On my way to work today I found myself smiling in my car because 5 days ago Kendall graduated from 8th grade. She walked, ran actually, (Kendall speed) across the stage confidently, met the principal halfway, got her diploma and marched off so proudly. 3 kids from her class graduated and this was the first time, from my understanding, that her school had them walk. I laid it out in her IEP how it could and should be done, as she's just as deserving as anyone else, and they listened and implemented what I suggested and it was perfect. Literally PERFECT. I think the 3 kids graduating from her special ed class got the loudest and most cheers. That alone gives me hope that our teens, even adults and maybe even the world(at least in our liberal bubble of the Bay Area) is headed in the right direction.
As I drove to work, I thought of 13 years of IFSP's or IEP's that I have sat through and battled for what she needs. I remembered learning about IFSP's then IEP's as she entered school. I remember talking to a lot of people with a lot of opinions, trying to learn and understand how they work or should work. I remember getting great advice and having a lot of support. I also remember feeling like I was doing this alone as there wasn't enough advice or support out there because everything with Kendall was always just "we'll wait and see". That's a hard way to live. I'd rather know the worst and deal with it and heal then wait and see and not know what might happen. I thought about every single surgery she has had, all the hospital stays, how every February she gets pneumonia and how stressful that is, and how for the past 4 or 5 years I've managed to keep her out of the hospital by the grit of my teeth. I thought about everything that was told to me the day she was born and even months after. All the things she may not do. Would she even live a long life? I thought of how I spent, what felt like years, so sad over who she should have and could have been if she was just born a "typical" child. I remembered bursting into tears after a surgery when everything went wrong and she was at risk and by at risk they meant for dying. I remembered how I had never cried during an IEP until 6th grade, that one was so sad for me. I was so tired of hearing about how she didn't meet her goals or pass this or that test and just losing it(in front of a ton of strangers I might add). There has been a lot of sad over the years, probably more than most have experienced or could even understand. However, there I was smiling in my car.
Smiling because from 7th grade til now, in just 2 short years, Kendall has blossomed. She started to talk and literally never stops. You may not understand it all but lord she talks and talks and talks. She has become her brothers, who are majorly into sports, biggest cheerleader. Not only does she cheer for them though, she cheers for their entire team. Literally, she remembers each players name and cheers for them when they are up to bat or playing soccer or basketball etc. She cheers loudly, from her heart. If Brady goes down in soccer or baseball she bursts into tears immediately because she cares THAT MUCH. Imagine what it would look like if everyone cared that much!? She then gets herself together and asks "what happened?" and wants to know if everyone is ok. She's opinionated about clothes, about where we go and what we are doing, and where she sleeps(only wants to sleep in her own bed at home with Sadie, her saint of a dog). She talks about her friends at school, her amazing amazing teacher who has helped her become this confident teenager over the past 2 years, her aides at school who are also saints, she talks about food......OMG does she love food. Her heart is filled with love for her family and friends. Filled with love for complete strangers and even some boys. Love pours out of her and I sit here smiling because 13 years ago, I couldn't picture her graduating 8th grade and me being thrilled about it. But I'm more than thrilled. I don't even have the words to say how I feel to be honest. It was by far one of the best days of my life watching her walk across that stage knowing how far she has come in 13 years. She's dealt with far more crap in life than anyone else I know and she's still filled with happiness and joy 90(ish) % of the time.
I'll never stop saying this, she is by far the best teacher in my life. Without her, I know I wouldn't be who or where I am today. I'm just better in so many ways due to just being her mom. Sometimes I think I have been given this little gift/insight to certain parts of life that others don't have because of Kendall. I truly enjoy the small things. Without her I think I would have overlooked them so easily. I would have taken so much for granted like the boys abilities in sports or academics or whatever it may be. She made me a far better parent to them. I'm far from perfect, don't get me wrong, but I am so much better with her in my life. It's been such a ride raising her with emotions ranging all over the place. Yet I'm still smiling all because of one, what seems so simple, walk across a stage to get her 8th grade diploma. Kendall, I can't wait to see what else you have in store for me. Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. I am so so so so proud of you.
- Courtney Powers-Graff
- Married mom of 3 not so little ones anymore but they still keep me grinning and giggling(most of the time). Kendall, age 12, Brady age 8 almost 9 and "baby" Chase who is 7. I have been married for 14.5 years to Dan Graff, who I think is the best dad ever to our kids. He certainly makes me grin and giggle to this very day. I have spent my non mom career working in recruiting on and off over the years recruiting Software Engineers. Other than my kids my most favorite thing to do in the entire word is ride horses followed by Kung Fu, where I earned my purple belt last year. I have been riding since I was 8 years old, with some time off here and there but I always go back to it. As Winston Churchill said, "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man"(or woman in this case)!