This is Schuyler’s last week of summer vacation. I know she’s not exactly thrilled abut this, and to be honest, neither am I. This vacation felt more like a long weekend than a whole summer. On paper, this year looks pretty much like the last, and then it’ll all change again next year when she goes from high school to senior high school (her school district does it weirdly, with freshmen and sophomores at one campus and juniors and seniors at another), and then fly, be free, good luck with that whole adult life thing, and we hope you feel prepared, but whatever. So yeah. I’m not exactly giddy about going back to school. But this year, maybe I should try a little harder.
This year, things can be different.
This year, Schuyler will make friends. Not just the kind who say hi to her in the hall and are extremely nice to her, because I’m pleased to report that she’s got lots of those already. This year, however, Schuyler is going to make friends of depth. She’ll text them when she’s at home and she’ll go to the mall or movies with them. Hell, she can go rob liquor stores with them for all I care. But she’ll have these true friends, and they’ll be patient and will learn how to talk to her and how to listen, and she’ll have real role models (minus the liquor store thing) for age appropriate behavior, something she still struggles with. That’ll get better with the close friends she is merely days away from making.
When school starts next week, Schuyler is going to meet the teachers, or maybe just that one teacher, who will feel drawn to her and will work extra hard to reach her, to figure out how she learns and to create a truly inclusive learning environment for her. Last year was hit and miss, and honestly, I wouldn’t call it inclusion at all. But not this year. This year, it’s going to click.
A huge part of that inclusive environment will be Schuyler’s experience in marching band. Last year wasn’t what I’d call a success story; at one point, she decided to quit, and if things go that way this, I suspect we’ll have that tough conversation again, too. And I won’t have the bugbear of her being required to take PE anymore, either. But that’s not how it’s going to be. This year, Schuyler’s band directors are going to recognize the value of her participation. They’re going to see the girl on the front row of the pit percussion, the one with the giant smile on her face, the one trying to help everyone else do their jobs and they’re going to make sure she understands her own responsibilities. They’re going to make accommodations for her disability, and in return she’s going to give them her all. Schuyler’s all is a lot. Schuyler’s all is epic.
This year, somewhere in the halls or classrooms or cafeteria or football fields of her school, Schuyler is going to meet a boy. Probably a boy, I’ll say; we’ve had the discussion as recently as today about her options, and she told me in clear terms that she likes boys. So we’re going to go with that for now, with the understanding that she might discover otherwise down the road. But there’s someone at that school, probably a boy but certainly a very special person either way. That person is going to look at Schuyler and see a person, a lovely and fascinating young lady with secrets and a big loud laugh and a heart as big as the moon. That person is going to recognize how different she is, and he’s going to commit himself to doing the work, and not easy work at that, in order to get to know her and understand her and treat her with dignity and respect, and maybe just the very beginnings of something that looks a little bit like love.
This is going to be the year that Schuyler finds her way. This is going to be the year that no tense meetings will be called and no krakens will be released, a year without confused tears and crippling social anxiety and a father feeling like a failure because his daughter has again slipped into the cracks of the world. This is going to be Schuyler’s year.
Let’s get this started.
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