Lifting the Mask

“What do you want to be for Halloween, Wil?”

“A meeeeaaaan pumpkin, grrrr!” Wil lifted his arms up and curled his hands into claws. 

Wil and I searched the Web for a “mean pumpkin” mask. We found the perfect fit! A jagged-toothed jack-o’- lantern mask that lit up. Next was the shirt. We found a black long-sleeved t-shirt decaled with two triangular orange-flamed eyes and an evil orange-flamed smile. 

Wil’s resource room class was invited to wear their Halloween costumes to school last Thursday (as there was no school on Friday). Wil made a mission of scaring his teachers — I heard he made Ms. Kastel jump! After every scare, he cracked himself up (even the scariest jack-o’-lantern is a sweet pumpkin underneath). 

When Wil was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after his birth, I prayed there was some mistake. My heart knew, but my brain fought my heart every step of the way. As time went on I realized that it wasn’t Down syndrome I was scared of. It was my vague understanding of what Down syndrome meant. Now that I know my big-loving, super awesome hugging, silly, joke-making, forever singing, strong-willed, Luke Bryan’s biggest fan teenage guy, the mask of fear has long been lifted. I’m just another mom who loves her son. 

I begin work as a paraeducator with Saline Middle School this week (and reduced my fitness coaching schedule to 2 days a week). Before Wil was born, I would not have considered a career as a paraeducator. That was reserved for “special people.” I had a deep admiration for those who worked in special education, and still do, but at the time I only had a vague understanding. Raising Wil, I have seen first-hand that there are most certainly people born with a natural affinity to work in this field. But I also discovered that life experiences can thus equip us. Though not born with this natural ability, life experience has grown in me an in-born desire to contribute in ways I never previously considered. 

I can’t wait to get to know the middle school students that I will be working with. To dive below the surface and understand who they are, what they love to do and what really ticks them off; all that tween and teenage stuff. I also want to know who they want to become and help them to become that. That’s what I now find to be special.

This will be my last weekly article. With my new position as a paraeducator, in addition to my current job coaching, I will no longer have the time to create a quality article on a weekly basis. The Manchester Mirror (our community paper who publishes Wil’s stories) has graciously left the door open if, upon life settling into this new rhythm, I should start writing weekly again.  A very heartfelt thanks to Manchester Mirror in sharing our community’s news and stories; they truly bring our community together.

Thank you for sharing in Wil’s stories. I hope in some way, I’ve lifted the mask of vague understanding and uncovered what is truly special. Until next time, Wil sends his biggest hug (and mean pumpkin scare, grrrr!). 

One comment

  1. Christie
    Enjoy your new adventures! Thank you for showing me how to better understand people with challenges. I will certainly miss your stories.

    Myrna

    Like

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