Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lessons From School Picture Day

Those on the periphery may think that us special needs parents are constantly and completely, 100% of the time, dealing with medical issues, developmental delays, and all the things that make our kids different from typical peers. While for some this may be true, I find myself not necessarily dwelling on all the things that make Jack unique. I've been a big advocate of "my kid is just my kid." A normal day for us probably looks a lot different than the majority, but what else do I know? This is our life and we have gotten so used to it that I often forget. My bubble is my safety and usually I can remain in that safe space.

I don't think of Jack in terms of special needs, micro preemie, cerebral palsy, or any label all that much... until I have a morning like I did today. All it takes is to be around typically developing kids, in an enclosed environment, and someone expecting Jack to "just do x, y, and z, and we should be good!"

Today was school picture day.

A day entirely not up Jack's alley. A big room. Not his classroom. Lots of new kids, adults, smells and noises. A stranger trying to make him stand in a twelve inch square. After Jack not standing in the magic square for picture perfection for even ten seconds, me politely asking if he could please sit while his picture is taken. A chair? Well, yes. Trying to get a cheesy smile when I know for a fact that there are a million other places he'd rather be. A million things he'd rather do. Confusion. Tears.

Why did I even subject him to that? Well, because, it's school pictures! Everyone gets school pics, right? They are adorable. A right of passage. I don't want Jack left out. Special needs won't get in the way of this! I want to be that parent who shows the school picture to everyone. I want to carry around his super adorable photo in my wallet. I want Jack to fit in, just one of the kids. And me, just one of the moms.

And therein lies the truth.

School picture day became so much more about me than about him. He does not care. It's me, his mom, who cared enough to get worked up and shed a few tears of her own about something like school pictures.

Yes, special needs life is hard. It's hard when surgeries come up. It's hard when I long to hear my boy's voice. It's hard when people just don't get it. But sometimes (and what I'm still figuring out) it's my own hang ups, my own feelings of inadequacy, my own dreams for Jack's life that are just projections I am placing on my boy. Maybe I choose to forget special needs as my own coping mechanism.

But Jack? He's good. I make things a lot harder than they need to be. Jack is happy. And he is perfectly fine not having a school photo.  

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Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, I've had picture days like that with my typically-developing children! Picture day is horrible and stressful - too much pressure!

~mara said...

I have to agree with the above comment. Picture day is all about me. When they were younger, my daughter cared about picture day and wanted to be beautiful. I loved that she was easy and willing. My boys? Would have preferred to sit in ISS than go through the torment of having their picture taken in torn tshirts and dirty shorts, much less the dress slacks and button down shirts I wanted to stuff them in. My kids are significantly older now - my youngest is 11 - and I've loosened some of those strings. It was hard for me, but we don't do dress up for pictures anymore. They wear what they want within the school districts dress code and I don't push my issues on them. We may not even get Senior pictures for my oldest this year because he doesn't want them.

Amy said...

Oh pictures school pictures! HATE them - so I am going to DITTO all the above including YOURS!!! What is it with "us moms" and dang school pictures? :-) AND as far as senior pictures, my Jack had his done in August and I picked the one that will go in the year book and that's it. It's October and I've not made any effort to order's NOT him AT ALL!!! He's stuffed in a tuxedo looking thing...NOT him at all. I khakis and a tshirt - yes, soccer uniform, yes. Not sure what to do..because I want the "oh here is my kid wallet picture too".

Jessi said...

So glad you all can relate! I put too much pressure on those childhood experiences, stuff that doesn't even matter to my boy!

Shannon said...

Why Noodle still has her "school pictures" at home. :) Jackpants is so lucky anyway to have a way more talented than any school photographer as a mama!!

Anonymous said...

Wow....occasionally I come on your blog to read. I do not have a developmentally-delayed child or a preemie, or a child with any kind of disability. I have an 18 year old daughter, my only child, the love of my life. She is a freshman at Clemson University in South Carolina. And your "picture day" blog just OPENED MY EYES. It made me realize how much I want my daughter to do for ME, not for HER. For ME to be happy, and proud, and content. And so I thank you. Thank you for opening my eyes to a lot of things I have been doing wrong!

Jessi said...

Oh wow! Thanks for that comment. Parenting is hard stuff, huh? No matter if our kids have medical issues or not. So glad to hear your thoughts.