“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!).