In my family, we call it the “weepy gene”.
It could also be called the “cry in public” gene. Or the “whenever I talk about my family or something emotional, I get teary” gene. Or the “please don’t ask me to give a toast because I might not get through it” gene. Several members of my extended family have this gene.
Not me. I’m not a public crier.
Not that there’s anything wrong with crying, but doing it around other people is just not something I’m comfortable with. As far as I can remember, there have been only two times in my adult life that I have become so teary that I couldn’t speak – once at my sister’s Bat Mitzvah, and secondly at the night before my brother’s wedding. I didn’t even cry at my father’s funeral (probably because I let my brother do all the talking that day).
Not that I don’t cry. I just end up saving it for the ride home alone. Or in the bathroom. Or in front of Tim (lucky guy).
So I certainly wasn’t going to cry during an IEP meeting. Nope, not me.
I pulled out all my tricks during the meeting to keep my emotions in check. I fiddled with my pen. I pulled on my sleeves. I broke eye contact when necessary. I counted the days in my head until Spring Training starts.
There were two moments when I thought I was in trouble. The first came after his school OT was finished talking. She told us that he had met all his fine motor goals. ALL. HIS. GOALS. This was a kid who until last month couldn’t color, let alone write his name and all the letters. He couldn’t hold the pencil right. Now he’s zippering, buttoning, and drawing recognizable shapes and figures. As she got up to leave, I thanked her for all her hard work this year, and told her how grateful I was for all she did.
“Oh no”, she said. “This was ALL Howie. He wanted to do this. He wanted to learn. He did this all on his own.”
With the tears welling up, I started counting the holes in the ceiling.
A few moments later, tears nicely pushed back inside, the team leader asked Howie’s one-on-one aides to talk a little about his progress in the classroom, and what they saw as his strengths and weaknesses. We shared stories, went back and forth about some ideas, and as they stood up to leave, one of them said to us:
“We just love him.”
And the tears were back. I whispered a “thank you” as I calculated that there were 51 days until the Red Sox started their season again.
I made it through the rest of the meeting on edge but tear-free. We ran through his goals for the rest of preschool and the start of kindergarten, talked about his summer program arrangements, and worked through some of the sensory accommodations that might be necessary for kindergarten to be successful. Right now, at preschool, Howie accesses the OT room almost as soon as he gets into school so that he’s able to function appropriately in the classroom. This means that he misses some valuable social time with his peers during their center time, as he returns just as morning meeting begins. The elementary school OT suggested that he might want to come to kindergarten 15 minutes early, so that if he needs the OT room, he goes before the other kids get there and doesn’t feel like he’s not part of the school routine. Tim thought that maybe there was a way for him to get that sensory input at home before school started, and we agreed to start using some of our home services to work out a better before-school routine. All of us around the table agreed that the more Howie felt like a full member of the inclusion class, the better it would be for him in the long run.
They all thought that with the right accommodations in place, Howie will be ready for kindergarten next year.
I left the meeting very proud of myself, having kept those tears at bay.
Until we reached the car.
I climbed into the driver’s seat and turned to say goodbye to Tim.
“You know,” Tim said, “if we have to get a dumpster to clear out the basement and put a equipment down there for him, we’ll do that.”
Cue tears. Cue sobs, actually. Giant ugly body heaving sobs.
My poor husband, who has seen this so many times before, knew exactly what to say.
“Are you crying because I said I’d finally clean out the basement?”
The joke to make me laugh when all I want to do is cry. We both knew the cries were a mixture of relief and exhaustion. Tears of pride because our son had been doing so well, but also tears because of the road still ahead of us. Tears because we know we had done so much work to get him to be ready for kindergarten next year, but also knowing that there’s so much more we could and should be doing to help him.
I pulled myself together on the ride home, and was able to talk coherently with my friend about the meeting when I got back. The tears once again were pushed way down under the surface. Because that’s how I bury the weepy gene.
It’s clear now that my son is ready for kindergarten, and kindergarten will be ready for him. The question remains, am I the one who isn’t ready? And where will I go to hide the tears on that first day?
“And too much time I’ve been spending
With my heart in my hands
Waiting for time to come and mend it
I can’t cry anymore” – Can’t Cry Anymore by Sheryl Crow