My 14 year old graduates from 8th grade today – doesn’t that sound so normal?

It does, doesn’t it?

It’s so ordinary. Everyone who’s had a 14 year old goes through this. Maybe at 13, if they had a late birthday. But we all go through this.

Today, I will sit in a gym, on a bleacher or in a folding chair, and watch 8th graders in their newest dresses and nice shirts and Converse shoes file by and get a diploma. My daughter will be one of them. We will be one in a crowd, a snapshot in time where we shall blend a little. There will be others there, who don’t know my daughter, who won’t know how many disabilities she has or how hard she’s worked to get to the level she’s at.

I don’t know how she’s going to manage this – will she collect her diploma and shake hands and be good with that? Or will she bounce up onto the stage, give people hugs, shout “Woohoo!” to the crowd? It’s an either/or really.

Friday, they had a special ceremony for all the kids in her program who are graduating. A private gathering for students, teachers, peer tutors, and parents. A ceremony of their own, because not every child will be able to get through today’s ceremony (though all are given the option.) They had a party afterwards as well. The teachers went all-out on every aspect of it, and honestly, it was way more than I expected going into it.

The one thing that struck me though, looking at the peer tutors – other 7th and 8th graders – and my daughter, was how different my daughter was. Among her classmates in her program, she blended a bit. But around the other students, the “traditional” students, she just looked…younger. Even though she is as tall as most. Even though her clothes are from similar stores they shop at. Even though she’s the same age or even older than some. She just looked younger.

I don’t expect my girl to blend – because she’s my girl, and we don’t blend. But it was unexpected, to see her next to a typical 14 year old, and to see the differences.

But today – today she’ll be part of the crowd. Will she blend? That’s up to her. But there will be this moment in time where she will just be another 8th grader. And I will appreciate that moment, even while appreciating all the extraordinary that went into getting to this moment.

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