Sunday, July 21, 2013

Baby Steps to Big Boy Steps

Here's Gus around the time he first started school at Early Invervention.

Gus was about a year old when he attended his first Early Intervention class outside of our home.  I was fortunate to have a flexible work schedule at that time on Mondays, which enabled me to be the one who accompanied him most frequently to school. 

After delivering our student to the classroom, I would sit in a tiny chair in the corner as far away from the action as I could get.  Gus would participate in activities under the watchful eye of a teacher designated to be his buddy for the morning.  He would start off enthusiastically in the new project before him, but inevitably he would realize that I wasn’t next to him anymore.  He’d stop what he was doing and suddenly scan the room in a slight panic to find me.  Making eye contact, I’d smile and wave back at him encouragingly hoping that he wouldn’t bug out.  Content that I had not abandoned him, Gus would return to the activity at hand.     

I think on paper, the teachers expected at least one or two classes before a new addition can be left alone by his or her parent.  During the first couple of classes, I would slip out the door at an opportune moment and sneak over to a room where I could look through the window to observe.  Once Gus realized that I was gone for real, though, he would start to cry as his teacher consoled him and attempted to steer his attention back to the activity.

The torture of watching my boy bawling would lead me back into the classroom where I’d comfort Gus and apologize for having deserted him.  The pattern repeated itself for many consecutive classes.  After a while, the teachers and Michelle staged an intervention to inform me that the person having the most difficulty with letting go was actually just me.  After accepting that I was the obstacle to Gus’ independence, I bit the bullet and finally stayed behind the glass window.  Not long thereafter, Gus survived and so did I.

Up to that point in his Early Intervention, all of Gus’ therapists came to our home where Michelle was able to be our eyes and ears about 99% of the time.  Having been rarely present for the home visits, I was mostly ignorant of the true effort that went into the various therapies he was receiving.  While Michelle had been a first-hand witness to the true effectiveness of say PT or OT, I remained somewhat of a skeptic in those early months.  I was never against Gus receiving Early Intervention at all.  And I definitely liked all of the therapists I had met.  But sometimes I might wonder silently if imitating animal noises or reaching for toys from his belly really constituted a “therapy” that required the time of an expert.  Still, I demurred because everyone who had an informed opinion of the situation unanimously agreed that Early Intervention was the appropriate place for us to be.  

Once I started to tag along with Gus to his classes, though, my outlook changed quickly.  I was then actually witnessing firsthand the Early Intervention folks when they were in action both with Gus and his classmates.  I began to fully appreciate the depth of what these teachers were doing.  As if it’s not difficult enough to manage typical toddlers (think “herding cats” and then some,) imagine a room of kids with all sorts of special needs sitting with ease in a circle singing and signing "Twinkle, Twinkle."  All the while, each of the professionals are smiling and laughing along with the kids, calmly addressing whatever disruption might spontaneously ensue.  Meanwhile, I could see Gus' advancements progressing in and out of school.  Although it may resonate as hyperbole with the reader, I came to believe sincerely that these therapists were mini-miracle workers.

With every passing week, the trips to Brockton became routine.  As Gus received his schooling, I would socialize with the parents of other kids enrolled at the center.  There was always a feeling of “safe” that I experienced with these other moms and dads.  The school was a location where the kids and parents alike were guaranteed to be free absolutely from the fear of judgment or misunderstanding from any onlooker.     

Gus eventually added a yoga class to his circuit of therapies, which quickly became a major highlight for me to observe.  I mean seriously, does it get any cuter than watching two year-olds assume a Namaste pose or slither like a snake on the floor?  Ask him to do downward facing dog and see what he does.

In the last few months, unfortunately, my work commitments prevented me from being the caregiver to accompany Gus on his Monday visits.  Still, Michelle kept me in the loop every day at dinner time about Gus’ ups and downs with his beloved ladies of Early Intervention. 

On the very day of Gus’ third birthday this week, his educational responsibilities will transition by law from Early Intervention to the Town of Easton.  I’ve already stashed boxes of Kleenex in various strategic locations throughout the house for my baby mama come Tuesday.  A school bus or van will make its inaugural pick-up of our big boy  at 7:10 a.m.  And just like that, the page to a new chapter in our family’s lives will begin.

Meanwhile, a six week-old baby in our community could very well begin his or her first session of physical therapy in a living room that morning.   I want that baby’s potentially skeptical mom or dad to know a few things.  You are definitely doing the right thing for your child.  You are all extremely lucky for the access to a most phenomenal team of professionals who will quite literally change your child’s life for the better.  And you will look back in three years with wonder at how fast the time flies.

Special thanks, gratitude, appreciation, and love to the folks at BAMSI who have taught Gus so much and helped him to prepare for the next stage of his life.  I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank Kristie, Caitlin, Lauren, Mary, Aline, and Nina for every minute of their expertise, time, patience, encouragement, affection, and hard work spent with our little boy who is now officially a Pre-K student!  Last but not least, I thank Jen for all of her efforts in coordinating this somehow enjoyable chaos that has been the last three years of Early Intervention. 

As much as it will probably kill me inside, I promise that I will not get on the bus with Gus this week even if he turns to look for me.  

Gus on Graduation Day from EI last week.


jane said...

With tears in my eyes all I can say is what a great read. You both are wonderful parents and make us all proud to know you.
Love Moma Jane

Tash said...

Den, what a moving entry...definitely brought me to tears. Gus is so lucky to have you as his Dad!

Anonymous said...

what a wonderful tribute to the power love! Your family and the EI therapists made a great team! I can't imagine any of us will forget Gus and his downward dog. I thought his star pose was pretty awsome too.!!! thank you for all your kind words and thoughts. Maureen