Graduation Day

Shalebug would have graduated today. Sure, it would have just been a kindergarten graduation ceremony, but to me (and likely all the other parents involved) it would have meant much more than that.

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It would have been a reward to us parents for putting in our time, paying our kindergarten dues. Suffering through endless hours of trying to teach your child to tie his/her shoes, learn to write his/her name, learn how to read.

It would have been a reward for time spent as the class-mom, helping kids use scissors correctly and not amputating a digit while trying to cut out turkey shapes and pink cardboard hearts.

It would have been our reward for tying shoelaces, telling kids not to run in the halls, get your fingers out of your nose, and no, girls don't have cooties. (After all, everyone knows cooties comes with age, and poor hygiene.)

It's our reward for being snack mom/dad through out the year; for remembering to slice up those apples and even for that time when you forgot you were the mom designated to bake the cupcakes and had to sell your soul to the neighbourhood bakery to let you come in before store hours to buy some treats that you would try to pass off as your own. (Not that I would EVER do that. Snicker.)

All of the patience and energy we had spent the last ten months focusing on our precious child would be rewarded with the pomp and circumstance of watching our lovely kiddies march their processional, fidget, giggle, pick their noses and act proud as they waited to hear their names called.

I would have hooted and hollered and made an ass of myself the loudest. I tend to be known for that. I'm the mom that doesn't mind walking up to the front of the gym to get the good photo, the mom who believes all children need to be applauded, not just my own.

And I would have been cheering wildly. Bug would not have grasped half of what the others in his class would have. He would not have been able to write his name, and I doubt he would have been able to recognize it in a group of letters. He wouldn't know his colours or be able to tie his shoes and I'm fairly certain the concepts of numbers to him would have been like astro-physics to me.

But yet, he would have succeeded. He would have overcome his hurdles, the ones individual to him. He may have made it a whole month with out being hospitalized. Perhaps he would have been able to stand at the water table and not recoil with fear. He certainly would have shown the other children how to love. He would have taught them all patience and understanding.

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Bug working with his speech therapist.

He would have fostered a protective friendship with his group of peers, all of whom would have clamoured to give him a high five, or sit next to him at circle time. They would have wanted to help him use his computer, the one that gave him a voice, and he would have been the coolest kid in the class for it. They would sit next to him at snack time and eat his pudding for him, because that's what friends do. After all, Bug couldn't eat it, he wouldn't have minded sharing.

The really brave kids would have asked to help feed him and would have felt like professional nurses when they squeezed water through his g-tube with shakey hands. They would have filled up his syringe with water and squirted each other with it until one of the teachers took it away and admonished them with a look.

Through it all, Bug would have laughed. He was his father's son that way. A tease, a joker and always easy going.

I imagine when Bug's name was called, his dad would stand and proudly clap, while rolling his eyes at me, as I'm up at the front, telling Bug to look at Mommy so I could get a nice picture. Would he have walked to the front by himself, with a walker, or with his aide? Perhaps he would have been wheeled up in his chair if his feet were bothering him. I can see clearly in my mind his shakey hand outstretched to grasp his little photocopied diploma, his chubby fingers crinkling the paper.

Afterwards, we would have greeted the teacher and offered thankyou's for all of her hard work, and patience and understanding while working with our special boy. I would have hugged his aide while trying not to embarrass my son too badly as I smothered him with kisses.

Then we would have proudly left the school with our son, the new graduate, to get ready for his next year of academic battles.

There will be parents who never had the opportunity to know us and didn't understand my son, or his special personality and they will wonder why we cheered so loudly. After all, he didn't accomplish the goals the other kindergartners did. They will wonder why he was part of the graduation ceremony when obviously he will not be attending grade one, instead, he will be part of an individualized learning plan, carefully put together to help him get the most out of his limited capabilities.

But I would have been tolerant of their ignorance, able to simply bask in in my son's glory for the moment, before having to go back to our carefully constructed reality.

People don't always see the value of people with disabilities, especially those with mental disabilities. By allowing our son to participate like all the other children, it would have been able to foster a sense of normalcy for him. More importantly though, it would have taught those kids in his class respect and acceptance. Bug would have taught them more than they were ever able to teach his malformed little brain.

He would have taught those kids, and some of those parents, the value of life, of love and of perserverance. All of this wrapped up in one wobbly, slimey, messy blonde haired little boy.

I know this, because this is what he taught every member of his family.

I'll miss that today when I watch those kids fidget on the bench this afternoon, waiting for their name to be called, while peering hopefully out into the crowd, trying to find their parents or loved ones.

There will be one mommy in the crowd with no one looking to find her. But I'm okay with that. Bug found me. He knows where I am. And he knows that I'll be the mom whooting and hollering the loudest for all the kids, while trying to hide the tears in her eyes.