Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Community For Claire

Put 300+ grade school aged children on a track with festive gear, matching shirts, a DJ and punch cards to count their laps; then tell them to walk... over and over.  Right, it was as crazy as it sounds, but I loved every minute of it.  I couldn't even think about what an answer to our prayers Claire's new school was and how evident that fact was throughout this walk-a-ton or I would have surely burst into tears walking around the track.  Our prayer for Claire is that she will be accepted into a community of her peers, valued for who she is and able to participate. 

Claire/Nate, Claire/Miss Clare, Claire/a friend holding hands for a lap
Each grade was color coded so even though I didn't know many of the other children at Claire's new school I could see what grade they were in.  I was blown away by the number of children that welcomed Claire by name.  Students from all grade levels knew her and asked to take a lap with their friend Claire.  Some of them were walking with their families and proudly introduced their parents and siblings to Claire.  "She is so cute" and "Can we keep her?" was said a lot!

Alice and Nate at the Walk-a-thon 

I did however get a little misty talking to the mom of a second grade boy who plays with Claire at recess and frequently asks his mom to take her home.  I knew she was telling the truth because her adorable son and his totally awesome classmates frequently head me off when I'm picking Claire up from school early to go to therapy or doctor's appointments saying "Can she stay? Oh man, it was my turn to play with Claire today." This mom gave me her number to do park dates this summer so they don't lose touch.  I am almost speechless, almost... 

Claire and Me
Family dinner in the cafeteria after our 7 laps 
I love her missing front teeth!


Thank you God for these insightful, intentional parents and teachers.  They are raising the generation that will grow to be Claire's advocates by creating a culture that encourages real community, the beautiful, messy kind.  They know the truth, that raising our children to be outstanding citizens starts now.  It requires experiences, relationships and friendships with children who are deferent than them.  One parent told me that she is so grateful that her son has the opportunity to go into the special education class room as a buddy.  Her son said "I love my brother but I wish I could trade him for Claire."  Yeah, this school has a Montessori program that spends time volunteering in Claire's DI ("Designed Instruction" AKA Special Ed) class... awesome! I can't even begin to explain how different this is from Claire's experience earlier this year in Kindergarten. 

If that wasn't amazing enough, the very next week Claire received the Citizen of the Month award for the first grade at her school assembly.  I just want to go around hugging everyone and I would if I knew they all liked hugs.  

Claire's new school has been a greater blessing then I even could have asked for, heaps of blessing and on the very tippy top of the pile of amazing is a warm, energetic, talented, kind, teacher named Clare.  Every time I say her name it makes me smile, "Miss Clare."  I imagine how special my little miss Claire feels walking in every morning "Hi Miss Claire," "well hi Claire..." 

Miss Clare and little miss Claire
"Moooooo"

The students are working on first and last name and it was the cutest thing picking her up on Friday as she said goodbye and gave hugs to all of her friends by their full names as they replied "Goodbye Claire Leitz."   

Funny story: the first week Claire came home mispronouncing her last name. Actually, she was saying it how most people do the first time.  I let her teacher know it was "lights" and she was very apologetic.  Honestly, I thought it was hilarious!  Claire still does it from time to time as a joke "I'm Claire Leets" with a little eye roll, such a goof.  

We are so very grateful to this community welcoming our very special little girl and making her feel so at home after a season of floundering and transitions almost every year.