There's one thing I am certain. When we ache, we are growing and evolving and discarding old principles that no longer apply to our life and who we want to be. Not everybody. Some people think they should always stay the exact same way they already are. I'm open to these (sometimes awful) lessons that life is intent on teaching me. I can't really say I've learned much of anything when times were good and easy.
From 1st grade until my Junior year in High School I attended schools that began with the name Saint. Private Catholic schools are aplenty in my home town of St. Louis Missouri. There are so many good things about this environment. There was extra focus on school and God, academics and sports.
My senior year I transferred to a public High school. I go back and high five that little 17 year old girl who thought she was certain she was a grown up who had to walk through those doors. And it was scary, and overwhelming, and different. I spent the first few lunches in an upstairs single bathroom hiding behind the clanging metal doors of the stall. It was such a foreign world. No uniforms. Boys. Black people. People with Special Needs. Not a Nun in sight. It was hard and awful and wonderful and incredible. If I'm going to be here alive experiencing the world, I want to experience all the parts of it. I want to open all the boxes.
Over the years I've heard many debate the merits of private schooling. They speak of better scholastic and sports. I will agree, for the most part there are more checks and balances, as well as funding so it is easier to get a better education at private school. But I realized you could get that same education and start in life at public school- if you sought it out and applied yourself.
It's funny - when it comes to school all I ever really hear parents talk about is academics and sports. And that's what I would have focused on too for my children if they didn't have autism. Because grades and sports are those measurable life things. Instant and universal ways to define productivity and success. And of course we are desperate to raise our children in an environment that will help them be successful adults. To keep them focused and safe and to give them a good start. We look for a box big enough to contain them and keep them safe and focused. Those boxes are used to separate- the smart from the not. The athletic from the not. The social from the not. And everything on the outside of that box is less than or not important.
I think about the lessons my senior year taught me. They were not about academics. Although I got decent grades I couldn't tell you one single academic thing I learned. My lessons were about life. About problem solving. About different. About diversity. About how to say no. About acceptance. About independence. About how to function and make good choices on my own- on the outside of that box. I made some stupid choices too, and I can tell you what I learned from them.
I think we primarily go to school to learn academics. But we leave woven throughout our education are lessons about the world and life and who we are in the context of a much bigger picture. The more we can make school look like real life the better our children will be prepared. I think about the Mom I am now. A Mom I never ever expected to be. I thought I would focus on sports and smart and kind. Now I would want to know different things about the school I was sending my children to. You know- in addition to grades. Things like- How do you teach children diversity? How do you celebrate it? What do you do to help the community? My focus is different because what is important to me has changed.
As you and I know- real life is a place where mostly nothing goes as planned. A place where we are as diverse as the seasons. A place where we are faced with hard questions and decisions. A place where there are a million different races and religions and ideas and opinions. When we spread our wings out it is impossible to fit inside a tiny little box.
Today was our first day of Spring Break. Let me tell you it looks incredibly different from Spring Break 1994 in Padre Island. We went to the Zoo with friends. Next time I would like to go to the Zoo without my children so I can actually look at the animals and talk with my friends. (I'm just kidding. Kind of.) Grey was so excited to go see the ah-mals and mostly the jaff. He doesn't tell me much- so when he does I really pay attention.
Who am I kidding- watching THEM watch the animals was my favorite.
Parker was so mushed up against the glass he was flat.
And Grey flapped and danced the entire time we were in the Sea Lion cove.
And then we went home, exhausted (me- not them) and they played on this bad boy for the rest of the day. Michael spent the entire weekend putting it together. We have one awesome and talented Daddy. (And thank you for the help Daniel!!!)
I love how Doodle swings. Like he's flying.
And I can't explain the calm that takes over Grey while he swings. He needs it like I need coffee.
Luckily it's also so easy to get found in life too. I think we are always stumbling in and out of ourselves. Sometimes it's others that find us struggling and pull us through that door of sanity. Sometimes we find ourselves all on our own. We remember what matters. What doesn't. Who matters. Who doesn't. We remember we came here to constantly change.