Elias compensates so well for his limited vision, I often forget my son is legally blind. The other day he was looking for a snack on our shelf that holds both dry food and tools, "Are these gluten-free?" he asked. When I looked up from the sink, I saw he held a clear plastic container filled with large screws.
Oh, how our bellies shook.
I love Elias's ability to laugh at himself, self-deprecation is a skill we all need to make it through this challenging world that doesn't spin around our axis.
Yesterday, while grocery shopping, lost in my head as usual, part way through unloading my overflowing cart, I noticed I picked the express lane-- as a newcomer in a small town to boot. It took until the shorter-than-normal conveyer belt couldn't hold anymore food, with my cart still half-full, for me to realize. That's when I finally looked up and saw the fifteen or fewer items sign.
A woman stood behind me, with one item in her hand, and I apologized to her and the checker for my lack of focus, and luckily they were both kind. But as more folks piled in line, I could feel my face growing hot with their perceived judgement, and my inability to let them all know I'm not really an asshole, just an airhead, fully flawed when it comes to observation.
I've been working on a story I pitched for an upcoming show, about Elias's aggressive outburst the first night we had company here in Seward, folks we'd just met; the night paper stars on the table undid him, and Nick, Elias, and I ended up in a bloody tangle in the bathroom. All while our potential new friends sat in our candle lit living room.
On Tuesday, after a meeting with a new writing companion to hear and give feedback to each other's work, with monstrosity on my mind, I left the library for Elias's first IEP meeting since starting middle school in Seward.
I walked into a room filled with caring professionals who all see the incredible progress Elias has made since the beginning of the year.
They complimented his positive attitude, his willingness to try new things, his ability to keep his hands to himself more of the time, his perseverance, and of course, his sense of humor. He has met most of his behavior goals at school, showing an increased ability to take responsibility for his frustration and use words instead of baring his claws.
Elias willingly sat through the whole meeting, and though he spent a lot of time with his head close to his wrist staring at his new watch that vibrates every hour and a half to remind him to attempt to use the toilet, a process he no longer fights, he listened to everyone's words, smiled often, and responded with: "Right."
At the middle school, he spends much of his day in small groups or working one on one with his Resource Teacher and or Assistants. And Elias has heard me say this many times, but I couldn't have designed a more perfect lead teacher and team for him if I'd tried. That ideal mix of warmth and humor, fused with high expectations and clear boundaries. The staff is willing to both push him and protect him, they see him as capable, while understanding his challenges.
For his adaptive PE class, along with creative games that incorporate both fine and gross motor skills, they have introduced him to yoga and meditation; and I learned his body awareness, a major deficit, is increasing. They take him swimming once a week and the class is learning to do their own laundry afterwards. And they have dish duty as well.
He joins a mainstream class for science and social studies and has been able to choose an exploratory class for the final period of the day. So far he has participated in outdoor studies, music, and now wood-shop, where his first project is to make a wooden frame.
"'I'm making it for you Mom," he told me. "But not for your birthday, because it won't be finished yet."
With some assistance, I learned he used clamps and a saw to cut the wood and this morning he woke up talking about wood shop and said, "I'm going to have another great day."
It takes fewer prompts to get him to write in his journal now and they showed me his morning work in which he wrote: "Olive is funny and cool. She is crazy. When she is silly. by doing cartwheels. play with her I went skiing."
And it doesn't matter to me, the writer, that his sentence structure needs work, the mom in me loves that he wrote about Olive. That he complimented his sister while I wasn't asking him to try to be nice. Olive is funny and cool, he wrote, I play with her.
And as I sit here, in the quiet of a Thursday morning, with both my children at school, with my notebook and flying pen, I think that maybe, I'm the one who doesn't always see clearly, who every once in a while needs my eyes checked, so I can see my son again, and the progress he makes daily.