While many kids are swimming in pools or attending camp or lounging around on lazy summer days, M attends summer school. Three hours per day, five days per week for five weeks. On days where Miss J goes to day camp and plays with friends and eats her fill of popsicles, M practices his math and reading skills.
I have no guilt about this since school is something that M has always loved. M loves the company of his peers and the attention of his teachers and therapists. When you ask him what he enjoys about school, he will smile and tell you, "doing work."
M loves going to school so much that there have been tears shed on weekends and school breaks because he misses school.
Each day, I drive M to school. I purposely park a little further away than necessary so that M may get a morning walk in. His excitement builds as we walk and he sees the school buses pulling in to drop off other children. I hand him off to his aide and kiss him goodbye and tell him I will see him later.
We do this every day.
As I held M's hand, I watched the other children run past us on foot or on zip by on scooters. I saw children and running and laughing and heading to school without their mothers holding their hands to keep them from tripping and landing in the street.. It was a little jab in the heart. Not because I don't enjoy walking with M to school...I do....I would just love to see M doing these everyday tasks on his own. Without need for help.
I got an idea in my head and talked to the crossing guard and M's aide. I told them that the next morning, I would attempt to let M walk the short distance to the school on his own. I would stand at the end of the street and watch M walk to the crossing guard. She would cross him and his aide would be waiting for him on the opposite side of the street.
It sounds simple enough, but for M, this was a huge challenge. For one, M is not exactly the most steady boy on his feet. Add to that a backpack filled with lunch and swim gear and he has to adjust for the added weight.
M must walk about a hundred feet on his own. Again, this is a challenge as M loves to stop and examine every stick and pebble along the way. Unaware of the laws of physics, M will often forget about the pack on his back and bend over to pick up a treasure, propelling the backpack forward and sending M flying to the ground. In order for M to walk, on his own, safely, he must remember not to stop to pick things up.
He must also remember not to speak to everyone he meets along the way. M has no regard for strangers. To him, everyone is a friend. He thinks nothing about stopping every random person for conversation and a possible hug.
And finally, M must be able to navigate the sidewalk with his limited vision. Poor vision and zero depth perception make it difficult for M to discriminate between the sidewalk and the street, making it easy for him to loose his footing and slip off the sidewalk.
That short, seemingly simple, walk presents many obstacles.
The next day came and I stood at the corner and said my goodbyes there. I kissed M and reminded him of his new task. He looked at me and smiled.
"I go by myself. Not pick up sticks. Not fall down." He told me before turning and walking away by himself.
He stopped a few times along the way to see if I was still watching.
"Mama?" he'd ask, as if he was unsure of why he was alone.
"Keep going, bud. Keep walking to Miss G."
M turned again and continued on.
He wobbled a few times, but he did not fall. He did not stop to pick up sticks and he did not talk to anyone until he reached Miss G, the crossing guard. Though I was standing quite far back, I could hear his hearty, "Hello, friend!" She crossed him safely and his aide was there to greet him on the other side.
M turned to wave to me.
It may seem small. It may seem simple. But in our world, this is HUGE.