Progress report

As a 4th grade teacher, I break down the school year like this. The summer blends into the fall, which is like a preseason of sorts. If all goes well, you feel pretty good once you reach Thanksgiving break. The real season begins in December when students are who they are and the honeymoon is over.

This leads to the New Year, which continues to my regular season of optimism and expectations. It’s my way of keeping my eyes on the calendar and recognizing that time is short and I need to reach benchmarks for that I have for each student and evaluate those goals once i hit each vacation.

I have the same philosophy with my own kids. I take inventory of what they do well, what they are struggling with, and how my wife and I can support them. It’s almost like a mini offseason.

My older children are fairly simple to keep up with right now. With Evelyn, she’s a 6th grader. We monitor her progress through what we see, what she shares, what we know, and what she asks for help with.

With Cobe, he’s a 3rd grade student, who thus far doesn’t have a lot of difficulty other than staying motivated to do his best. However, things come easy to him and has the ability to rise to the challenge when pushed. Like Evelyn, he loves to learn.

Then there is Sawyer. He comes home with notes in his binder each day. It can range from reports, snacks that he ate, things that he tried at recess, to work that he has completed.

Out of the three kids, I feel like I look at what Sawyer does with HD/3D/4K glasses whereas the others I view with binoculars. It really does feel like that much of a discrepancy.

Now, I’m for one that believes that you can love each one of your kids differently. However, when I get to a vacation like this one in February, I become almost in shock on how I’ve distributed my time with my own kids.

As present as I feel that I attempt to be as their dad, I do realize the importance of spending time with each of my kids individually and collectively.

So for the excitement I reached when Sawyer laughed at the appropriate time at a scene in the movie theatre. I was able to match that excitement when Cobe made an over the shoulder catch while we were outside tossing the football around. It was also important to stop what I was doing when Evelyn came home to share news about her gymnastics practice.

Though I’m happy to have made it to another vacation, I’m even happier to recognize areas that I need to fine tune.

Let’s face it, I’m human. I’m fatally flawed as I believe we all are. However, like Sawyer’s binder of progress, I’m making mine too.

Dear 7,

Sawyer,

I used to think a birthday was a formality. Just another day on the calendar that would bring cake, presents, and balloons. This was until years after you were born that I understood the true meaning of February 20, 2011.

I remember that day. I remember taking for granted the notion of having another child. In 2011, I just felt that health, milestones, and the thought of a baby would be easy. That’s who I was back then. I was self consumed with the picture of a family but not the work that went into it.

When you came along that early morning, I held your finger. I smiled. I checked on your mother. I wondered when I’d get your brother and sister to meet you. And I rushed through the the joy of you being with us.

I did so because I thought of you as being the next child in the family. That you would come home and your life would be like that of your brother and sister.

But that wasn’t you. You struggled from the moment you got home. Your legs wobbled when I held your hands. You couldn’t hold your own bottle. You had little words to speak.

As each year passed, you had to work that much harder. As your peers walked, you didn’t. As your peers played, you didn’t. As Autism arrived, you ran with it.

The beauty of your narrative is that it continues to grow. You continue to reach milestones that we didn’t know you would reach.

That’s what I now take with me as we celebrate you. I no longer look at a birthday as a formality but a gift to celebrate. Today we celebrate you and I celebrate the appreciation of what you have given me. It’s 7 years of life that has made me my best version. And that’s a lot to celebrate.

With love,

Daddy

Give him a chance

Sawyer was ready. He’s been ready for nearly a month. It was almost like the countdown to Christmas because being invited to a peers birthday party was that big of deal in these parts.

It’s not just the invite alone that was exciting. It’s the recognition that Sawyer isn’t little anymore. He’s almost 7. Friendships are beginning to form and we are wondering how he will fit in or can he?

The progress is there. I see it. I see the work that is being put in behind the scenes. From the social groups, to reading, to the fight for independence. Like my son Cobe said recently, “daddy, Sawyer would never been able to do that 3 years ago.”

He’s right and he was referring to raising his hand to tell someone his choice of food.

Now there are moments that are frustrating too. Such as a recent trip out, Sawyer HAD to use the bathroom in each place we stopped at. For whatever reason, he is fixated on the sound of the toilet flushing. It’s how his brain works. It’s a part of the gift of Autism. It’s endearing the first time but not the 15th!

However, it’s who he is. And I love that about him.

I also love that when the lights went out during his friends birthday party, he wasn’t worried. He knew it was part of the bounce house theme. He could roll with it.

He jumped. He ran. He checked in with me to tell me he was having fun.

I don’t know how it will all play out in the future. I don’t know what friendships will be to Sawyer. I do know that today was a chance. Today, Sawyer was given one.