Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How a Necklace Led me to Thankfulness

I carefully unclasped my daughter's necklace and took it off of her neck before I put her in the bath. I had put the necklace on her at 8 am, before school, and she had worn it all day until 8 pm.

Before she got out of the car for school in the morning, proudly wearing her necklace.

This was the first time my eleven year old with special needs has ever in her life worn a necklace all day for that long without ever once trying to rip it off because of sensory issues.

It made me thankful for the amazing therapist who used to patiently help my daughter to try and get used to the feeling of wearing jewelry without yanking on it and breaking it. So I sent that therapist a message and a picture of her wearing the necklace. We texted back and forth, rejoicing together about something so small - a little necklace - but it was huge to me.

Still wearing the necklace all afternoon...

Why such a big deal, to learn to wear a necklace without ripping it off? Because it was important to my daughter. She loves jewelry and fashion. She wants to wear necklaces. She had to learn how to wear one, and it took years to get used to it.

When I unpacked her backpack from school, I read a note from her 6th grade teacher that told  me she worked on spelling words and counting money values. It made me so thankful for the sweet patient teacher who helped her get this far. She believed in my daughter's hidden intelligence, even though she is unable to speak.

The necklace my daughter wore was a gift from the patient teacher I was remembering. She gave it to her on her last school day with my daughter, inside an engraved music box that says "You will achieve great things."

I sent the teacher a message with a picture, told her about how school has been going, and thanked her for teaching my daughter years ago.

"You will achieve great things." Every time I look at this, I tear up. Such a gift, to have others believe in my child.

I unpacked my son's kindergarten backpack and pulled out the pages where he had so carefully traced numbers from one to ten. I thought about all of the meticulous cutting and gluing he has been doing at home on his own - for fun - over the last few weeks. The scraps all over our floor each day are evidence of this. It made me thankful for the occupational therapist who lovingly helped my little guy practice using scissors, draw with markers, and get used to the sticky sensation of glue that he hated so much. I thought about all of the time she spent helping him learn to focus on and complete an activity or project. If she could only see all the projects he has completed since her last OT session with him many months ago.

I sent her a message and thanked her.

I didn't teach my son to do this. Other people did. I know who they were, and I'm thankful.

I thought of the conversation I had with my son's kindergarten teacher, where I told her that he had had a severe speech delay and many people worked very hard to help him though his early years. She was shocked. No one would ever guess that this little man, who delights me with every adorable conversation I have with him, was extremely frustrated in his inability to communicate basic needs and wants not so long ago, and that I spent long minutes deciphering and guessing his requests. Often with tears.

I sent a message and thanked the speech therapist who helped both my son and daughter make amazing strides, through her skill, encouragement, and unwavering belief in their potential for communication and expressing intelligence.

I think of every teacher each of my children has ever had. I remember them all, their encouragement, their hugs and smiles for my children, their patience, their love.

These people my children have had come alongside of them to help them learn and grow...they are gifts to me. And there are so many.

I think of all of the therapists and teachers we have ever known for all of our children. How do you thank a person for touching a life? How do you tell a person that their encouragement, skill, and commitment to help your child has forever affected the entire family and lives of all who surround this child?

Teacher appreciation week falls miserably short. End of the year teacher gifts are a paltry offering that can never express our immense gratitude. Therapists do not even have a special day or week of appreciation. Dance teachers, music teachers, really anyone who has ever loved my children and helped them in any way, even if it seemed small...these are all people I wish I could forever thank as I watch my children grow and succeed. The love is what I remember most. I am thankful for those who really loved my children, because that love helped them to grow. The faces of many are popping into my mind, as I think of those who have loved my kids.

The only thing I can think to do is to continue to thank these teachers and therapists as my children grow. I will never forget them. I will never be able to thank them enough. I will never be able to show them all that they did to help my child.

All I can do is show them pictures, and tell them, "Thank you."

If any of them are reading this right now, I want them to know that I am always thankful for them and all that they did. When I look at each of my children, I see all of the people behind them who have helped them become who they are today.

You can do this too. Thank someone. Tell them today, on a random day that is not a "national appreciation day" of any kind. Send a little message. Snap a picture and text it or post it. They still think about your child, trust me.

I know I still think about my former students, and I was a teacher eight years ago, in another state...another lifetime. I look up former students to see how they are doing. I don't contact them, I just look at their picture and check to see what they are up to. Did they graduate? Are they going to college? Did they stay out of trouble? I wonder if they remember me, and how much I poured into them when I was their teacher many years ago. I looked up a few students last spring to see who graduated from a special class I had once. I teared up, to see these precious faces who were once children in my elementary school class staring out at me from the computer screen as teenagers. High school graduates. Young people with big plans. I was so proud! Sitting there in the dark, staring at my laptop screen by myself, my heart was happy for them.

Some students, I was not able to find. I wonder about them still.

If you have a child who has ever had a therapist, or is old enough to have had teachers, you can be sure they remember your child and wonder how they are doing now. Wouldn't it be fun to let them know?
A gift from a former therapist. Loved indeed.
Every time I look at this sign I am reminded about how much that therapist has loved my daughter.