And it was such a big deal.
Probably really only to me. I know a lot of people think we make too big a deal about celebrations and graduations and kindergarten is hardly worth celebrating. Those people might think having a graduation for kindergarten might be too congratulating for accomplishing nothing but kindergarten - play dough, ABCs, and snack time. Big deal. Those people might think graduation ceremonies should only be reserved for completing high school or college. Surely not for little kindergartners smelling of graham crackers and sandbox.
I completely disagree.
My little boy graduated. And he had a ceremony and everything. We were there in the front row and leading up to it I couldn't help but remember almost five years ago the first night in the hospital when the doctors told us there was nothing.
We aren't transporting him unless we can get a pulse.
The EEG is flat.
He is probably brain dead.
We should consider letting nature take its course should, say, his heart start to give out.
We don't know if he'll make it the next twenty-four hours.
And then I'm sitting there in the front row watching him receive his little graduation certificate and a token for a free scoop of ice cream from Culvers.
His aid, who loves him so much, dressed up just for him.
Everyone loved and kissed on him. People I didn't even know but that had come to know Christian. He has got his own crew now. And when he finally received his lei like all the other kids and his aid, dressed up in her pretty skirt, wheeled him away, and everyone cheered. Even people in the back of the cafeteria. Other kids' parents came up to us when the ceremony was over just so they could say congratulations to Christian.
I had tears but I didn't let them go. The ugly cry could have happened, and trust me, it was there beneath the surface, but I held it in. I didn't want to embarrass Christian in front of his friends, ya know.
No, it's not what I pictured. And seeing him sit in his wheelchair next to his friends - "peers" that are his age - a typical five year old is so foreign to me. See, Christian is like this really cool baby who likes to snuggle and makes baby sounds sometimes. Only he's five and big. So he's a big, cool, baby. But those kids in his class? They're like...kids. That's what he's supposed to look like? There's no way. Those kids looked way too big. And active. And they probably smell like graham crackers and dirt.
The end of the year, as I found last year, is bittersweet. There's always a moment that pronounces just how not like the other five year olds he is. Last year it happened when we went to the zoo and all the other kids ran off and the other mom, running after them, chatted about play dates and what their kids were doing for the summer. We were on our own path. It became our own zoo trip, split from the crowd. Oh, yeah. I forgot for a second that we're different.
I mean, obviously I know we're different. We live it every single day but little things will remind me. Not just the chair or the g-tube or the obvious things. But the little things that divert and separate our paths from the rest of the crowd catch me off guard without me realizing what's happening. This year it was watching him next to his friends - these active, ants in their pants five year olds. Oh, he's supposed to be acting like that? He's supposed to be that big, stand that tall? There's no way. I don't believe it.
Christian doesn't smell like graham crackers and dirt. But he smells warm and snugly. Like a big baby. And he had a really great year full of field trips and friendships just like all the other kindergartners. Even more so with his SPED class.
What I know for sure is that he is loved. He is loved by all who meet him. He exists and he breaths and he smells like a baby. He smiles and adores his aid. He might not play in the dirt or eat graham crackers but I've picked him up from school with a red tongue from strawberry Eegees and he might still have some green paint on his toenail from a class project. He's part of that school and they embrace him and love him. He has done so well transitioning and tolerating a full day of kindergarten and next year he'll be riding the school bus!
So my baby graduated kindergarten. And nobody can tell me it wasn't worth celebrating. We didn't think we would have this. However different it might look from what we pictured, he is here. He is alive. And he is totally worth it.
First and last day of school.