Monkey Man heads to kindergarten in the fall, a year behind his sister and his chronological mates. It was a decision that seemed right given his physical challenges. In some ways, though, it does seems strange to hold him back from first grade, as EE says, “He can read, but he can’t pull up his own pants, so he has to stay in kindergarten.” It is true that Monkey Man was an early reader, and he has become even more able. It isn’t that he reads War and Peace or anything — more like Mutant Ninja Turtle comic books and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales – but he is reading.
Despite the physical challenge of pulling up his pants with one working arm, Monkey Man often amazes me when it comes to facing obstacles with undaunted courage. In particular, Monkey Man has become interested in running, something that he does quite slowly and a bit awkwardly. However, he does not stop. On the track with his dad, Monkey Man runs four laps, or a mile, staying in his lane.
Monkey Man imitated “running” on the treadmill recently at his physical therapy session.
Monkey Man’s most challenging run was at the Tryon Farms 50K/10K/5K and kids race. He gamely set off with the other kids, hopping over giant weeds, negotiating forest and prairie trails. I was working the finish line for the race, and when the adult who led the kids off on the 3/4 mile run came back, with most of the other kids, but without Monkey Man, I began to worry. Could he be down in the field? Did he get lost on the trail, which was, to say the least, not well-marked. I followed the course backwards to see if I could intercept him, and when I finally found him about a quarter of a mile away, he was tromping through tall prairie grasses that reached over his head. I asked him if he needed help, and if I should stay with him. His answer, “No, Mommy, I can do it by myself.” Monkey Man finished the race on his own. When he came across the line, to much cheering and shouting of the spectating crowd, I had tears in my eyes. For a kid with the physical challenges he faces, including poor eyesight, his was the face of determination and fortitude grinning with pride across that finish line.
Since I did not manage to get a picture of the finish line, I found one instead of Monkey Man, using two hands on his mower, helping his dad. Another of his favorite physical activities.
When Monkey Man attended his first PE class late in the spring (as a trial run with the other nursery kids soon to be kindergarten kids), he responded, “PE is easy; you just have to listen to the teacher and then do what she says.” His teachers had worried about how Monkey Man would navigate the challenge of PE next year, so this was a good sign. Even Gorilla Girl noted that PE might be hard for Monkey Man since he has only one working arm, and sometimes they have to do things, like push ups, with two. After watching with awe as Monkey Man finished the Tryon kids race, I know he will find his way.