Sunday, March 20, 2016

THE LONELY SIDE OF DIFFERENT

Kindergarten.

It was a point in the future that we worked toward.
It was a point in the future that we focused on.
It was a point in the future that that held hope just out of arms reach.

“It will be worth it.”

That’s what I used to tell myself as I drove Miles to and from therapy everyday.
That’s what I used to remind myself on the really, really tough days.
“If I can muster up enough energy and keep focused, by the time Miles hits Kindergarten, all of the time and hard work will all be worth it.”

Miles started school in August and I thought I was ready.

Registering Miles for Kindergarten was about a four month process.  A process that consisted of evaluations, testing, paperwork, and several meetings.  A process that I had spent about a year preparing for by reading books, taking classes, and meeting with other moms and special education advocates.  I was organized, I had a little more than a vague understanding of the law and Miles’ rights, and I really thought I was ready.

After our final meeting, it appeared that all we had worked toward and focused on didn’t produce the results we hoped for.  Miles started school in August in the lowest functioning classroom our public school system offers and, as it turns out, I was nowhere near ready. 


The whole process is mentally and emotionally draining.

I have to think different and do different because Miles is different.
I have grieved many of those differences and I’ve come to appreciate his uniqueness.

But different is hard.
Different is lonely.

Out of 500+ students in Miles’ school, there are seven that are in the special education classroom.  Seven.  Which means out of 500+ moms, I am one of seven that are different.  And that difference is felt in very unexpected ways.

Take after-school, for instance.  Miles’ class is released from school about 15 minutes early to avoid the after-school noise and chaos.  Since parents have already started lining up in car-line, there is no way for me to get in the parking lot.  I have to ignore the two big ONE WAY and DO NOT ENTER signs, pull in the parking lot and walk into the school with all eyes on me.  Now, I am a rule-follower by nature and so I already feel uncomfortable.  But, I’ve been flipped off, yelled at, and given dirty looks several times by other moms leaving the school and irritated that I’m going the wrong way.

I want to respond.
I want to explain.
But I don’t.

And then there was Parent Seminar night.  About a month into the school year, the school planned a parent night after the PTA meeting.  The purpose was to provide sessions for parents to see what happens in the classroom.  It is an opportunity to learn, give input, and ask questions.  I was so excited.  Miles isn’t able to tell me about his day so to say that I was thrilled to get a glimpse into his class and into his world would be an understatement.

I read and reread the flyer, flipping it from front to back several times.  I see opportunities for every grade.  I see opportunities for several different subjects.  I see opportunities for training.  But something is missing.  Miles’ class isn’t represented anywhere.  So I start looking for his teacher’s name to try and piece together what is going on.  I find her name and immediately become deflated.  Miles’ teacher was given the task of “Children’s Entertainment” that night, along with two others.  They were to provide activities for children whose parents were attending the different sessions offered.

I don’t even have words to describe how horrible that made this one of seven feel.  My eyes are full of tears just remembering it.  To give my son’s teacher the task of babysitter on a Parent Seminar night is to say that my child’s education isn’t as important as the typical child’s “entertainment.”  I am certain that wasn’t the message Miles’ school intended on communicating, but it was the message I received loud and clear. 

It’s been seven months.
Seven months and I’m still struggling.

This is only our first year of school and the thought of going through this process over and over every year is more than my brain can handle.  It's hard and I'm tired.

The unfortunate reality is if you don’t fit the mold, you simply don’t fit.
My biggest struggle this year is not that Miles is different, it’s that I’m different.

I know God doesn’t make mistakes.
I love that He made our family different.
But sometimes, different is just hard.

I see you posting videos of your child in their school program and I get jealous…
Miles wasn’t given that opportunity this year.
I see you posting pictures of your child with their friends and I get sad…
Miles doesn’t have a single friend.
I see you posting while at your child’s practices and games and I grieve…
Miles isn’t able to participate.

But I think watching the way you get to experience life along side other families is the hardest and loneliest part of our reality.  That's were new friendships are formed and current friendships are strengthened.  And I miss that.

But I’m learning.
I’m learning that different is an invitation.
Different is the space that God has me all to Himself.

It’s where He whispers.
It’s where He dwells.
It’s where He breathes life into my soul with words like…

“So we’re not giving up. How could we!
Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us,
on the inside, where God is making new life,
not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.
We have small troubles for a while now,
but these troubles are helping us gain an eternal glory.
That eternal glory is much greater than our troubles.”
{2 Corinthians 4:16-17}

He reminds me that there is purpose in the hard stuff.
It reveals my weaknesses and it allows His glory to shine.

"Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master.
All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you.
It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light
as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness.
We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.
That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.
As it is, there’s not much chance of that.
You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at."
{2 Corinthians 4:5-7}

Sometimes God permits me, an unadorned clay pot, to be jarred so that some of the treasure in me will spill out and bless others.  But when I get bumped or jarred, I forget.  I tend to focus on me and I quickly forget that there is purpose in the hard and difficult.  If others are going to get a splash of love, grace and mercy every time I get bumped, I have to make time every day to empty myself of me.  If Jesus is going to spill out of me, I need to be full of Jesus.

I am not the me I was before Miles, and sometimes I miss me.
But if different is what brings God glory, than different I will be.

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