Standing in the hall waiting to pick-up my son from his preschool class, I hear things like, “we’ve been working at x y or z for a month and he still can’t do it.” Really? A month? That must be hard, I think to myself sarcastically. Our son is two years into working on jumping and he’s still not quite there (but he is very close!) I would never share with this group of parents the amount of time it takes for my son to master a milestone or that he isn’t able to do x, y or z, YET; I know he will get x, y AND z. I am so proud of him; he works harder than all of the kids in his class just to walk to his classroom, to play on the playground and to say “hi.” He is constantly working. We also don’t tend to dwell on the “can’ts” because at our house are always celebrating the “cans.” Every time he says a little more, writes his name a little better and with less hand-over-hand or eats something that he wouldn’t last week, we celebrate! So instead of engaging in conversation, I stand there, often unable to relate to the other parents and sometimes I even feel resentful that they have no idea how easy their kid has it.
GiGi’s is my place to be a parent. It’s where I can connect with other parents that just “get it.” We share our successes which in any other room may seem insignificant but here the significance is understood and celebrated. I learn from other parents as we discuss our kids but we also talk about everyday things, as friends. It’s like an elite club, it’s an “in crowd” that only us lucky few can understand and appreciate; a stark contrast to the feeling of being an outsider among other parents. I am thankful for these special friendships.
When my family’s favorite GiGi’s program, Leaps and Bounds, starts, we sit in a circle for the “Hello” song. Without prompting, my son sits down to join the group. I sit across the circle from him and a sense of pride over takes me. He doesn’t need me; he can do it on his own. I know next year in his kindergarten classroom, he will be just fine. As he sings along to the “Hello” song, more pride; he is singing almost every word! I reflect on how far he has come and how far he will go. I also see the growth in all the other kids and I marvel at how far we have all come together.
The program leader, Ms. Ena, does a phenomenal job of incorporating both gross motor and fine motor activities into her program. She is the master at disguising work into play. In this group of 3-5 year olds, every month we see more interaction, more self-confidence, and more achievement! Ena is not only a program lead at GiGi’s but has also become a part of each family’s journey. She is a cheerleader, advocate and positive force in the lives of the families she sees each month.
GiGi’s is a special place. Sometimes other situations and parents make me anxious. I worry other parents won’t understand and accept why my son does some of the things he does. Other times, I just can’t relate to other parents. They can’t understand how lucky they are to know their kid will be included in a classroom at his/her home school because of course they would go to the school the parents deem best. They can’t know what is like to do hours and hours of research on education law, to work your hardest to change outdated perceptions and to challenge the placement that usually goes with my son’s diagnosis all to get my child into that same classroom because it is best for him.
When I first heard about GiGi’s Playhouse possibly coming to Phoenix, I immediately did some research and was excited that the mission of GiGi’s so closely matched the way we were raising our then three year old son; pushing him to achieve his personal best. I loved the idea of a place where our son could learn and grow and always be celebrated the same way we celebrated him at home. The “research everything and find the best to help my son mom” in me was so excited to get him involved in everything at GiGi’s Playhouse. Little did I know, GiGi’s would become a place that I need just as much as my son.
At GiGi’s, I know my son will always be understood and celebrated. It is the one place where I can be 100% honest and never feel anxious. For me, it is a break from the outside world and a breath of fresh air. Leaps and Bounds is a program where I know my son is engaging in activities full of purpose AND having fun. He gets to see his friends and I get to see mine.
Submitted by Jessica (Jackson’s Mom)