Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Independence Takes Courage

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~ E.E. Cummings

I might add on: “It takes courage to let your children grow up and become who they really are.”

Last week I took a big step out of my comfort zone and a big step forward in Evan’s journey. I enrolled him in our district’s summer school program. Evan will go to a different elementary school and he will interact with new kids. These facts send up two enormous red flags in my mind:

  1.      A new setting will mean new hazards to learn and navigate around. While this may not seem like a big deal for many kids, it is for Evan. He has balance issues stemming from poor eye-sight, impaired hearing, kyphosis (curvature of his spine) and fused neck vertebrae, and toes that don’t bend. All of these issues prevented Evan from walking until he was age four. At age seven, he is still falling and needing considerable assistance walking, especially in environments that are new or have been changed unexpectedly.
  2.      New classmates will mean new questions about Evan’s unique appearance. Although his endearing personality is a friend magnet, one never knows which way the pendulum will swing. So far the kids who know Evan are very sweet with him. I’ll say prayers every night that the new kids this summer will embrace Evan and treat him with the same kindness that he exudes.

Before last week I wasn’t even considering summer school as an option. I gravitate towards protecting Evan at home as much as possible. But Evan is getting older and stronger and he needs more outside stimulation to grow. I have watched him struggle with math in first grade and I had started thinking about ways to propel his learning forward this summer.

Some things happened last week that made me feel like the universe is nudging us along in our journey. A new book, The Able Life of Cody Jane, came into my life and took a hold of me. It is a true story so captivating and masterfully told that it is hard to put down. The author Marly Cornell tells her story of her experiences with her daughter Cody Jane who was born with Spina Bifida. www.theablelife.com

The theme of independence resonated with me throughout this story:  Cody’s quest to be an independent thinker and doer and Marly’s quest to help her daughter achieve this independence. The stories of Cody going to summer camp amazed me. Not only did they amaze me, they woke me up. The time has come to move out of our safe zone and help Evan begin to develop his sense of independence.

A few days ago I went to Evan’s school and talked to his principal. We brainstormed things that could be done to continue his learning this summer. She agreed that summer school would only be possible for him if he had para support (an assistant). With one phone call she arranged for that support and I signed Evan up for his first summer school experience. It just so happened that this was the day summer school enrollment closed. How’s that for timing?

When I told Evan that he would be going to summer school, 
he did a happy dance and asked if he could use a ruler there. 

I wrote to my friend Marly, “Your book inspired me to do this.” Marly wrote back, “Juggling protectiveness and the important independence issues is always a struggle. But it gets easier as you see how he loves it and gets stronger in various ways.”

Who will actually have the harder struggle? Evan is being Evan the only way he has ever known – excited to get out, to do new things, and make new friends. I am the one imagining the worst and praying for the best.

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