Yesterday was our last day at school for about 5 1/2 weeks, so we had a holiday, ornament-making party to celebrate. Admittedly, though, most of the parents aren’t feeling all that celebratory about the prospect of having to do all the structured learning and therapy work on our own at home until the end of January.
These classroom parties can get a bit chaotic as no one’s child really acts the same with their parents – and everyone else’s – there as they do on normal class days, though this shouldn’t shock anyone. It’s a pretty big disruption of their routine.
The nice part about being with these parents is that pretty much nothing anybody’s kid does fazes any of us, and we all know how crazy some – or most – days can be. There’s never any need to make excuses or feel ashamed about anything, though habits still die hard. It’s easier to show grace and understanding to other parents than to ourselves a lot of the time.
All the other kids were sitting at the table for snack while the J-Man was running around. He was wide open the whole time we were there and wouldn’t sit still for more than ten seconds, if that. It was rather frustrating in that we had hoped to sit with him and make ornaments, but learning to go with the flow and manage expectations is just part of how all this works.
As it got close to time to leave, another child reached his limit and got very upset. It was a very emotional moment for his mom, but everyone rallied around her because we understand a lot of what that feels like. It’s not just about that moment, but the sadness that every day something causes our children to become so upset, and nothing we do seems to comfort them. What seems like a simple thing for most people – waiting for someone to arrive so everyone can leave – often turns into a huge challenge for our kids. It’s easy to think, “It just shouldn’t be this hard all the time,” and then cry because you know it really is hard and feel powerless to do anything to help.
Tears can be worth a thousand words to those of us who have travelled down roads similar to yours. She didn’t need to say anything or justify anything or apologize for anything. We know the story and can empathize because we are part of that same story.
The kids in the class made gifts for us. One was a little, white mat decorated with bits of green and red construction paper that said the following:
“The best gift at Christmas is easy to see, it’s not wrapped in paper or under the tree, ’cause the best gift at Christmas and all the year through is having parents as special as you! Love,” and then a little picture of our child.
One of the parents who we don’t know very well because her son is fairly new, rides the bus, and we have different native languages unwrapped the one her son made for her. And she burst into tears, which made us all teary too. We didn’t need to know each other’s language to know what she was feeling. Some things are universal.
These tears are too worth a thousand words. We all know the stories and the hard work and the fears and struggles and dreams and everything that weave throughout our lives with our children. We all want things to be easier for them. We see how hard they work. And we see them learn more and more each day while overcoming such difficult challenges. We see how far they have come as well as how far they still have to go. And the enormity of it washes over us.
These are tears of love, fear, determination, weariness, uncertainty, hope, and pride. Anything vast enough to hold all those emotions and so many more can just feel too big for us sometimes. For me, it’s often the realization that I’m a part of something so immense that brings on those tears. It’s easy to feel like it’s going to overwhelm us and that we won’t be able to handle it. And there are plenty of days I feel like this.
But with the enormity also comes untold possibilities. We looked at our gifts, and to a person we all realized that a few months ago, our kids could never have made them, even with all the help in the world. We see how our children are growing, how their personalities are bit by bit shining through, and what amazing skills and gifts they possess.
We begin to see and dream about just how far they can go. We begin to find our own space within all this to rise to this challenge. And the enormity too provides all the more room for us to love our children more than we ever imagined we could.
We can sit together a while around these kid-sized art tables and make ornaments in a cacophony of moans, tantrums, shrieks, repeated scripts, and random sounds and find that all these too are worth a thousand words. They transform into our Christmas carols telling our version of the timeless story of wandering, waiting, uncertainty, and hope.