modified versions? Why am I still so angry about all of this?
I prefer resignation over anger though, what step is that and when will it get here?