Support for all members of special needs families

It Took a Metropolis, Not a Village

IMG_0960This day. This glorious, much-anticipated day. This day that I sometimes thought would never arrive finally did and, in the celebration of it all, nearly slipped through my fingers, like the final grains of sand in an hourglass.

How could I possibly recount the infinite, often heavy steps that brought us to this day? How many long days to this day? How many days did I put him on the little yellow bus to go to his Early Intervention school? And the first two years of elementary? How many “good” elementary days, when he would bring home an E.T. ticket as a reward from his full-time aide? How many “bad” days, when I would get a call to leave work and pick him up because his behavior was “too disruptive”? How many times did he shriek when the school landscapers fired up the lawn mower or because the multitude of sounds in any classroom on any day at any given moment became too overwhelming?

How many meetings did I attend trying to figure out what to do about it?

Yes, those thoughts and many others could detract from this special day. Instead, they only remind me of how far he has come, and how many people have helped him to get here. I really don’t think it would be possible to sit down and recount all of the therapists, specialists, doctors, teachers, educational assistants, and service providers. We started having him evaluated for “developmental delays” when he was two and three-quarters, after I finally found a pediatrician who didn’t say “don’t worry, boys start talking later than girls.” The good one saw him for five minutes and immediately said I’m going to refer him to Child Development Center for an evaluation right away.

Almost sixteen years later, we made it to this day. I am sitting in a beautiful park on a glorious, sunny evening, my brother to my left and Nigel’s father to my right. Aidan, my mother, and my sister and her family have also come to share in the happiness of this day. It is the same park where I graduated from college nineteen years ago, with Nigel in my belly. Soon he will walk across the same stage that I did, shake hands, and receive a diploma. His diploma is modified, but our pride is not. Our emotions are not. No one goes through an experience like that to feel anything less than absolute joy and triumph, no matter what’s on the paper.

And now, sunglasses on, he is walking down the aisle, escorted by his second grade teacher, from his first year of mainstreaming (with a full-time aide). Nigel’s high school has a tradition in which the students pick someone in the school district who had worked with them to escort them down the aisle and then announce them when it is time to receive their diplomas. Nigel said he picked her because she believed in him.

He is seated near the back, so I am unable to see him during the ceremony. But I can see so many wonderful kids I’ve had the privilege to know over the past eleven years we’ve been in this district. I’ve watched them grow into beautiful, compassionate adults, and I’m so glad that Nigel has had them in his life. I am so grateful to their parents for raising them to be this way, for teaching their children through their own example. For getting to know me, and for caring about my son. When I say that it took a metropolis to raise this child, I’m not just talking about all the therapists, teachers, doctors, and other professionals we’ve known in his life. I’m also talking about these incredible kids and their lovely parents. They are a huge part of Nigel’s success and his well-being.

And before I know it, his second grade teacher is announcing his name, and I am watching him walk up to hug her, to cross the stage, through the glass rectangle of my camera instead of with my own eyes. His father is doing the same thing. And we finish and put our cameras down and sit, asking for tissues. It was over so quickly and I feel like I missed it. I am in shock, I guess, but then I gasp and the magnitude hits me. This day. This day is here. We were scrambling at the end – he had tests to make up, missing assignments to do. His Senior Project presentation. Emails flew back and forth with his long-suffering special education teacher of the past four years. Somehow everything got finished, he squeaked by with passing grades, and we made it to this day.

Halleluiah. Halleluiah!

[The video below is very short, about 30 seconds. You’ll see him receive his diploma. He even hugs the principal, who did not solicit hugs from everyone. Then there’s an even bigger treat at the end, something I didn’t anticipate but wasn’t surprised to see. Nigel felt just as proud, just as triumphant, as I did.]

18 thoughts on “It Took a Metropolis, Not a Village”

  • This is one for the ages. Congratulations, Mom. Congratulations, Nigel.

  • Tears in Ohio. He did it! Go Nigel! So very happy for him and for you and for everyone that’s had a part in his journey thus far.


  • Tears up here in Eugene, as well. Nigel, your walk across that stage allows so many of us to dream bigger. Hugs to you, Tanya!

  • Great big Congrats to Nigel (and Mom) for all of your hard work, dedication, and for reaching the goal that you set your sights on so many years ago! It was an honor to watch Nigel walk across that stage, and just as moving to watch it again in this video clip! (Sniff-sniff!) Way to go, Guys! Guess our “baby boys” are really all grown up, Tanya! XOXO

  • Tears in Chicago as well. Congratulations to all of you!

  • Ugly crying here! Wow. Love that not only did she believe in him, but he KNEW she believed in him. Amen to the metropolis!

  • Absolute moment of VICTORY! It all seems like a dream now, but the proof is there on video. HE DID IT!

  • Why am I crying?! I witnessed that beautiful triumph, but must have been distracted by my littles. It’s even more impressive now!

  • What an honor and a special treat to have been there! Just like on the day he was born! I’m so glad you posted that video! Like you said, it was over in a blink and we were taking pictures, seeing it through the camera instead of drinking it in and taking a picture with our memories. I’m thankful to hear and see it again. I’m still warm and fuzzy inside, too, 6 days later! Love, Mom/Grandma

  • I made it through the post. Then I watched the video. I never stood a chance.

    His pride is our joy.


  • Thank you all for your beautiful comments. You are our metropolis! We love each one of you. Thank you for celebrating this amazing day with us!

  • Brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart, absolutely fantastic, well done to Nigel, his amazing mum and the rest of the people who have positively contributed to this triumphant journey. xxx

  • Oh How I love this…every time I watch it and see the hugs…the determination…The Hand UP in the Air!!! I smile and cry and relate all at once….Go Nigel…!

  • It was a wondrous day! And over in a flash, after so many years of getting there. But I will treasure the memory as long as I live!

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