I’m watching my son.
He’s playing on the Wii – the Nickelodeon Wii Fit game the boys got for the holidays.
I’m behind him so he doesn’t know that I have tears in my eyes as I watch him play.
“Look, Mom!”, he says. “I’m running with Pablo from The Backyardigans!”
“That’s very cool.” I say back to him, keeping my voice from shaking.
I’m watching him run in place with the remote in his hand. When he runs, it makes the Nick Jr. character on the screen run too. This is the only game he’ll play on the Wii. He says all the other games are too hard. Truth is, he hasn’t even tried them. He’s too afraid of losing.
His little body is right in front of the TV. He’s trying to stay in the same spot as he runs, but he keeps bumping into the toy box in front of him.
“When I run really fast, I make stars come out of Pablo’s butt!” He laughs hysterically at this. My two year old is standing right there patiently waiting his turn, and starts laughing too. Their laughs are infectious and I start to giggle as well.
(As a side note, this same two year old has unlocked every level on this game. I’m equally depressed, proud and mortified.)
“Now I’m making Dora the Explorer run too!”
He’s making these jerky running motions – legs flailing out to the side. It reminds me a bit of that Seinfield episode where Elaine dances.
He’s so small. My middle son. My four year old in the size 2T pants. Thin enough to still wear all his same winter clothes from last year. Small enough to crawl up into my lap and disappear into my arms. Tiny enough that his two year old brother is wearing pants that only three months ago were in my four year old’s drawers.
I’m still watching as he gets Dora closer to the finish line. I know why I’m studying him so closely.
On Thursday, we have his IEP meeting. Our first one since we set his initial plan up last year. And at this meeting, we’ll be planning for kindergarten.
Still nine months away, but the IEP will be written for the full year. That includes his summer program and start at the elementary school in August.
I’m looking at this little body moving in front of the TV. Kindergarten. How can he be ready for kindergarten?
His teachers say he’s ready. His school OT told me he was ready. Academically, I know he’s ready. In fact, there are no academic goals in his IEP. Only social and behavioral.
And that’s where I worry. I see this tiny person and I think of him at the school where my older son is now. I try to visualize him moving from 17 kids and 6 pairs of teacher eyes on him at the preschool to 25 kids and two teachers, plus whatever aides happen to be in the room. I close my eyes and picture him eating his lunch in the cafeteria, surrounded by 40 other kids and all that sensory overload. I think of him getting on and off the big yellow bus that I promised he could ride when he turned five.
(Oh God. The bus. My just-over-thirty-pound kid on the bus? Am I going to have to go back on my promise to let him take that bus?)
In his inclusion class at the preschool, no one notices his differences now. The kids there are at all different academic and social levels. Every child is equal, every child is a “friend”. Even though the aides are assigned to a specific child, they are considered teachers in the class and kids like mine don’t stick out.
On Thursday, I have to make sure that continues to happen in kindergarten. I have to make sure that when another kid sees my son run towards him on the playground, coming at him with those jerky leg movements…I have to make sure he’s protected somehow.
“Mom! Mom! Moose and Zee gave me a silver medal!”
“That’s awesome, kiddo.” (Moose and Zee give everyone a silver medal unless you get a high score, and then the medal is gold. It IS feel good Nick Jr. after all). “Do you want to play another game?”
“No, I’m done.” He hands the remote to his 2 year old brother, who adeptly maneuvers his way through the screen menu to start jumping on a pogo stick with Dora. (Like I said, depressed/proud/mortified.)
My son climbs into my lap, putting his arms around my neck. “Can I have a big squishy hug that goes on forever?”
My son may be ready for kindergarten. But is kindergarten ready for him?
“We’ll never be ready if we keep waiting
For the perfect time to come
Hold me steady, we’ll never be ready
When we don’t know, though we can’t see
Just walk on down this road with me
Hold me steady, we’ll never be ready” – Never Be Ready by Mat Kearney