To My Son on His Graduation
I know it is cliché but it seems like only yesterday that I saw your smiling preschooler face for the first time. The moment I saw you there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that you were meant for us. You made us a family and before we knew it we were swept off our feet just trying to keep up with you. Your smile, your big blue eyes, your curiosity and friendliness were all qualities we adored in you.
You started school just 3 short months after you moved in with us. Other parents cried and proclaimed how fast 4 years had gone by and I clutched your doll to my chest and hoped that your amazing spirit could be reined in. Alas, school would prove to be a very tumultuous time for you. Multiple suspensions, extra assistance, questionable behaviour management techniques, ill equipped staff, crowded classrooms. Diagnosis after diagnosis. Through it all you still got up every day and went to school with a smile on. When you were seven we met with a Psychologist to go over test results. He told us you were “out of control” and that we should “run our home like a boot camp”. He also said he doubted you would ever be able to read. I was devastated because for a few moments I believed that man’s words over what I knew to be true about you. Your father on the other hand didn’t put much stock into what that man had to say. Moving forward we decided to ignore what that man had to say (though we never forgot).
In Grade 3 something clicked and you jumped up 13 reading levels in 2 months. Suddenly the world had opened up to you. You began to experience success amidst a whole lot of hard work. That was the thing; school was never easy for you. Even when your mental health was completely falling apart around you, you still managed to spend at least some time at school. Over the years you worked at your own pace but you worked hard.
When it was time to transition into high school, the school personnel thought it best for you to not be in credit classes. They felt strongly that to set you up for success we basically had to have no expectations. Well that’s not how we work in our family. Our expectations might be different from others but we always had expectations for you. So we were firm with the school and you were enrolled in credit classes. You stumbled a little but you rose to our expectations.
Fast forward to today, you are getting ready to graduate. You will walk across the stage and get a real diploma that you alone have achieved.
While you finish up the last several weeks in classes, I will track down the people who did not believe in you along the way and I will send them your graduation notice with a short note:
“Today our son graduates from highschool with his Ontario Secondary School Diploma. If you believed in him – thank you. If you were one of the people saying the things above, well, may this show you that there are ways to support people with disabilities without being cruel and punitive”
We love you son and are thankful for all the lessons you have taught us along the way. Congratulations!