We are big on security blankets in our house. At least, the girls in the house are. (Ray’s was lost at an early age, though he maintains his favorite color, seafoam green, was inspired by none other than his baby blanket.)
Annabelle has a half dozen blankets — including “Special,” or “Spesh” that she carries around from bed to couch. (Luckily not out of the house.) Sophie’s aren’t blankets, per se, but at least one of her three Piglets is with her at all the times I’ll allow.
And I have Rosie, my security blanket from childhood, just a crumb of her once splendid self but still, a literal comfort.
Both girls are a little obsessed with Rosie. I recently confided in Annabelle that when I was her age, and I was sad about leaving Rosie at home, I’d always promise to bring her back a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’ve since heard Annabelle do the same.
“I soft Rosie the blanket?” Sophie asks when she arrives at my bedside, much too early these days. (Damn that Big Girl Bed. More on it later.)
So you see, security blankets are big in our house. Can’t rest without ’em.
This morning I realized I’ve formed another similar attachment, as I sat across the table from her at Starbucks.
I had no idea what Ms. X was going to say. She’d been so mysterious, calling this meeting about Sophie and insisting, “we’ll need coffee”.
Of course, she always needs coffee — me, too — so that could have meant a lot, or nothing at all.
When I arrived, Ms. X was already preparing her oatmeal and complaining bitterly about how Starbucks was out of venti cups. Another scary sign: She was on time. (I, as usual, was a little late. Sophie had required an extra hug as I tried to sneak out the door.)
We chatted about random stuff til I couldn’t stand it anymore, then finally I said, “OK, what about Sophie?”
Ms. X took a deep breath. She admitted that she’d been avoiding me, some, the last few weeks, because she was really thinking hard and doing research and observing Sophie. Also holding back from Sophie herself, to see if Sophie was able to do tasks on her own.
And her conclusion, she said, is that Sophie will be ready for first grade next year.
I was stunned.
Not completely. I had wondered if this would happen, in anticipation of budget cuts and Draconian measures like a possible no-exception rule on no retentions. Yeah, yeah, all that could happen, Ms. X said, but she insisted she wants me to know that she observed Sophie with none of that in mind.
I believe her. I think. (This is where I wish I had a bit more of Sophie in me, and could simply accept good news, which this ultimately was. I think.)
“Don’t decide anything today,” Ms. X said. She explained her thought processes on the whole thing — that Sophie has mastered her academics (knows her letters, numbers sounds) and needs extra help in writing, but is already able to compose simple sentences. (Really?!)
Perhaps even more important, Ms. X added, is the social element. When Sophie began kindergarten, Ms. X expected that if the kids interacted with her, it would be in strictly a caregiver role. That has happened some, but increasingly, she said, Sophie is relating to this group as peers. As friends.
“She leads the kids in `duck, duck, goose’ and they play on the playground together,” Ms. X said. “They aren’t just taking care of her.” (She admitted there’s some of that going on, though less and less.)
“So you don’t think she needs to go to the school for the retarded kids?” I asked (politically incorrect, I know).
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t.”
Ms. X offered to tutor Sophie over the summer — she is worried she’ll regress with out it, and Sophie won’t qualify for summer enrichment. (Damn the school district. Even if she did, it’s a crappy program.)
Next year’s still a wildcard, in a lot of ways, Ms. X said. For all she knows, all-day kindergarten will go away and she’ll get reassigned — to what, she’s not sure. (I’m quite certain from what I know that she’ll have a job at the school, not to worry — too much — there.)
You know, to a person, everyone I’ve talked to (including on this blog) with any knowledge of special education law has been horrified that Sophie’s in this typical kindergarten classroom with 19 other kids, one teacher and no aide. No official extra assistance to speak of at all, really. No attention from the principal, the district special ed folks, nothing.
Maybe it’s just dumb luck or some stupid risk taking, but if you asked me today, I’d tell you that’s the best thing that could have happened to Sophie — so far, at least. She has risen to the challenge. At least, that’s what Ms. X says.
And I trust Ms. X completely.
Like I said yesterday, I wasn’t relishing the thought of Sophie staying back while these other kids — a wonderful bunch, with whom she’s really bonded — moved ahead. But she would have been staying back with Ms. X. And I’ll admit, Ms. X has become my security blanket.
Today she took that away. And replaced it with something much, much better.
What do you say to the person who gives you that gift? I couldn’t think of a thing, so I gave Ms. X a hug, as we got up to leave. And when she noticed they’d finally gotten some venti cups in, I bought her another iced coffee — to go. It was time for school.