Well there was no slowing it down. All of the late-night talks about whether we were making the right decision and long conversations with his therapists ended in a big yellow bus pulling up in front of our house and taking Corrigan away to his first day of preschool. I still cannot believe that it came upon us so quickly, in a blink he was gone.
Actually, there was a bit of a stressful morning when the bus didn’t arrive until almost 20 minutes after the time I was told it would arrive. Corrigan was antsy and anxious, he had no idea he was going to school, he just knew he was going “bye bye” and was wondering why he had to stand on the front porch for so long. Just as I was about to toss him in the car and run him over to school, the bus pulled up and it all just happened so quickly.
For weeks we have been talking to Corrigan about school, watching Barney episodes that talk about buses and learning, and playing with his toy school bus and singing “The Wheels on the Bus.” It is really hard to know how much Corrigan understands but we try to talk to him as if he were able to comprehend, just in case. I would talk to him about making friends and learning new things and he would stare at me blankly.
When we got him dressed and put on his shoes he immediately was ready to leave. One of our house rules is to never put on Corrigan’s tennis shoes until you are absolutely ready to leave the house because to Corrigan they signify “bye bye” and if you linger he will lose his mind and throw a fit. Today when we dressed him, he ran into the dining room signing the word “play” and attempted to say the word as well. We praised him with great fanfare and then I thought I heard him say “friend.” He had never so much as tried to say the word before, it was not a word (or sign) that we have been working on (though it is on his Signing Time videos) so I wasn’t sure he meant “Friend” at first until he turned around and I saw that he was hooking his index fingers together in the proper sign! He had been paying attention! He might not have known exactly what was going on, but he definitely knew that today was different.
He became noticeably anxious as the time passed, staring up the street with mouth agape and refusing to make eye contact with us. He did let Daddy hold him some but Corrigan gripped Mark’s shirt tightly. He has small “tics” when he is most anxious and while I didn’t notice them much when we were waiting, as I look through the morning’s photos I can see that he was rubbing his index fingers nervously against his thumbs. Even when I picked him up, he was rubbing his thumbs.
We worried about this decision. While he is chronologically three years old, he is developmentally younger than two. We had his yearly review last week and with the new tests the State required, he is still sitting at around 21-23 months developmentally and he did poorly in the area of receptive language, moving him from February’s 14-16 months and landing him in the 11-14 month range. I wouldn’t send my barely-two year old to school yet the local Early Intervention told me that school was going to be a blessing for Corrigan. It felt like we were throwing him to the wolves. He doesn’t know his own name, he doesn’t understand “school” or school routines. We had to trust that complete strangers would take care of his diet, meet his needs without knowing how to communicate with him and help him navigate his anxiety in a new environment. It was hard.
When the bus pulled up, he pulled back. He was nervous but bravely took Daddy’s hand and climbed the steps. He fell and bumped his head but didn’t cry. As far as I know he didn’t cry on the way.
The morning went slowly. I had a sick stomach, probably from worry and couldn’t wait to run over to pick him up. As I waited for dismissal, I watched the neuro-typical PreK let out and smiled as the kids ran from their classroom into their parent’s arms. The special ed class would be brought to the lobby one at a time, and when I saw Corrigan I think I chirped. I had hardly ever been happier to see him. However, he was not happy to see me. ha!
(poor focus on this one, my bad)
He would not look at me. He stood there silently even as I approached and tried to make him smile. His cheeks were so red, his eyes so puffy, it broke my heart. His teacher told me that he had a tough morning. She described him as “sad” but told me that he loved when they sang songs, enjoyed a book they read at story time, did great in the sensory room and played great on the playground but he cried a lot and was out of sorts.
My heart hurt for him but I know that it was just the first day blues. He hasn’t been away from me very much, I try to only leave when he is napping, and I haven’t done him any favors by never letting him out of my sight but I think that he will adjust. He is only attending school twice a week for now, and only half-day hours, so I am hopeful that he will soon see school as a fun adventure a few times a week and his anxiety will ease over time.
He was quiet on the way home, it was a little sad because I was talking to him about his day as if he could answer and was remembering Connor’s first day of preschool back in 2001. Connor was three years old as well but he was so advanced for his age. He could read sight words at that age and carry on disconcertingly adult-like conversations. I don’t remember what he talked about on his first day home from preschool but I know he would have been chatty. Corrigan, however, sat in the back and repeated a snippet from Finding Nemo. He paid me no attention while I asked him questions and told him how proud I was of him. I might as well have been talking to the guy in the car next to me.
But I am still full of hope. I’ve seen miracles from his school. I know that they are dedicated to bringing learning to all kids, regardless of disability-no matter the severity of their condition. They are dedicated and kind. Corrigan will thrive, it is just going to take a little time.
We stopped at McDonald’s to get “big boy” french fries and he gave Daddy a big smile when we got back home. He told me that he wanted to go “Night Night” within minutes of walking in the front door and laid his head on my shoulder as I carried him upstairs. I just checked in on him and he is snoring softly, completely melted into his bed with his blanket tangled around his fingers. He is safe again. All is well.
Here are a few videos that Mark shot this morning. The first is of Corrigan getting on the bus. I can hardly enjoy the video after I watched it and hear the coughing at the end from a fellow passenger. It sounds like the poor kid has the plague. Please Lord, keep the germs away from my boy. Please, please, please?
The last is as the bus pulled away. Ignore the crying mother at the end.
Parenting is hard, y’all.