|This picture is greater than the others I have|
on my phone.
Q: What do you like best about your child?
A: Her kind heart, infectious giggle, her courage, the sum of her parts
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of raising your child?
A: That the world will not see her as whole and dismiss her valiant efforts to meet expectations
Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your child?
A: She's amazing; she tries harder than anyone knows; she is greater than she is given credit for
My favorite niece started school today as a fourth grader. For some reason that makes me feel older than the fact that Sweet Girl is in her second year of school (albeit pre-school). I remember the day my niece was born. I remember her having a 20 minute giggly disagreement with Papa about who, exactly, was the "doofy doober" in the car. And I remember her very first day of school. She's pretty awesome. My favorite nephew, also very awesome, was not that happy his sister started school today and he didn't. He starts kindergarten next week. If I didn't feel old already, that's enough to make me marvel at how quickly time marches.
As fabulous as my niece and nephew are (and they are; taking the world by storm is a given with those two) they aren't really what this post is about. But seeing the pictures on Facebook of everyone as they start school made me think of how school is a totally different experience for everyone; from aunts and uncles to parents and children, we all start the school year off with unique emotions and expectations. Once upon a lifetime ago, I was a teacher. The start of school meant getting back into a routine, prepping a classroom, waiting for the "final" rosters of students, and the beginning of a year's worth of change for the high school students I would see Monday through Friday. The beginning of the year was always a little overwhelming but always fun. Now as a parent of a pre-schooler, the beginning of the year is the same but in an entirely different manner.
Last year Sweet Girl started off, um, nervously. Nervous is actually such an understatement that it's barely above ground. This year Sweet Girl hardly gave me a backward glance as she walked up to the school with her teacher. She was not overwhelmed, anxious, or nervous. She was happy and excited, and I imagine a little relieved to be seeing someone other than her mother for part of the day. She was ready and I was ready for her to be at school (also crazily understated sentiment). I had purchased supplies, prepared gfcf lunch, and packed her backpack with everything she would need for the day. She had a great first day of school. I had a great first day of taking her to school. But for Sweet Girl the first day isn't really the beginning of the year. Preparing for school this year started the week after school got out last year. It's a little different from what others do to get ready for school, but different seems to be what we know around here.
All summer (with the exception of vacations to the Outer Banks, Nana and Papa's, and Disney) Sweet Girl has been working with behavior analyst and speech/language pathologist. ABA and Speech are part of our regiment to help give Sweet Girl the tools to navigate the world around her. These therapies help. They actually help a lot, but they don't give us the magic bullet to make the world an easier place for Sweet Girl: she fights for every progression she makes. But for ABA and Speech to be effective, it is necessary to figure out where we are starting: bring on the assessments! I was good at tests. I loved me a standardized test. I enjoyed looking at the results and deciphering the stark black-and-white graphs showing my score compared to the scores of other test-takers. Assessments were my jam. My how times have changed.
Assessments are no longer my jam. As Sweet Girl goes through the battery of questions and tasks, the results are grim. She is not near her age group in most categories. She is actually far below average in several key skills. The graphs are still stark though they're in color now. And these results hurt. With every "Not Within Normal Limits" checked, my heart grows heavier. With every "Below Standard", another wound opens up in my spirit. With every "Does Not Perform Satisfactorily", another hole appears in my soul. And so, I no longer like tests.
The other day, after a particularly grueling session, I watched my daughter swing in the backyard. Her little brother was playing on the slide next to her. Sweet Girl sang to herself the "Swing Song" my sister made up just for Sweet Girl. Little Man listened to her and continued with his nonchalant acts of gravitational defiance. She was happy there. She would have scored an "Exceeds" at that moment if we were judging her on the standard of Knows How to Find Comfort in Simple Things Regardless of the Abilities of Others to Find Said Things Worthwhile. She would have knocked that one out of the ballpark. And though I had pretended to believe this before, at that moment I realized that it was not my daughter who was lacking, but rather the tests themselves. She is greater than a paper can display. Sweet Girl is more than an assessment can evaluate. Her sum is truly greater than the parts they measure with tests. She was happy in that moment - swinging in the backyard with her little brother nearby - and in turn I was happy as well. And that feeling is greater than any other I've ever known.