Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My heart is bursting with....

I am not sure, relief? Pride? Happy? No, it is more than that. Deeper somehow. This pierces to the very depth of me. While it is not painful, per say, it is piercing--almost a searing joy. One I have rarely felt. One that appears during a long journey full of  intense emotions. Today, I met with Alli's teacher for 2nd grade student teacher conferences. Although I have received very little negative feedback from her teacher this year, I was still bracing myself for surprises. Things Alli was struggling with. Perhaps a new socially embarrassing coping mechanism, struggles making friends, or an inability to reach certain milestones consistent with her peers. I thought I was ready to hear anything the teacher had to report. Turns out, I was wrong.

In case you are out of the loop, Alli has struggled since she started kindergarten. It is so hard to watch your child struggle in kindergarten. Kindergarten should be easy, confidence building and fun! At first, she had a hard time being apart from Milana, her twin, for a full day. Every other transition during their lifetime had been made together. Now, they faced a huge one alone! They had been fine in preschool, each attending four days with one going on Tuesday alone and the other on Thursdays. So, I did not anticipate how much Alli relied on Milana's presence for her confidence. However, after a few months of working with Alli, it became apparent that separation anxiety wasn't the answer for all of her difficulties. She struggled to recite the alphabet all the way through, count to a certain number and was not making expected progress with reading. She also struggled with huge levels of anxiety because she was missing cues during class and transitions. With this level of anxiety came some odd behaviors that served to lower her anxiety. Unfortunately, they did not help her socially adapt. Once we figured out that she has ADHD inattentive type, with some extra help, her academic issues were quickly resolved. In fact, it turns out that Alli is really bright! It has been such a joy to see her brain process and learn to it's potential. 

Throughout first grade, the anxiety remained. The girls were allowed to be in the same class, which helped Alli, but she still struggled. We continue to work with this, through therapy, love and encouragement. We also realized that some of her issues at school had to do with her being little. She can't reach things and this causes her to find creative ways to deal with her life. Unfortunately, her creative ways sometimes lead to different issues. We have been able to identify these problems and provide alternate solutions that are more appropriate. She really has been so fortunate to have amazingly relentless teachers, other school staff, friends and family behind her, praying and cheering her on. This year, we went in with an IEP (individual education plan), some extra support in areas of known difficulty, joining  Milana in her math class first thing in the morning (they are in separate classes the rest of the day), and a guardedly hopeful heart. Guarded because to hope freely is beyond what I have left. To hope freely would leave me too vulnerable to the deep hurt that comes when you see your child struggle again and again. I can remind myself over and over that these struggles will help Alli become the amazing woman she is intended to be, but that doesn't help me stop wishing life wasn't so hard for her. It doesn't keep my heart from breaking when I see her tears of frustration. But, guarded hope is better than no hope. And a plan is always better in Natasha's world than no plan ;). 

As I said earlier, I thought I was prepared to hear anything her teacher had to say, but I was wrong. It was ALL positive! Don't get me wrong, her handwriting could use a bit of tweaking--but, so could my husband's! When looking at her writing sample, I could read her thoughts (yes, plural--there was more than one thought :), which is much more than I could say for last year's writing. For the first time since preschool, it was clear that Alli is exactly where she should be, both academically and socially. I am relieved, yes, I am so proud of her hard work, too. But it is much deeper than that. I am bursting with joy! It is searing my soul. My little Alli is finding her groove.
She will shine!

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