As her tiny feet padded confidently away from me- her orthotics hidden safely inside her navy blue shoes- I couldn't help but wonder how the big, bad world will treat her while I am away.
Obviously, I know an extremely sheltered preschool classroom isn't a "big, bad world". But the truth is, inside the safety of our house, Addison can be whatever we want her to be. She is a little girl, a princess, the oldest, the one who LOVES chocolate and dolls, the one who sleeps in the pink room, the only daughter. Her life is defined by our terms, shaped by our love.
As soon as she goes off to school, she has things like an IEP, an aide, peers who can perform circles around her, and extra instructions and time for pretty much everything. School emphasizes her difference.
And it's not that she is so special that she deserves special attention or merits. These are just the things that she needs in order to have the same fair chance at learning that everyone else has. She needs extra help to learn.
Today Addison practically ran away from me onto her school playground. Ran. Not even a "goodbye!" or "see ya!" or "bring chocolate when you come pick me up!" Nope. I was ignored completely. Because Addison loves school.
She loves her aide, she loves reading, she loves playing, she loves doing crafts, she loves snack time. And I have seen her grow so much inside the structure of her class- her teachers really do a great job with her.
I simply let her go. And then I arrive back with a smile and lunch waiting at home for my big girl who worked so hard at learning that day.
Is school a scary place for a child with a disability? It can be. Especially for one who has limited language skills like Addison. But the truth is- it can also be an amazing place to learn. An amazing place to soak in the skills of her typically developing peers all the while letting them soak in the difference of this cute girl in their class.
Addison had a girl in her class last year (we'll call her Sarah) who was Addison's best friend. Sarah has now moved onto kindergarten, but I was so amazed last year at the kindness and love that she showed to Addison last year. I wonder if Addison looked around for Sarah this morning, wondering where she was. I wonder if Addison will make new friends this year. I wonder if she will start to notice this year that she is different from the others. I wonder so many things about Addison and school, but for now all I need to truly know is that she loves it- my big girl. My 4 1/2 year old. (HOW IS SHE ALREADY FOUR AND A HALF?)
When she walks out of the house and all of a sudden seems more "different", this comes as no shock and surprise to her. This is who she always is. She hasn't changed. When you take a flower out of a greenhouse and plant it in a wide open field against the bluest of skies- it will appear different perhaps too. But it is the same flower. Beautiful, delicate, vibrant.
Addison went back to school today.
It was nice to have just the two boys for a morning. It felt so much easier. But at the back of my mind, I constantly thought about my little flower. I can only hope she thought of me occasionally as well.
(picture of a cute baby just because)