Yesterday was Noah's birthday yet it has taken me a full day to process my 15 year old is now 16. Why? 16 is only 365 days older than 15. It's no big deal, right?
Not for me.
This month we had Noah's transitional IEP. Since Noah would be turning 16 before his next IEP, Special School District begins looking at his case a little bit differently. Things get real. The SSD case manager begins asking questions like what path/future do you see for your child. Do you see him working full time in a competitive job? Part-time? Volunteer work only? Does he have stamina to work a 4-5 hour shift?
Next came a question I've wondered about, but had never addressed formally with educators
Is Noah pursuing a high school diploma or a certificate of completion?
When the SSD case manager asked the question, I didn't answer immediately. Instead other members of Noah's educational team began wrestling with the question aloud.
"I don't know. This is so hard. I see so much potential in him. He is smart in so many ways." said Cindy, Noah's OT/counselor/friend. (She has been part of our journey since Noah was five years old.)
(I've heard this kind of talk for most of Noah's school career, yet, he's now 16 and test scores and his current output of work seem to point his future in another direction. In my heart I knew but my mouth remained silent)
Next came a voice from an educator, an expert and someone I consider my friend. Always kind, and patient, yet firm and convicted. She spoke up when I couldn't.
"I think he is 16 now and it's time. I think a certificate of completion is appropriate," said Mary, Miriam School Head of School.
When she spoke I knew it was true. In my mind I envisioned a set of heavy doors slamming shut. I began making a mental list of other things that were also true.
* Noah is almost 16, but he will never drive a car.
* Noah is 16, yet he isn't ready to leave our street without supervision
* Noah is 16, but I can't leave him home alone for more than an hour to run to the store.
It was like I was trying to punish myself for letting go. For giving up or giving in.
But, Mary spoke up again, her voice pulled me from the negative mental vortex I was dragging myself down into.
"I think Noah would be a good candidate for the Succeed program at UMSL."
(I had never heard of this before, however, the idea of Noah taking part in a college program gave me a flutter of hope -- his path may not be straight, but the opportunities are still wide open)
Hope floats, it raises you up so you can tackle another day.
Yesterday Noah turned 16, but I turned a corner. I'm less fearful for what lies ahead. I'm talking to God more. I'm letting go...of 15, anyway.
Happy 16th Birthday Noah!
I may need to look up - to look you in the eye and I may not be able to carry you in my arms, but...
"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as your living, my baby you'll be."