Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2004. Mattie was two and a half years old and during that time he was enrolled in a Montessori preschool in Washington, DC. As a fall field trip, the school took the kids to a pumpkin patch. For many reasons, I always went along on ALL field trips. As Mattie was in the patch, I snapped a picture of him. He and I both loved our trip to the farm that day, and ironically being in a pumpkin patch was a first for both of us that day. I must admit without Mattie in my life, I do forget that we are in the month of October and that Halloween is fast approaching. In a way Mattie was a compass for Peter and I. I paid more attention to the season, holidays, and so many other things when he was alive. Now so many of these things do not have the same meaning, or matter at all.
Quote of the day: Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see. ~ Helen Keller
As promised, the question of the day is....................................................
Have you voted for Tricia (Mattie's nurse) today?
(Remember you can vote ONCE every 24 hours!!!)
For more information about the Johnson and Johnson Amazing Nurse Contest, please read my September 28, 2011 blog posting. Your daily vote is important and will bring Tricia closer to becoming a finalist.
Click on this link to vote for Patricia Grusholt: http://wildfireapp.com/website/6/contests/157336/voteable_entries
Though the picture above of Mattie dressed in his rain coat and picking a pumpkin looks happy, there was a lot going on under the surface that Fall that was less than pleasant. Mattie's first preschool experience was a disaster. This is not just a mother's perspective it was the reality of the situation. The director of Mattie's preschool disliked him intensely and each day after school was over, she would call me into her office and berate me about all the things he did wrong and why he did not fit in with the other children and her program. One day of this kind of brain washing for any parent would have been bad enough, but I lived with this three days a week for one month straight. This director was bold enough to tell me that Mattie needed to learn consequences for his biting of other people (of which she too was a recipient), and that we should consider washing his mouth out with soap as a punishment after each biting infraction. Fortunately she checked in with me before doing this because she wanted to know what my clinical perspective was on this. Besides the fact that I was LIVID at even the suggestion, I kept my cool and talked with her about the child development research out there about using such punishments. Two and a half year old children are NOT purposefully being "BAD." After all, Mattie did not come to school each day with the intention of biting the director (I may have wanted to, but he certainly didn't)! There is always a reason for a toddler acting out and what I have found is you get more from your children when we as parents do not provide such harsh punishments and negative feedback. Needless to say, after one month of this nightmare, Mattie never went back to that school. He spent that year home with me full time. Mattie and I were used to spending time together, so that wasn't an adjustment for me. But I was saddened that he lost out on having a social experience that year.
As you may imagine after this horrible preschool experience (of which I am sparing you most of the details), I was very hesitant to enroll Mattie in another preschool. Well that is until I found out about Resurrection Children's Center (RCC). RCC takes the admission process seriously and through tours and playdates this helps to determine if the school will be a good match for families. It was during Mattie's school playdate (which all the kids had to do prior to being accepted to the school), I met Margaret. Mattie instantly took to Margaret and the whole tone of her classroom. In addition, I too gravitated to Margaret and for the first time, she was a teacher who seemed to embrace and accept Mattie for his curious, high energy, and emotionally sensitive self. It is funny how an environment can alter how a person feels about one's self and in essence potentially change the course of one's future!!! RCC provided such a nurturing environment for Mattie and within two years time, he became stronger and more self confident. His time at RCC was able to erase the pain experienced in his first preschool. Not just pain that Mattie internalized, but pain that I had to endure as a parent.
Unlike our weekend, today was pouring and damp in DC. Somehow this weather clouded our whole day. My kitchen is filled now with about 50 clam shells which we took home from the beach. In fact, last night we tried to clean out the shells by putting them in the dishwasher. Naturally we had spot cleaned them and took as much sand out as possible before loading them into the machine. But mid-cycle, I removed all 50 shells from the dish washer, because our whole house was beginning to smell like the ocean and seaweed. So instead I cleaned each shell with bleach by hand. The shells look beautiful and I am contemplating doing something with them! But I learned my lesson..... clam shells do NOT go into a dishwasher well!
Over dinner tonight, Peter and I chatted about Mattie and how he may have been our greatest teacher. Or as Peter puts it, Mattie forced us to be better people! All summer long, despite the heat, we ate dinner on our deck. Tonight was our first dinner back at our dining room table. Some how as Peter was talking about Mattie, I looked over to the seat where Mattie used to be at meal times. It just seems hard to understand how we went from raising Mattie from a baby into a school aged child to now, in which we are childless. Some days I wonder why God selected certain children and their parents to experience the horrors of cancer. There really is no good explanation to me, and certainly one that I will ever accept as it relates to my Mattie.