In Which The Letter “L” is a Bittersweet Milestone

sense-of-humorWhen I think about my kids, I often have to chuckle at God’s sense of humor.

I always claimed that I would accept any child given to me, that health or disability wouldn’t matter. But I didn’t mean it. And I knew I didn’t mean it, although I never admitted it, even to myself. I started college pursuing a BM/c (bachelor of music with certification), which was more performance-heavy than a normal music ed degree, but still certified you to teach. It seemed smart, but in my sophomore year, when tendonitis & carpal tunnel threatened to end my chances of playing at all, I realized: I *hated education classes. I did NOT want to be a classroom teacher.

And then came That Class.

Special Education for Non-Special Educators.

It was a three-hour, once-a-week seminar on a Thursday afternoon, one of the few classes I had in college that fit the stereotype of a huge lecture hall and zero participation.

It was excruciating.

I found the subject matter repulsive. (Don’t judge. I’m coming clean here.)

And that was what convinced me that I had to take a leap of faith and remove the stressful, not-life-giving requirements from my college plan and focus on what I really wanted to do with my life.

In other words, I was so NOT open to children with special needs, I changed my major.

And then came Julianna.

Like I said, God has a sense of humor. No, that’s not right. God knows what we need, and facilitates our growth through experiences—and people—who challenge us to become more of what we were meant to be.

But none of that lessens the irony: that I, the woman who really wasn’t open to having *any kids with special needs, ended up with not one, but two children on IEPs.

Well, that was a tangent.

I’m thinking about this today because Michael started saying “L”s this week. He’s been capable of it for quite a while. When he turned three, he entered an early childhood special ed classroom devoted to language, including intensive speech therapy. At the end of that year he graduated with flying colors and transitioned to being a peer model in a different ECSE classroom—providing a model of appropriate behavior for kids with a number of different disabilities–but for a while they continued giving him speech therapy on site. His speech therapist there addressed the “L” right before she graduated him and he became, officially, IEP-free.

But although he *could, he *didn’t. It was still “I wuv you” and “I wike wowwipops.” In print it makes me want to roll my eyes. But oh, my heart, in real life, it was adorable. And he’s my last baby. So I didn’t push it.

And then, this week, out pops, “Mom, who are you giving the blog to?” Only it’s very self-aware, so it comes out as “Who are you giving the balog to?” and “I a-love you” and “I a-like a-lo-a-llipops!”

Not coincidentally, he’s also replaced his “f”s with “th.” So now he actually says “I think” instead of “I fink,” and “Thor” instead of “For.”

I am in mourning.

I’m glad he’s decided it’s time to talk like a big kid, but I didn’t need further proof that I’m passing out of the cuddle-snuggle-chew-kiss-raspberry stage. I’m enjoying the fact that my kids are older, that their schoolwork is no longer paralyzingly boring to supervise, that I can start to talk to them about the world and ask them to recognize patterns. I love that they (generally) sleep through the night now, and can even put themselves to bed, if things are too busy for me to get upstairs and tuck them in.

But I really love little ones. And you just can’t go around chewing on other people’s kids. Even if it was socially acceptable, it doesn’t feel right.

It’s a bittersweet milestone, the letter “L.”