Leah and Lucy went back to school today. Shouldn’t I be jumping up and down?
Leah was up at 7 AM and made the rounds, waking us all up. “It’s the first day of school!!” She whispered excitedly. I believe some kids are built for school, and Leah is one of them. She wakes up, makes herself breakfast, gets dressed, brushes her teeth and is on her way to the bus stop, even if the rest of us are still in bed! While in class, Leah hurries to complete each assignment so she can get back to whatever book is in her desk. She comes home, does her homework and then plays with friends.
Maybe the reason I am feeling so melancholy is that I am channeling Lucy. Lucy is NOT built for school, but please don’t tell her I said so. Most of mainstream public education was not set up for “the Lucy’s” of our world. I wouldn’t want to sit (literally) from 8:30-3:30, yes she sits at recess too. She cannot do the work as quickly as the other kids and it really does take more of her energy to complete the same assignment. She is always rushed and always behind. Sometimes she just puts her head down on her desk, refusing to do any more. And does everything really need to be signaled with a LOUD, jarring bell? The poor kid practically leaps out of her skin every 45 minutes… and then there are the fire drills… need I say more? I am actually going to send earplugs for her this year!
And it’s not just that Lucy isn’t built for school, but school is not built for Lucy. Since she is in a big wheelchair, she usually ends up at the end of the line, when her class lines up. Her new classroom is set up with 3 long rows of desks, each row behind the next. Lucy can’t maneuver in between a row, so she is at the back of the class. She can’t reach a sink to wash her hands, so I send hand sanitizer. She can’t reach the water fountain, so we send water bottles. She can’t get her bin out of her desk, hang up her backpack or get it down, write, feed herself or go to the bathroom like the other kids, so she has an aide, Sally who is incredible… Lucy would do better if she could have Sally as a full-time aide, since she struggles with transitions but the district refuses to pay benefits and retirement for one full-time aide, so Lucy will have two part-time aides. And like clockwork, every week on the day that the aides transition, I will likely get a note sent home saying, “Lucy had a really hard day, she refused to work and cried a lot.” If the district lived it, like we live it, they would pay benefits, retirement and more.
This morning, Leah was off to her bus stop by 8:10. The girls go to the same school but cannot ride the same bus. Leah rides the bus with all of the kids in our neighborhood. It is not an accessible bus. Lucy’s bus has a lift in it and it is also full of kids who have different disabilities who are not mainstreamed, who do not go to her school. Having kids screaming, hollering and jumping around doesn’t work for Lucy at all. She hates the bus. We have asked the transportation office if Leah can ride with Lucy. At first we were told, “No, Leah has to have a documented disability.” (“Huh? She does!) So, now Leah rides with Lucy sometimes, and like any kid, Leah wants to ride with kids she knows, kids she likes and kids who go to her school and understandably Leah doesn’t want to be late to school every day. Yes, Lucy’s bus gets her to school late and picks her up from school early EVERY single day. Schools make a big deal out of being late, but they wave it entirely when it is their fault, which may be fine in theory but would you want to be the kid in the wheelchair who rides a bus with no one you know, who arrives to school late every single day and sits at the back of the room? Sounds like punishment, not school.
This morning the driver called and told us she would be arriving at our home at 8:45. Lucy quietly said, “I don’t want to be late on the first day.” We loaded Lucy and her manual chair into the car and took her to school. We left the heavy power wheelchair for the bus driver to deliver later. This is all after Lucy refused to eat breakfast, forcing herself to dry heave when offered toast, smoothie, juice anything. She cried 4 or 5 times about nothing and everything and I can’t blame her.