the first day of kindergarten is a huge milestone.
it is the beginning of so many things...
full of potential...
the anticipation of new friends
the wonder of learning
and oh yes, growing up!
m just started kindergarten,
and as i was thinking back to this brand-spanking
new bundle in our arms
i thought about how kindergarten is, as it is for all kids,
but it also simultaneously marks for our family and for our daughter something else - a finish line.
when we found out m was deaf a few weeks after she was born, we didn't know what that would mean for her. would she learn to sign and join the Deaf world? would she get cochlear implants? would she learn how to speak and hear with them? would she go to a deaf school? would she ever be able to go to one of our local public schools?
we didn't know if she would ever hear us say that we loved her much less hear a teacher's voice in a classroom.
when you have a deaf baby in california, you are in the system and receiving services immediately. sometimes you first work with early start until your baby is three years old and then you get passed over to the school district who handles your child's case. because we live in oakland, which is such a big district, we've been working with many of the same people since m was just a newborn.
at our very first meeting with the district in which we advocated for her to go to an oral deaf school and receive therapy at that school, we said that
our goal for our little baby was to mainstream
in an oakland public school in kindergarten.
we argued that if she received what she needed as a baby and toddler and preschooler, that she would need far fewer services once she was in public school.
and guess what?
oakland unified agreed. every time. at every meeting over the last five years, even when it took a little push, oakland provided the funds for her to work towards the goal of mainstreaming.
so m has been in school since she was an itty-bitty 7 months old not just so she could learn how to listen and talk, but so she could get to kindergarten!
(m doing therapy at her deaf school at 7 months)
(at graduation from deaf school)
and then this summer she graduated from her mainstream preschool...
("key day" at our preschool co-op, where she was the first and only kid with hearing loss who's ever attended!)
so all of a sudden the destination we had argued for, worked towards, and used as incentive,
m started kindergarten at an oakland public school
right on time.
obviously you wear a firehat on your sister's first day of kindergarten!
with preschool friends & tag-along ruby
i won't lie-this mama heart was full.
a little bit of grief
and so much
we had all worked and sacrificed for five years for this day to come,
my little baby had reached the finish line and
started a new race as soon as she ended the first one.
so we waved goodbye
(here's the moment that my heart about cracked open-)
and we went to get coffee.
because that's what you do when you need to sit and be a little happy-sad-emotional-teary with the rest of your little family.
what i didn't count on?
that little sister would need a whole lot of loving from mama on the first day of kindergarten, when her big sister and partner in crime was gone all day long.
ruby needed snuggles,
and i was happy to comply.
when my sweet little clingy munchkin and i got home?
the very first thing i did was sit down and email the woman who has been in every one of our district meetings since m was a couple months old. she's always been the supervisor who has had the power to deny or approve our requests over the years, and now our season working with her is done, and she passes us off to our elementary school. i thanked her, through drippy tears, for believing in our daughter enough to provide her with the services that allowed her to start kindergarten. i thanked her for seeing the long view and not just the short view. i thanked her for being fair and firm and gracious. i thanked her because we would not be here without her. of course, because she's amazing, she emailed me right back and wrote, "it's going to be a great year."
and then i sent a picture of m at her desk to her old therapists and teachers at her deaf school and thanked them for making the first day of kindergarten happen for our daughter, because to be blunt- we would have not gotten there without their work with our girl.
here's to finish lines, to new beginnings, and to a great year!