ZOOM LIFE and “this is a REALLY happy mom” smile

I’m glad I waited before turning on our camera. I needed a few minutes to get my bearings. My priority was to keep Jack calm and happy. It was hard enough to hide my reaction from him —  I couldn’t risk anybody else witnessing any tears of awkward stares.

It’s one luxury of ZOOM LIFE — People don’t need to see you, until you’re ready.

Once I took a deep breath, I put on my best “this is a REALLY happy mom” smile and hit “start video”.

Last week Jack started logging onto some virtual activities with the adult program he will (some day) attend in person. The lovely staff sent us a list of options ranging from art classes to Zumba to music to virtual outings. We were excited to start participating and eager to have a bit of a schedule; especially with Anna heading to Baltimore before too long.

I knew that once we logged in we would “meet” many of Jack’s new peers, and we also knew his peers ages range from 21 — 70+ and that they all (like Jack) have rather complicated lives. 

Let’s go back 13 years to when we walked into The PG Chambers School for the first time. I managed to keep that “this is a REALLY happy mom” smile, but tears filled my eyes as I was introduced to Jack’s new peers. Our family hadn’t been part of the special needs world until Jack was eight-years-old and thrown in with no time to prepare. We hadn’t known many children with such complicated disabilities before the day we walked into the school. I know it sounds awful, but it made me sad and overwhelmed that Jack was suddenly part of this world.

The same thing happened when Jack started at Horizon High School (now Pillar High School).Teenagers with disabilities were not a population I knew and everything looked bigger and more complicated. My “this is a REALLY happy mom” smile needed to be firmly planted before I walked into the school that first day. Maybe two.

Of corse within weeks, first at The PG Chambers School and then at Horizon High School, the student’s disabilities faded and their personalities shone. Quickly, I found I no longer focused on the wheelchairs and tubes and braces. Instead, I would focus on the smiles and the wonderful energy that always filled the space.

I pride myself on being open-minded and non-judgmental. I don’t define people by their successes or their failures. I don’t judge people by their talents or their challenges. But, once in a while, I need to pause to let my emotions catch up to my brain.

Last week, as we logged on to the virtual program, I needed a second to look around at the boxes of new friends and take a deep breath, before hitting “start video”. Within a few minutes we were dancing Zumba as a family, but we weren’t dancing with our usual Torrey gusto. While ZOOM LIFE can make things a little easier, it is a bit harder to connect and feel part of something new when everyone is just a box on a screen.

If the staff at the program asked how they thought Jack and his family were adapting to their program, I’m guessing they would say that we are a lively family and seem happy. Our family IS both lively and happy, but we are human and sometimes it takes us a moment. Until then, we will dance until we can really boogie — I imagine that the staff will see the difference when it happens. AND, I am guessing it will happen soon.

I hope everyone is enjoying the tail-end of the summer and getting to do a little boogieing!!

Love, Jess

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