Friday 18 July 2014

My School Days. Brilliant, but Different.

So today I cried.

I cried along with all the other mums, many of them good friends, who also have children in Year Two at Infant School. Their last year in that building before they transfer to the separate Junior School across the road, and for many of us the last time we will stand in an assembly in the Infant School Hall after seven years of our children being at that school. It's been a totally amazing school, one which I am proud to be a Governor of, and I feel so blessed and lucky that both our children were able to attend it.

Sasha does not like writing. But this is for the lovely staff who have helped her learn how to write her name.

But my tears today were different.

They were the tears of a mum who has a child who is autistic, a child who is different.

They were different tears to those that I shed when our eldest girl left the school, when we were sad she was leaving, and a little apprehensive about Junior School, but happy at the same time that she had enjoyed three lovely years there with her classmates.

Today, Sasha sat on my knee for the whole Last Assembly. This of course instantly marks her out as different, but was the only way she was prepared to be in the room on what was a stressful day for her. 

For Sasha, the occasion was too much. She squirmed and wriggled, enjoyed some parts of assembly but then asked to go home as it was boring (fortunately she has now learned how to whisper).

I managed to keep her there until the very end, when everyone present was asked to stand for one last song - the School Song. This is an amazing tune, written by a very talented teaching assistant at our school called Anna Baker. You have to listen to it (lyrics are at the end of my post) to understand how it can pull on your heart strings at the best of times - but particularly at a Leavers' Assembly. All parents want to video this very special moment where all the children sing together in beautiful voices, and I've done that on more than one occasion in the past.

That is to say, I've videoed it when Tamsin has sung it. I don't think Sasha has ever joined in with singing this song at school. Today she stood and decided she needed the toilet at that particular moment, and so it was me who had to take her back to her empty classroom. She sat in the cubicle, and as I leaned against the door frame and felt the tears trickle down, I could hear her sing one solitary word above the sound of the others singing in the Hall; '....friends' drifted out to me over the top of the toilet door. 

Sasha is different. That makes me different. 

I cried at the fact that she isn't able to join in like her classmates, I cried as I saw the pictures of all her lovely peers who have been so great with her flash up on the classroom whiteboard, I cried as I thought of the work I needed to do back at home reading through legal paperwork and writing letters and battling with people to get her the right support, I cried as I thought of all the fantastic teachers and assistants and school staff who have been flexible and understanding and provided her with the best start in life, I cried as I wondered how she would cope with the more formal setting of Junior School. I cried because I was alone in the room. I cried because they were different tears.

As her classmates filtered back into the room, and I left Sasha in the classroom, she whispered to me 'Mummy, at Junior School I'm going to always do what the teachers tell me. I'm going to be a big and good Junior School girl'.

This tells me that Sasha is becoming more aware of her own limitations. She may be saying now that she will do what she is told once at Juniors, but the reality is that she finds it so very hard to confirm, for all sorts of sensory, social and other reasons. I hope the pressure doesn't become too much for her.

Just once in a while it's important to let people know how things really are, so that you don't end up carrying the weight around by yourself the whole time. Not everything is easy. There are many 'different' mums out there whose lives are not what they expected them to be, and sometimes they need a hug, or just a bit of understanding. It's tough being different.

Look at the sunlight - it's shining on me!
Here's where I go to be - with my second family.
Here's where I go - with my friends, and I know
They'll be with me 'til the end……. 
Shadows and photographs - dance on the walls,
Pictures of children - who've learnt before…,
Remember those names, playing their games,
And be sure - to catch them if they fall……
This is my playground - where I stand tall,
And this is my classroom - my writing on the wall,
Here's where I go - with my friends, and I know
They'll be with me 'til the end.
My school days - my school days
The best days - of my life - so far (REPEAT last 2 lines)
Here's where I go - with my friends, and I know
They'll be with me 'til the end……
All those around me, they know my name,
Teaching us harmony - their aim's the same,
Here's where I go - with my friends, and I know
They'll be with me 'til the end…..
And I know - they'll be with me 'til the end……
Repeat Chorus…
And I know - they'll be with me 'til the end…..