Well, he's gone.
Tommy that is.
He started his first day of first grade this morning.
I remember when he started preschool. We were in England at the time. He was three-years-old and was able to start so early because they wanted to start him on speech and occupational therapy.
He was still in Pull Ups for goodness sakes!
Then we moved to Wyoming and he went to preschool:
He never had any problems going to school. I thought he might tear up and scream for his Mommy but he never did. He calmly would climb on the bus and give me a firm wave goodbye.
I'm fine, Mom.
Then came Kindergarten:
And he had his fair share of challenges. I began to receive weekly phone calls.
Tommy won't stop crying at school...
Mrs. M****? We're having issues with Tommy. He continues to cry and disrupt the class..
It wasn't easy. I began to dread the ringing of the telephone. I'd find myself tense up the minute the phone started tingling and my heart would drop when the school name would appear on the Caller ID screen.
Mrs. M****? Remember when you gave us permission to test Tommy? Well he tested that he most likely has autism...
But it wasn't all bad news. One time his Resource Room teacher told me that he was understanding how to tell time faster than the first graders that she was teaching.
He's obviously very smart...
I've always known that. He could write his name at three. When he was four he'd tell me simply that two plus two was four.
Sometimes it's just hard to get him to sit so he can concentrate on the work.
Tommy! Please sit still and do your homework!
I can't, Mommy! My legs say no!
Mrs. M****? I can't get Tommy to focus long enough on the work...
I know I'll probably receive a good amount of phone calls this year. I'm prepared for them at least. Last year they all of a sudden started and I was taken by surprise.
Last night we went to Back to School night and we found Tommy's classroom.
He found his cubby and his seat.
"Mommy? It says Thomas. I'm Tommy," Tommy said, pointing at his name tag that was taped to his spot.
The teacher overheard. "It's because we're going to learn how to spell your full name," she explained.
Tommy looked a bit miffed. "But I'm TOMMY not THOMAS." He spit out the name Thomas like it was something horrible.
"I'll definately call you Tommy," the teacher promised. "But this way you can learn to spell Thomas."
Tommy thought about this for a few seconds. Then he whispered to me, "But I'm not Thomas." He was probably thinking, "Why do I have to learn to spell a name that I don't even LIKE?"
His teacher seemed friendly. She's aware of Tommy's issues. I spoke to her in low tones while Tommy explored the classroom.
"...had issues with crying last year....most likely has autism....sometimes it's hard to get him to focus..." I murmured.
She nodded knowingly. "I know." She gave me a sympathetic look. "I read his chart."
Of course. I imagine the high needs children folders are placed on a table and are evenly placed with teachers. In my warped up mind the teachers glance through the folders and go, "Eek. This one cries. Please someone else take him.."
I'm sure it doesn't go like that. I'm almost positive. But I can't help but worry that teachers are scrambling to get away from teaching someone like Tommy.
Tommy was awake before I even came in and got him this morning. I opened his door and he jumped down from his bed, already dressed in the outfit we had picked out the night before.
Tommy was quite serious about what he wanted to wear. I'd bring out a pair of pants and a shirt and he'd shake his head and insist on something else. Then he couldn't decide what shoes he wanted. The Sketchers or the Nikes?
"Sketchers BREATHE!" he informed me, holding one.
I was confused at first and asked him to elaborate.
"On the commercial. It says that Sketchers BREATHE," he said importantly.
"Are you ready for first grade?" I asked him, trying to muster enthusiam in my voice. Because admittedly, I was half asleep and wanted to crawl back into bed.
"I'm ready!" Tommy answered, sounding a little like Spongebob Squarepants.
We went downstairs and on auto-pilot I started pouring him a bowl of Froot Loops. It's what he always has. Then I paused, in mid-pour.
Should I offer a special breakfast since it's his first day? I'm sure all the good mothers out there are making fresh pancakes and eggs for their children..
Guilt washed over me and I placed the cereal box on the counter.
"Tommy?" I asked. "Would you like some eggs?"
I felt like I should offer it. Even though I was half asleep and would probably accidentally drop a shell in the mix.
"No thank you," Tommy said. "Just cereal."
Oh thank goodness.
So I handed him his cereal and he ate while I took a seat beside him at the table.
"And remember. You need to learn to have patience," I told him, sipping at my water.
"No crying," Tommy said between bites.
"No crying," I repeated.
Of course he would do this before Kindergarten and I'd feel hopeful thinking, Maybe this is the day that he'll get better. Maybe this'll be the day that he doesn't cry. But then he'd come off the bus with tear stained cheeks and my heart would drop. And then the phone call would come.
"If you raise your hand and the teacher doesn't call on you, that's okay," I continued.
It was something that would cause meltdowns last year. He'd raise his hand and the teacher would call someone else. Then he'd shriek and cry and carry on to the point where he'd have to go into time out. Where he'd still shriek and cry and say, "Please let me come back!"
I insisted on taking pictures before we walked out to the bus stop. I suppose I could have driven him on the first day. I know a lot of parents do. But I believe riding the bus is an important part of growing up.
We walked to the bus stop and Tommy seemed a little nervous. He stood beside me and muttered out hellos to the people who greeted him.
And then the bus came and he stood in line. I gave him a hug and he told me, "Mommy. I have to go.."
Then I had a flashback of him as a baby:
As the bus pulled away I couldn't help thinking, "Where did the time go?"
I stood there for a few seconds after the bus pulled away, feeling saddened that my little boy was growing up.
But then I had to get on with my day so I took a deep breath and walked home with Natalie on my hip.
"Don't you grow up too fast," I informed her.
She smiled at me and I realized that she was getting another tooth.
We went grocery shopping and I picked up one of these for Tommy:
To celebrate the first day of First Grade.
To celebrate..growing up..