Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Letting go.

Today I cried, laughed, smiled, cried, cried some more...and some more.  Today my girl started kindergarten.  This was her first day and she rocked it!

The most amazing thing?  She gets it...she totally gets it.  As we were completing her homework last night, I was floored.  She had to answer a few questions and write her name.  Her questions were all about her likes, dislikes and what she did this summer.  Every answer was spot on and appropriate.  What does she like?  Writing her name, reading and playing with her friends.  Appropriate answers for homework...don't you think?  She was in the zone.  She could have said dancing or playing with her American Girl dolls, Kenani or Kelly, or playing games on her iPad but instead she answered with grown up, big girl, kindergarten answers.  As she dictated and I wrote, I realized how truly amazing she is.  I am one lucky Mommy.

As I tucked her into bed, we read The Night Before Kindergarten...twice...well...actually three times if you count the time that Kayla read it back to me, describing each page with detail and picking a few words she knew out of each sentence.
I held her tight as she fell asleep.  I studied her beautiful almond-shaped eyes, wispy eyelashes, porcelain bisque colored-skin, rosebud shaped lips and each new freckle that the summer sun kissed upon her cheeks.  I studied her perfect little face until I could no longer see through my tears.

Kayla woke up so excited to start her day...and to discover what the Back-to-School Fairy brought her.

Our fairy even reeked havoc on our windows...but she loved it!
Over the top...I know...but it's those little details that helped keep my mind off of the reality of her being gone all day and gave her something to be excited about instead of getting nervous.  Who am I kidding?  I don't think she was nervous one bit...not one little bit.  She's a big kid and she was ready for kindergarten.  Was kindergarten ready for her?  That's a chapter still to be written...but if I know my girl...she is going to rock this year...making tons of friends and changing perceptions about Down syndrome along the way.  So to Kayla I say, write that chapter...I have no doubt it will be just as beautiful as each chapter that has been written since the day you were born.

Love the lunchbox?  Get your very own on my website by clicking here.

Those of you Mommy's that have babies and children with special needs understand.  We share that bond...you know that feeling of fear when your child is born.  You understand the anguish of all of your hopes and dreams being crushed the moment you realize your baby isn't "perfect"...the pain of having to live without perfection...having your child be judged for what they can't do instead of what they can.  But most of all...the unknown.  What I have come to realize over the past five years is everyday is unknown...special needs or not.  Everyday is what we make of it and we have made the most of every possible day.  The hundreds of hours of OT, PT, and ST...the thousands of hours working on everything learned in those therapies, the countless hours spent working on reading, writing and self-help skills...all of those moments brought us to today.  All of those hours have shaped and mold Kayla.  To all of her teachers and therapists that have walked this journey with us, we are eternally grateful.  You have helped us face each day with hope.Before we left home we took our first day of school pictures.  Hundreds of them.  Or as Kayla told one teacher {and a friend of mine from high school}...I took one hundred pictures...and then five more!  And there you have it.  Here are just a few...
{oh...and I have no idea why but this morning she chose to wear a hideous black watch from a McDonald's happy meal...half way through our photo shoot she decided to take it off and I decided to make it disappear...out of sight, out of mind}
To answer your question...no...she can't get much cuter.  I mean seriously...the glitter backpack...stop it.  It's like a disco ball.  She is in love and I at least dodged the Justin Bieber or Hello Kitty backpack!

Every year I seem to capture a picture of her dancing.  Here she is saying "kindergarten...awww, yeah"...

As Rick and I dropped her off at kindergarten, she hugged us goodbye and walked away.
I kept taking pictures until she was completely out of my sight {most of them blurry}.
I knew once I wasn't focusing through the lens of my camera I was going to cry.  I knew once I couldn't see her any longer it was very possible I would hyperventilate.
I knew that moment was coming and then it was there.  I was comforted, however, by the dozens of other Mommy's with tissues in hand, wiping tears.  One sweet mom comforted me as she walked with her daughter...noting she would be where I was {filled with tears} in just a matter of minutes.  I walked away from the school...looking back...looking for Kayla...wanting to be needed...wanting to hug her one more time...wanting to tell her to have a great day and I would be back soon.  Kayla, by the way, never looked back.

As I got into the car I immediately wondered if I told her I would be back to get her.  Would she know that I would be coming back?  After all, she left with a huge backpack, a "read and relax" blanket and a lunchbox.  More stuff than she takes to MomMom's for a weekend visit.  At that moment I cried.  I didn't just cry...I cried the ugly cry.  Not quite sure why I did my makeup this morning...I can assure you it took me longer to apply it than the amount of time it took for it to run down my face.

As Rick drove away from the school, he held my hand as I cried.  I couldn't speak.  I couldn't think of my girl without filling with tears.  He spoke words...most of which I don't recall.  I wish I could tell you we had an amazing conversation but I truly couldn't talk.  I do, however, recall him stating he couldn't believe how far she had come.  How he didn't know what to expect back on the day she was born...but neither of us pictured today.  Neither of us would have pictured Kayla walking into kindergarten...reading and being able to write her name...just a typical five-year-old.  Unfortunately we feared the unknown and the diagnosis.

As we drove further away, all I could think about is this chapter in my life.  This chapter is written.  It is over.  While she has gone to preschool for the past three years, her time away from me was no more than three hours...oh and I usually spied from the booth so we were never truly apart.  Since the day she was born we have spent nearly every lunchtime and afternoon together...enjoying a majority of of our days together.  Today all of that ended abruptly.  Today I had to let go...and it was hard...it was so incredibly hard.  I know she is in great hands and I know while the journey of getting to this school has been long and tiring...I know it is all meant to be, it is all worth it and she is going to learn and thrive and teach everyone at school a thing or two...perhaps a bit of fashion sense and even more important...she is going to teach everyone that people with Down syndrome are more alike than different.  But today I had to let go and I just wasn't ready.

My emotions had an all-out brawl in my body...a World War of emotions.  Yes...I am sad for me...because I missed her terribly today...but for her, I am so happy.  Those six hours were the longest six hours of my life.  As I watched the clock, minutes passed in what seemed like hours.  Thankfully we had junk food in the house from our "hunker down in the basement and eat your face off" stockpile from Hurricane Irene.  Dear Chocolate, you helped me cope today.  A little chocolate {ok...all right...a lot of chocolate and perhaps a few chips}, phone conversations with my friends Kelle and Jenn and my Mom and life was better.  And, of course, life was amazing at 3:20 PM when I had her back in my arms...disheveled hair, sleepy eyes, fake smile and all...

During meet the teacher night last week I noticed a quote from Stevie Wonder hanging on the wall in the classroom and the words of that quote have danced through my mind ever since.  "We all have ability, the difference is how we use it".

To my beautiful Kayla, I want you to know that you have the ability to do anything you set your mind to.  I couldn't be more proud of you and I can't wait to turn each page of this book of life with you.  Each chapter, each page, each word is more amazing than the one before.  Thank you for showing me the true meaning of love.  Your incredible smile brightens each day and you fill my life with more joy than I could have ever imagined.  Letting go today was hard but only because you are beyond perfect.

For those of you that follow my blog...thanks for hanging in there the past few weeks...it's been quite a summer.  I promise there are stories to still be told...I will get them on here...one day soon, I promise.


  1. This was absolutely the most beautiful post...thank you!

  2. Oh my gosh. I so remember that first day when my son walked away from me heading excitedly into kindergarten. This even made me cry a little remembering. And he was your every day average kid. I can't imagine what a blubbery mess I am going to be when my angel, Liddy, heads off to school. I will probably cry for days. lol
    I hate to say it, but get used to this feeling. Raising kids is absolutely overflowing with moments that you are forced to watch your babies move farther and farther from the nest in their attempts to try out those new found wings. It's both a blessing and a curse. But these babies only belong to us for the shortest while......
    She is gorgeous btw! :)

  3. She's such a little rock star. Just love the disheveled hair after a fun day at school :) and proud of mama for making it through the day :)

  4. LUV it!!!! how bittersweet....Sydney is now in 3rd grade:(
    Denise and Sydney Pequignot
    NE Indiana

  5. Amy, I should know by now to have my tissues handy before reading your blog. That little girl is just amazing! Great job, Kayla, on your first day of kindergarten, big girl!

  6. I read this last night and cried through the whole thing. The day Russell was born and we found out he had Ds my mind raced to THIS moment...The moment I would have to let him go to school. This was a beautiful post, Kayla looked adorable!!

  7. Wow! I'm in tears. This was so beautiful. We have 2.5 years before I reach this day and I get teary eyed just thinking about it.

  8. Oh my gosh, this was just wonderful to read. I am emotional now and I just want to make the most of my time before my one yr old w/ Ds goes off to school.

  9. You are all so wonderful. Kayla couldn't have asked for better parents. and you know how we all adore her. goodluck with kindergarden- i hope to see you all soon (whenever we're both at cheesecake at the same time)

  10. Favorite part - "she is going to learn and thrive and teach everyone at school a thing or two...perhaps a bit of fashion sense and even more important...she is going to teach everyone that people with Down syndrome are more alike than different."

    AM was similarly stylish in K and 1 and finally this year I'm reducing a little on the fashion. Because the clothes come home so dirty! Its like "How doesn't anyone have time to clean up?" : )

    The chronically exhausted have fuzzy memories so whether a First Day of School prize was given the past couple years, no fairy ever showed! She will be LATE tomorrow as its too late for her to get a gift here for tomorrow's first morning, but she'll deliver promptly in future years! Thanks for letting me know about this fairy! Tooth Fairy was here last night though!

  11. Beautiful post. Your daughter is adorable! I love the Stevie Wonder quote, too. My little guy with Ds is 3 1/2 and just started his 2nd year of pre-K. Loves every minute of it. I hope his experience to Kinder is as good as Kayla's.

  12. I have found myself blog stalking, and looking forward to each of your posts and the NEVER FAILING opportunity to cry. You are remarkable...only to be outshined by Kayla. Rockstar indeed! Thank you for sharing your family with us!

  13. What a lovely post - it's great to read about the wonderful things Kayla is doing. I was wondering what school Kayla went to for pre-school and now kindergarten. I live in the Wilmington area and have started looking at preschools for my daughter for next fall. It seems you've had good experiences and I'm praying for similar experience for my daughter. Thanks.

  14. It's been a long time since I cried reading a post about Down syndrome...or cried about the fact that Lily has it...but I cried reading this. Thank you for sharing. Hugs from Oregon.