On Friday I took the kids to Kortright Maple Syrup Farm to meet Sebastian’s class for a school field trip. We were running late due to a morning appointment and I wavered between going and staying home. The clouds hung heavy and rain was in the forecast. The kids really wanted to go, regardless of how late we would be. I was nervous. It was a 45 minute drive outside of the city to an area I hadn’t been before and I would be taking the kids on my own. When you have a kiddo with additional needs and a pretty energetic toddler, that can be a frightening prospect. I decided to take a leap and step out of my comfort zone. And it was awesome.
We arrived in time to have lunch with Sebastian’s classmates, which the kids were super excited about. Tallula, not surprisingly, is an honorary member of class and really gets along with one of the girls that has basically seen her grow up as she’s been in Seb’s class for the past 3 years. Everyone was happy to see Sebastian and he was glad to be there. After lunch, we tried some pancakes and the delicious maple syrup, stopped in at the gift shop, and then parted ways for a self tour as the rest of the class had to head back to school.
The first challenge was making it down the very steep hill with Sebastian’s very heavy wheelchair. While it is a paved path, there is some gravel and I was less than confident with the traction in my boots. I definitely envisioned loosing my footing and being dragged down the hill behind Sebastian’s chair, refusing to let go, much like I was as a child by our dog Boo Bear who had gotten off his leash during hunting season. But we made it and the uphill climb upon return was perhaps studier albeit short breath inducing.
We joined a few of the other school groups having demonstrations along the path so that we could learn first how the native americans tapped sap and turned it into syrup, then the pioneers, and finally the folks of the future, the ones with electricity. The kids really enjoyed the demonstrations and as most of the groups were secondary students they were very thoughtful in moving aside so the kids could see, as well as made sure we had a clear path with the wheelchair. I did spot one of them trying to snap some photos of Tallula looking in the fake tap buckets (she’s so cute!); while it’s sweet, I always worry her photo will end up on someone’s Facebook page. I suppose a hazard of said future/present. Modern times.
The last stop was the Sugar Shack, which was set up outside due to a fallen tree during last weeks’ ice storm. There was a primary school group in front of us so we went up close with them, partially because we blend in because the kids were similar age group and also so the kids could see. Of course, we do not blend in at all. There were a few kids at the front that decided Sebastian was more interesting to point, stare, whisper, and then -yes- giggle at, instead of learning about the journey of the maple sap to syrup. I was really trying to ignore them. I smiled and tried to act like we were just a family there to learn about maple syrup because that is actually what we are and were trying to do. I didn’t see their teacher nearby. Tallula sidled up close to Sebastian and started making her whining sound that she makes when she is not happy with the outcome of something or if something isn’t going her way. I could tell she was not sure about these kids and how they were acting. Some moments are teachable and some moments you just want to experience life and not have to be the one educating all the time.
So that I can take my kids out on my own and just enjoy the time with them, I am reaching out to the teachers. Teachers. Teach your students about differences. Teach them about acceptance and inclusion. Teach them about kindness and curiosity. Teach them about asking questions and saying hello. Teach them that kids are kids first. And they can have many things in common with kids that are different from themselves. If your school is still in the ‘dark ages’ (as I can refer to my own youth now that I’m on my own way to 40), and doesn’t include kids with disabilities in your classroom, or even in your school, then teach them about kids that are different because it will help them become a better person. Because society should include everyone. And they will grow up to be contributing members of society. Because in our own way, we all are.
I finally had to stop the kids and remind them that they were missing the entire presentation. I am tired of teaching kids that we encounter how important it is to be open minded and curious while also being kind. I am tired of teaching kids not to point or stare. Whispers and giggling was new for us. I’ve reached out to parents. And now I’m reaching out to the teachers that take these kids out into the wide world where they have the opportunity to expand the bubble that they experience at their non-inclusive school. And I’m pleading you, take it. Because honestly, I can’t do this alone.
That said, I had a really, super-duper, fantastic time with my kids. All on my own. I did it! It felt so good to get out of my comfort zone and experience a new adventure far from home with Sebastian and Tallula. I used to take so many risks before I became a mom. When your child is born not breathing, it changes you. A lot. So for me, stepping out of my comfort zone is a big deal! And I did it. There were no meltdowns. Not mishaps. No lost kids. Everything was fine. It was fun. Tallula is more than a toddler these days too. She’s her own little person. And she’s growing up to be quite a fine one, if I do say so myself.
Where to next?