Mya attends a wonderful Montessori school near our house. Her first day at this school, when she was 3, I was pregnant with Ellie. And I pictured my girls at this school. I pictured myself dropping them off together. I pictured Mya helping her sister with her bag. I pictured them there, learning together. But I have learned that although my visions of my children have changed, they are only altered, not abandoned. At one of our first appointments with our occupational therapist, I mentioned my dream of Mya and Ellie attending Montessori school together. She pursed her lips, had a sadness in her eyes, and with honesty, not cruelty or negativity, told me this dream may not follow through. She told me that with a private school they have the option to say no to Ellie, not because they don’t want her, but because they may not be able to handle her. Being a small school they may not have the resources to accept a child with special needs. This thought hung in the back of my brain as I brought Ellie with me to pick up Mya. I have never mentioned it to Mya’s school because I don’t know what Ellie’s needs will be when she is ready to attend preschool. One of the requirements for Mya to begin their program was to be potty trained, and realistically I don’t know if Ellie will be potty trained by the age of 3.
Today Mya had an open house at her school to prepare her for her first day back from summer break on Tuesday. When we walked in the door, Mya ran to her teacher, hugging her and telling her about her summer, while Ellie stood in the doorway. Normally Ellie is really shy in social situations, while energetic and joyful around people she knows, she is timid and bashful when confronted with people she doesn’t know. Mya’s teacher looked at Ellie and said, “Ellie you are so big! Look at you!” Ellie stood for a moment and looked at her, then she ran to her, and hugged her and laughed. I couldn’t believe she remembered her. Mya’s teacher picked up Ellie and said, “you’ll have your time at school soon too!” As we continued on our open house we saw Mya’s principal who also hugged Ellie and said, “when are you starting school dear?” I didn’t know what to say. I had kept the thought of Ellie here in a waiting pattern, not willing to look at options till later. But as I was talking to the principal I slipped, “I can’t wait for Ellie to come here in a year.” The words bursted out of my mouth like a nervous teenager. She looked at me and said, “I know, I can’t believe she’s almost two!” Was this a conversation about Ellie attending school here? Was this a normal conversation any parent would have? I continued, “I know you have a requirement for kids to be potty trained before they start but i don’t know if Ellie will be potty trained by next year, but we would love for her to attend here.” And at that point we had a brief conversation about the reality of Ellie attending Montessori school, and you know what happened? It wasn’t a big deal at all. It was the same conversation I’d had about Mya attending this school. There were no issues, no hesitations, no denials. Ellie was treated like a normal kid, she will go to the same school as Mya. They will put their back packs up on hooks in the same cubby room. They will share snacks and fight over friends, and when Ellie needs a reassuring hug in the middle of the day, her older sister will be there to grant her wishes. More alike than different, a mantra I will repeat many times. How could anyone, especially a school, say no to Ellie, the world is changing, I know it. I drove home from the open house feeling a warmth in my heart, I was waiting for acceptance when it was there the whole time.
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