We are on the cusp of another school year. As we prep and fret and wrestle that darn anxiety beast in these last precious summer days, I try to slow down, just a bit. I take stock of the boys, who they are, what they love, how they approach life in this moment. I scan them, I commit their looks/voices/phrases to memory. I feel much like I do at the end of a great book. I have fallen in love with the characters. I want to savor all of the best parts of the story. Part of me doesn’t want to move onto the sequel, just in case it isn’t as good as the prior story…but I know that the story isn’t over…and there’s the hope…the hope that the next one is EVEN BETTER than before.
Jake is going into fourth grade. FOURTH. In the blink of an eye, or so it seems, he has gone from that shy, sweet little boy with wide eyes and a crooked smile to a sweet, gangly big kid. He sounds older. He looks older. He is grappling with that awkwardness where he knows he doesn’t quite belong with the little kids any more, but he certainly isn’t quite ready for big kid situations, either. Being the oldest, he tends to hold back, just a bit, and linger in that little kid space. As a parent, I’m grateful that he’s still more interested in Phineas and Ferb than Facebook. He prefers Plants vs. Zombies over playing pranks. He’d rather go to the park than go to the mall.
As far as school is concerned, he is handling it relatively well. Aside from anxiety-driven need for regular reassurance about his classroom and school start date, he is excited. He is approaching fourth grade with an open mind and positive attitude. It helps tremendously that he was able to meet his teacher prior to the school year, has seen his fourth grade classroom, and knows he has the same resource teacher as last year. This year we are aiming for more independence. I know he has it in him. We just need to give him the right tools to foster its maturation.
Tate is going to be a second grader. I can’t quite fathom this fact. As much as my heart tries to insist that he’s still a wee little kid, my head verifies the reality. He’s growing up. He’s taller. He’s stockier. He’s using his routines to get through the day. He relies on his weekly schedule and can answer his own questions about “What do I have today?”. He’s found some scripts that work really well in pragmatic language. His vocabulary is blossoming. When we go out in public, he is more able to regulate himself. He is able to advocate for himself in many basic situations. Sometimes he surprises us and advocates for himself in complex ones, too. (Like when we were at IKEA last weekend and he told us the lights were hurting his eyes, and he needed to get out of there.)
As he heads into second grade, I think this is the most comfortable that I have ever felt. His teacher is phenomenal. She is communicative. She truly wants to help her students learn–in their own way. He is familiar with the school. He knows many of the routines. He knows many staff members. He calls it “my school”. He has back-to-school anxiety, but it really is not nearly as significant as it has been in past years. We have a good plan in place for his educational and therapeutic needs.
And Cole. Cole blows my mind. So this is what a typical four year old is like. Wow. He makes my head spin, leaves me frustrated many days, and makes me feel like I still haven’t figured out this parenting gig. And that’s a very good thing. He is clever, adventurous, and willful. He is creative. He loves taking objects apart–just to figure out how they work. As spirited as he is, he also has the most amazing gentle side. He doesn’t like seeing others hurting or upset…and he is very loyal. Once you win him over, he’s got your back.
My “baby” (wait– he is NOT a baby, he’s a big boy!) starts Pre-K on August 26th. We switched preschools this year, and he will be attending the school district’s preschool program that combines the Early Childhood students with typically developing peers. We are familiar with most of the staff, after Tate’s stint there, and we couldn’t be more excited for Cole. He has so much to offer, and I am confident that the teachers will really challenge him and pull out that knowledge he has stored in that amazing mind of his. Also, he’s grown up with a special needs brother. He has been around special needs kids. He doesn’t see them as different. He sees them as kids. And he’s such a social butterfly, that he’ll enchant even the most socially-challenged kiddo. (He was amazing with Em’s daughter earlier this week.)
In nine days I will send all three of my kids onto their next adventure. Our next adventure. While I still savor the memories of the character development and story lines from our recently completed chapter, going into this next one, I have a good feeling that it will be just as great…maybe even a little better. And I can’t wait to get started.