Our Preschooler! First Day of School Today!October 18, 2010 by Victoria Strong
Gwendolyn is going to preschool. Shes going to preschool. PRESCHOOL! Today is the big day! Her very first day of school. Can you believe it?
So the logistics.
I am going with her. Its funny because this is never something Bill and I talked about. We never asked permission from anyone. We both just knew I had to be with Gwendolyn to give her this experience. And boy does she want this experience.
Gwendolyn is a social butterfly. Yes, I birthed a party girl. She loves other children more than anything. Her favorite day of the week is on Friday when we have a playdate with her buddies (and I get wine with my buddies ). Weve been doing this for over a year and I have the most amazing friends to include us, be so mindful of illness, and so thoughtful about creating such a loving and accepting environment for all of us. Gwendolyn cant run with her pals or do all of the things they are doing, but she can watch, she can hear them, we can create experiences for them all to play together, and at some point they always stop for a minute, give her a high five, sing her a song, give her a sticker, or hold her hand -- and those are the moments that she just lights up. She will give up a princess movie to spend time with friends -- wow, I know!
In California, the county education office takes over special education services at three. In fact, we are graduating from many of the therapists and services weve received since she was six months old (I call it breaking up -- thats what it feels like). So, weve been preparing for everything to change all summer long. Weve had meetings upon meetings about it all and when it came to next steps for Gwendolyn, well, it was pretty clear to everyone that Little Miss Social would get so much out of being in the preschool setting -- and she so wants to be there. When we went to tour schools and think about this option, she couldnt get through the doors fast enough.
This comes with risks. Believe me, we know. And sending Gwendolyn to preschool is not something we came to without a lot of weighing. Germs are the most immediate concern. But, as fun as I think I am, Gwendolyn thinks being around children her age is more exciting. So... we're going. We will wipe her down constantly. We will take precautions. But, we allow her to connect with others because that is what she wants out of her life. And we are pretty excited about seeing her so happy! (As a side note, we are in no way saying this is the right choice for all SMA children. Nor are we passing judgement on home-schooling or other alternatives. This is simply about Gwendolyn.)
We have had a bit of a negotiation navigating the appropriate place for Gwendolyn and have been sorting that out for months. But it seems we have found the perfect setting -- on so many levels. Our biggest challenge was finding a school with lots of open space. Since Gwendolyn cant walk, her spacial requirements and for her to feel successful (and dare I dream -- independent) are much more than the average 3 year old. Really, you have to think of her in her chair, including her 400 pound power chair... so technically I have a 400 pound child -- and a 400 pound child requires room to move The next thing I love is that her school is a co-op, meaning each childs parent has to work at the school at least once a week. This is great for a lot of reasons: 1) Parents can get to know Gwendolyn to better navigate their childrens questions about her and I hope encourage relationships with her, 2) less sick kids being dropped off, and 3) I wont be the only parent there. It has a pretty small enrollment and we already have two friends who attend. And, although I hope we never need it, the icing on the cake is that a fire station is across the street, so we can create an emergency plan to get Gwendolyn help as quickly as possible if anything should arise.
Last week the teacher read all the children this story I wrote to introduce them to Gwendolyn. And all the parents received this email from us. And while I so wish I didn't have to write these, and it was difficult to do so, the bigger picture is Gwendolyn is having an experience, a wonderful opportunity, that Bill and I thought would never happen for our little girl. And so today my baby is going to preschool. Shes going to preschool. PRESCHOOL!!! And we are so proud of her.