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The End of the Elementary School Era

I still clearly remember Jordan’s first day of Kindergarten. I was so strong in front of her. We walked to school with Cameron and other kids in the neighborhood. There was picture time with the kids in front of the school. Randy and I helped Jordan sit down with other new Kindergarteners in the hallway just outside the classroom door. Jordan was wearing her helper Disney Princess helper arm and was proudly wearing an outfit she picked out for her first day. Kids stared at her and she held strong. I held strong. But I got teary as I walked away from her sitting in the hallway. I was so worried elementary school would break her.

Last night, Jordan graduated from elementary school. All of her classmates got to wear fancy dresses and there was a pizza party planned afterward. We are on the cusp of a new era. I won’t have a connection to our town’s elementary schools anymore. I’ll have a middle schooler and a high schooler. I’ll have tween and teen attitude everywhere. But most of all, I won’t have that elementary school simplicity.

Each time my kids move into a new phase, I get super nervous. I try to do what I can to support Jordan’s opportunity to grow stronger. I encourage her school leadership to offer Jordan support but give her time to find her own solutions. That tactic has helped Jordan to grow into a very strong, hard-headed kid. (And if you ask her teachers, there are pros and cons to that personality.) As Jordan gets older, I have less control over her environment and I just have to hope she is growing up to be able to manage the mean kids and the misinformed kids. She has an amazing crew of friends who surround her with support and periodic drama. (Because they’re 11. That’s how it works.) I can only hope her new school and her friends will support Jordan in her ongoing quest to help the misinformed kids get past their reactions to a physical difference.

I had a meeting with Jordan’s new school to review her middle school 504 plan recently. Her 504 plan focuses on any adaptive needs Jordan may have during the school day. But we also talked about the cultural challenges Jordan may face in a school where many kids have never seen her before. It’s very possible there are students attending the school who have never seen a limb difference before. The sixth-grade school counselor says Jordan is the first limb different kid she’s supported in her career.

Jordan’s elementary school nurse attended our middle school meeting with insight on how the school did (and really didn’t have to) adapt to Jordan’s needs. As Jordan has gotten older, she’s needed less support. She has friends she leans on. She rarely asks adults for help. Her school knows her and knows Jordan finds her own solutions. But we have to start over. We need her new school to know Jordan figures out her world with one hand in a way two-handed people don’t understand. She will have a locker, a trumpet, and a schedule that takes her to different parts of the building.

The new guidance counselor mentioned how she hoped middle school doesn’t erase Jordan’s strong and positive attitude. Obviously, that is my fear at each big each educational milestone. As preschool ended, I got so nervous, I found a photographer who could help me capture Jordan’s strength and power, in case she’d need to go back and look at those times. (She never needed the photos. But I think I did.)

As elementary school ends, I am making sure Jordan has her friends as support. I’m hopeful some of her chief supporters will be able to see Jordan in the hallways, have lunch together, and hopefully take a few classes together. Parents are less important as she gets older. I know she has good kids in her life. They come with great parents who I adore.

I’m nervous. Jordan is nervous. She’s excited. But as we enter each new stage, I know we’ll all learn a lot along the way. And I’m lucky to have this space to share it with you.

2 Comments

  1. April Benson on May 23, 2017 at 9:16 am

    That was beautifully written Jen. You have given her all the tools and you will continue to do so and I am certain she will thrive! She has an amazing unsquashable spirit. I have faith that she will persevere against any challenges she might face. With you and Randy and Cam as cheerleaders she is going to continue to shine!

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