Have you ever have a moment where you stop and say "Oh okay, God. I see what you did there."?
That happened to me today in a big way. This morning I went to Addison's Parent Teacher Conference at school. I realize that doesn't sound like the usual buildup to a dramatic AH-HA moment, but hang with me here.
You see, this past spring/summer I was a woman on a mission- to sell our house and move over one school district. We did some really big renovations (which honestly needed to happen anyway), put it on the market, worked our little hearts out to do a million showings while keeping the kids alive, fed, and mostly clothed.
And in spite of our very best efforts, it didn't sell. Which was surprising considering how gorgeous it became with the renovations and how much a sellers market it is here. Was it perfect? No. But it was a good buy, and we knew it (no bias whatsoever here lol). It was so puzzling and obvious at the same time that God simply said "No".
(Not to mention- the entire time it was on the market, there wasn't one house that we wanted to buy. Not one. We couldn't agree on a single house. It was obvious that this "no" was a firm one on multiple levels.)
Feeling a bit defeated, we pulled our house off the market, but within days something strange happened. A deep contentment just came over us. We were supposed to stay here for at least another year. Why? We didn't know. So we set plans in motion to add just a bit more room via a finished basement (and another bathroom!) and settled down to just enjoy our renovation work for at least a year before we tried that insanity again.
And honestly- I have been LOVING the renovation work. It has been such a joy to stay here and take advantage of all my favorite colors and things (hello new kitchen!). And according to Instagram, I have been filling the walls full of some cute stuff, some helpful stuff, and some cannibalistic stuff. (You can't win 'em all.) It's been nice to "move back in", and it was nice to have the motivation of selling to do things around the house we had been meaning to do for years. Now we get to enjoy our hard work.
But.....every time I thought about our attempts to sell, it stung a little. A lot. It felt like a failure. So much hard work with not the outcome we wanted. Why? I didn't know.
I walked into Addison's Parent Teacher Conference with pretty low expectations. I know Addison can be a bit stubborn, and I wasn't sure how she was performing at school. It's tough to get a good read with a thirty second pickup- especially on the days I end up carrying her to the van or she tries to run off. Just not a lot of chat time.
Her teacher- let's call him Mr B- asked me if I had any questions. I said I had questions on two levels- how was she doing socially and how was she doing academically.
He launched into a report of her social progress first, and his eyes shone as he talked about Addison. I could tell right away that he was very enthusiastic about teaching Addison.
He started in on how she works hard; she is so kind to all of the other students; she is quite good about getting classroom routines down; and she delights in participating in all activities with her peers. He particularly mentioned reading group with a peer and how their reading time was just like any other reading group.
Somewhere in there he revealed that he has a 65 year old brother-in-law who has Down syndrome. His BIL was not offered the level of education, support, or inlcusion available to kids with DS today, and Mr. B has always wanted a child with Down syndrome in his class so that he can pour into that student all of the educational opportunity that his brother-in-law never got.
Wait for it...
Addison is his very first student with Down syndrome.
Somewhere in the conversation Mr. B's eyes teared up as he talked about his brother-in-law and Down syndrome and Addison and a dance party the class had the other day which ended with Addison and Mr. B rocking it out together in the middle of the room. These things all kind of blended together as his past with Down syndrome lit up his present experience with Down syndrome. The DS joy continuum through time was a beautiful thing to witness.
In that moment I got a clarity over the past year. We were NOT supposed to move because Addison needed to be in THIS CLASS. This exact class with this exact teacher. THIS was her perfect 1st grade classroom. If I were to dream up my ideal educational scenario, it would be exactly what Addison is getting. Exactly what this teacher was offering her. If we had moved districts or even to a different part of this one- she would have missed out on this incredible experience.
She is getting the education of a lifetime. Mr. B is doing everything humanly possible to keep her included with the class, to see her excel academically and socially, and to celebrate her for exactly who she is (along with her aide and SPED). When the teacher tears up a bit as he passionately speaks about Down syndrome and what it means to him and how excited he is to have Addison in his class and what a joy she is- you know you've found a good one.
And her peers- the same peers that she had last year- know her so well that they will often interpret for Mr. B or others if Addison isn't understood because she is speaking too quickly or mumbling- as she often does. Oh and when she does have her stubborn moments, she is motivated by her peers coming alongside her and asking her to come join them and the rest of the class. They love her, understand her, and help her. I really couldn't ask for more.
You know how some parents take in book or presentation to explain to the class, "THIS IS DOWN SYNDROME. THIS IS HOW TO CELEBRATE DOWN SYNDROME"? I left feeling like this teacher and this class should come teach me how to celebrate Down syndrome. Because they are doing a heck of a good job. Addison beamed as she showed me her class today. And as I talked to Mr. B, she immediately grabbed some books and ran to the front of the empty classroom to "teach".
Oh and she can read. I found this out today. SHE IS READING AT SCHOOL. And she gets better every single day as she goes to school in this hugely supportive environment and gets treated with such fantastic student dignity and support. All of the supports that she has right now are really allowing her to thrive academically and socially like she never has before.
Sadly, Mr. B's BIL with Down syndrome is in the hospital right now, dying. If we had moved, Mr. B. wouldn't have the encouragement of Addison in his class every day during this rough time of saying goodbye. I mean really- the one year that he finally has a child with Down syndrome in his class is the one year that he is dealing with this difficult goodbye. Coincidence? He said his wife asks every night what Addison did that day, and they both smile and get such joy out of her performance that day in class.
I am kind of in awe about this, actually.
I am thankful that my hopes and dreams of a bigger house for our growing family were crushed for this year. So, so grateful.
Because this kind of education- this kind of classroom environment for Addison- money cannot buy and no amount of house awesomeness can replace.
I left the Parent Teacher Conference in tears. To hear Mr. B speak of his brother-in-law, to hear him speak of Addison, to see how Down syndrome connects hearts in ways I can't even understand, but somehow I get a front row seat to witness- this is absolutely thrilling in a way I had no comprehension of when I first got Addison's diagnosis.
This is more than CHEER Down syndrome with peppy Facebook memes and flashy pictures of smiling babies. No. This is deeper, much more complex happiness that I feel gets more and more revealed to me as time goes on. Connections, life experiences, joy, a feeling you just can't put into words.
Down syndrome community extends far beyond a matching extra chromosome. It allows a new way of looking at life- a new way of connecting- a new way of experiencing joy. I am so thankful and blessed to be a part of this community because of Addison.
I am currently sitting in my house that didn't sell with my daughter who has been sad all afternoon that she wasn't at school (because of conferences). Rain is falling outside in sheets, almost in an attempt to put out the fiery tree color surrounding us these days.
I am sitting in the Dining Room, exactly where I WASN'T supposed to be because- hello new house Dining Room? And yet this is exactly where I'm supposed to be. Exactly.
I am thankful for the "no". Sometimes one simple "no" means a thousand times "yes" in more important areas.
Sometimes I get so up in my head about THE WAY THINGS NEED TO BE and I forget that God always has a better plan. Always. (I am a slow learner on this matter and just for the record, the title of this post makes me roll my eyes at myself so hard.) My trust in him needs so much work because my amazement over this school situation probably should have been more like an "I knew it" instead of a "WOW" with a dropped jaw.
I am thankful for his better plan. And I'm thankful for his grace to me even as I fought against it.
Here's to the most awesome school/teachers in the world. And here's to a 1st grade little girl who is having the time of her life.