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Sunday, July 10, 2016

I guess this is growing up

So, to conclude my story about the 2015-16 school year...
Cat interpretation of me and my little girls as we strut down the hall.
It was a good school year. It was nice sitting at the end of the table with AB on one side and RW on the other. It was fun referring to them as "my girls" because I usually have "my boys" and this was a nice change of pace. I loved the whole class, really. I wasn't the only paraprofessional in the room. Christine was there too, so we had three adults as well as several students that needed attention. We had EJ, a boy with autism and a big mouth who had a hard time controlling his body. He was also smart as a whip and affectionate with friends. AB is not a cuddly child, but when EJ ran and hugged her, she allowed it as if she knew that physical connection was something he needed.
We had this sweet little curly haired boy, RD (not special needs) with a brother in first grade. Brother was always in trouble. In May, the "troublemaker" brother was hit by a car and had to be put into a medically induced coma. So, that was sad. I saw curly haired boy at Savers with his grandmother and I told her that it was really important to me that this boy come out of this, as I had just lost a family member.
The point of all this is uh...just pointing out the hard things that kids have to go through. I'm just glad we had such a good group of diverse children.
Here is a picture of me with a spring dress to break up all the text.
 So, as the spring went on it was clear that AB and her siblings were in good hands at their grandparents' house. I hoped that this would become her "forever" home. This would be good for her to have a stable home life, but...not so good for me.
You see the grandparents live a few towns over. AB and her sister GB were only finishing the school year with us and assuming they stayed with their grandparents in the fall, they should be at their neighborhood school. My little girl would be away from me.
AB, GB, and I never talked about this. I didn't want her to spend her last weeks at PV (our school's initials) having anxiety about the next year. I just wanted to enjoy the time we had together.
We started practicing songs for our kindergarten "graduation." One was a cheesy graduation-themed cover of "Dynamite" (you know the one). The other was a corny but seriously heartwarming rendition of "Lean on Me".
During one of our rehearsals, I told our class to really listen to the words. "The song's about helping each other through our hard times that we have," I said without being too specific. I told the class how they were there for me when I was sad. In my mind, I thought about RD and his brother's accident; I thought about WT, the brilliant Vietnamese boy when he had to serve a detention after ignoring the warning about running in the hallway (he was horrified!); and I thought about all the hardships AB had been through that brought us to this moment.
Four kindergarten classes would be performing and doing a little commencement activity on the last day of school, so we practiced on the stage ahead of time. During our first stage rehearsal, the other para, Christine was absent so I was looking after all of the children with special needs. One girl, LL, wanted no part of practice and left the stage, walking out of the auditorium. That would mean I had to chase after her.
I hadn't mentioned LL, as she was sort of an antagonist in AB's story. Her behavior was not so good and my little angel was often the victim of it. Sometimes they were friends and sometimes LL pushed, teased, and even stole from AB. I wanted LL to stay away from her, but AB always gave her more chances.
LL was stealing and her favorite thing to grab was Play-Doh. Yes, fistfuls of it would be hidden in her pocket. Therefore, she was not allowed to play with Play-Doh. One lazy afternoon, the children were moving about the room doing different activities. AB, RW, and some others with playing with the stuffed cats and dogs at the "vet center."
LL came into the room after speech services and was told she could choose an activity. Sadly, she whimpered that what she really wanted was to play with Play-Doh. She was near our group as Christine consoled her, reminding her of the consequences of theft and telling her to pick a different activity.
AB picked up her own Hello Kitty plush, walked over to LL and handed it to her. Do you see the heartwarming scenario I'm describing here? Just a short time previously, LL took a tiny Lalaloopsy doll out of AB's backpack. AB caught her doing this, but what was she to do?! Demand it back?! Tell someone?!
She can't do it. Even when an awesome toy is at stake, the mute child cannot speak.
Christine thwarted her plan to sneak Loopsy out of the room by hiding it in a bag of chips when she found a doll-filled chips bag. She asked AB if it belonged to her, who confirmed it did.
Less than a week later, here she is consoling the girl who stole her doll by offering her another of her toys! What incredible empathy! She didn't even need words. She invited a girl -who had previously been mean to her, but who was now in need of a friend- to join in with her activity. If she had been using her words, I imagine what she was saying was: "You look very sad, like you need a friend to help you. Here, take my precious Hello Kitty which I trust you to have, despite your previous actions. Let us now play with stuffed animals."
My heart heart melted. This would be the time to play...
It's "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World!" by Prince! If it's not taken down yet.
Back to where we were onstage. Our class had done two concerts with the music teacher and neither time, did AB want anything to do with being on stage. This time she was trying. As she stood on the risers, I told her that I had to go make sure LL was safe and asked her to stay with our friends. I would be right back.
I was, and she did. She stayed on the stage. I was so proud that I told her I would find a graduation Kitty with a little graduation cap and diploma. Like this one:
I should probably get a graduation Minnie too. Neither of which I was able to find in stores and had no time to wait for delivery. I ended up with these:
I was going to remove the caps from that bear and smiley face and place them on Kitty and Minnie. I decided that the Lollipop Kitty wasn't right and managed to find one at Savers that was just perfect, albeit a little large. I forgot to take "after pics", but I have one of Big Grad Kitty:
You shoulda seen that girl's jaw drop with delight when she saw that. Here's the little lady herself in one of the photos Christine took for me. I wish I could show you that face.
That morning of our graduation party was beautiful. All the children were so dressed up pretty and excited. It brought back memories, like from a few years back when B (Read about him here) was leaving kindergarten and I told him that I'd always be there for him. I had made the same blue cupcakes that I did in 2013. In February, I had to say goodbye to B, as he left our school to join the program for emotionally handicapped children; he needed more help than we could give.
I remembered even further back to Jesse's kindergarten graduation. As we mingled in the classroom after the ceremony, he lifted his arms to hug his mom and asked to be picked up. Even though he was headed for first grade, he looked so small in my aunt's arms.
These days are so bittersweet. As I looked at the glowing, happy little girl before me, I noticed that she was a world away from the one who started school earlier that year. Had she been staying in the neighborhood, I would've been looking forward to another awesome school year together; but I would have to say goodbye.
The others, I would see next year, except for EJ who I would also miss terribly. Even though I will see them again, it won't be the same because they won't be the same. There is no other year like the year they are in kindergarten. They grow up and us adults are forced to stand by and watch with nothing we can do to stop it!
Sometimes they grow so fast that you can no longer help them and for their own good, you have to say hope they are in a better situation.
This year I said goodbye to one of my angels, when we could no longer meet his needs.
Or sometimes, you watch one grow into a wonderful young man only to lose him forever.
So...I guess what I'm saying is that life is cruel. Children should stay little forever and should definitely never die.
So, that was my school year! When times were bad, I was fortunate to have had some sunshine in my life at work. I'll never forget that little girl and I know I'll see her again. I will never forget any of them.
The end.

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