Let me preface this by saying that I know how lucky we are. I know that the fact that Olivia is healthy and happy and able to walk and run and speak and play is very much a blessing. I know all this.
And yet...I hate 5p- syndrome. I hate that life is harder for her than it is for her peers.
I went to lunch with Olivia today. She was so excited. Today is their class Valentine's day party. I'll be there for that too. But since I'd taken the whole day off, I went to lunch with her because it's what I do.
When I got there her lunch teacher told me that today was the day that Olivia would get to pick where she'd eat lunch in the cafeteria. All year she's sat with the other first graders while they eat their lunch. She only eats at the table with her classmates when I'm there, which has been a total of three times this year. Every other day, after time in the cafeteria, she goes back to her classroom where she sits on a tablecloth on the floor and eats her lunch in the quiet of the room with her teacher Mrs. A.
At least she's eating, we all thought.
But next year, in second grade, Olivia will need to eat at the same time as her classmates. There just won't be time to carve out a special time when she can eat by herself. So today the experiment started.
Olivia was allowed to pick where she'd eat. She chose a ramp along the wall of the cafeteria that leads up to the stage. There's a wall and a railing that separates her from the rest of the cafeteria. She can still hear the noise of the cafeteria but it's less chaotic and she can have some privacy while she eats.
The goal is to have her slowly come down the ramp, a little each week or so, until she's actually sitting at a table eating her lunch while her classmates eat theirs. She isn't expected to actually sit with her classmates if she doesn't want to, but by next year she will need to be able to eat while in the same room with them.
I think she wants to be able to sit with them and eat but she's just so overwhelmed by the noise, the activity, the craziness that is thirty or so first graders having lunch and socializing.
She wants to have friends, she wants to interact but her shyness and her social anxiety, which is very much thanks to 5p- syndrome, keep her from doing the things she wants to do.
It makes me so sad.
I don't want her to have to eat her lunch alone, even if it doesn't seem to bother her. In fact, she thinks of it as an adventure and I'm glad for that even as I'm sad for the fact that she can't just sit down at a table with her peers and eat her lunch without the stress that accompanies that kind of thing for her.
I know that I'm probably projecting my own feelings here and I'll get past that. I see my happy, sweet child, I see this girl who, right now in first grade, who has so many kids who are so excited when she actually speaks to them and I worry so much about the third grader she'll become, who is thought of as 'weird' by her classmates, when those classmates are older and meaner and see this girl who is different who sits alone in the cafeteria, who doesn't talk to them. I worry about that and I know I'm borrowing trouble, we don't know what any of those kids will be like in two years.
Olivia has already matured so much just this year alone. She's got so much potential, so much love and joy to share with the world. I need to have faith that the team we have working with her will continue to work with her and with us to unlock that potential, to bring her out of herself and make like a little easier.
I just wish it weren't so hard for her. She deserves to have friends and fun and interactions just like every other kid in her class. I want so much for her to be just another first grader.