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Mondays with Liam and the other Jojo

I’ve written in the past about Thursdays being my morning with both boys, but I haven’t written about Mondays with Liam. I actually have both boys with me on Monday mornings, but their grandmother comes to take care of Finn at our house so it doesn’t matter if he wakes up or not. I don’t have to get him up, dressed, fed and ready to go anywhere. I only have to get Liam up, fed and ready for school. The difference between getting only one boy ready as opposed to two is like the difference between getting one boy ready and twenty.

I like Mondays with Liam. He usually wakes happy and on the rare occasion he’s grumpy, it never lasts. He eats the same breakfast every Monday morning; a fried egg sandwich with mayo, and he loves it. I’ve tried to switch things up on him, but then he says, “egg sandwich.” He’s easygoing and we never feel rushed.

I like my time with the boys better when Mike isn’t around. It’s totally fine when he is there, too, but they like me better when he’s not there. Perhaps it’s because of shared custody and him not being in their lives 100% of the time, but when they are with us, they can’t get enough of him. It’s only when he isn’t around that they take more notice of me. It’s not that they ignore me when we are all at home together, but they are much more affectionate with me when he’s not there. I don’t think he believes half the stuff I tell him that they do with me because he’s never there to witness it, except the time Liam said, “I love you,” to me and Mike burst into tears.

After our typical morning at home today we piled ourselves, his backpack, and my two bags full of all the stuff I schlep to work everyday and began the 7.4 mile drive to his school. I usually talk to Liam throughout the drive. With his limitations in communication, he doesn’t always talk back, but that doesn’t stop me from babbling to him.

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I park my car behind the school which means we have to walk a little bit of a distance where the path winds around a baseball field and then across the big playground to the Number 20 square where his special ed class meets before the bell rings. Teachers come out to their designated class squares when the first bell rings and the children follow him/her in a line to their classroom. I always wait for the teacher or her aid to come and get the kids. When he’s in my care, there needs to be a hand off.

Since about the second week of school, Liam has insisted that I carry him from the car to the square. He’s gained a few pounds since September and this task is becoming more and more difficult for me. I try to encourage him to walk, but he insists I “carry you.” I always say, “you want to carry me?” He lets me put him down when the big black cat is in the path so he can pet it, but then I have to pick him right back up. Despite the 40+ pounds of him and his backpack putting a strain on my back, I love the way he moves my hair from my shoulder so he can rest his head there. As soon as we are within 10 feet of the square, I put him down and he’s fine.

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Over the course of the school year, I’ve seen him blossom. He used to tuck himself right next to me until the teacher showed up. Now he ventures out to either go get a drink at the germ drinking fountain, or he goes to the wheelbarrow full of jump ropes and grabs one to play with. This morning was something different. He started walking through a bunch of other kids from different classes and walked straight up to a little girl in a bright green Ninja Turtles sweatshirt. If she hadn’t had a high ponytail, I might have thought she was a boy because there was nothing girlie about her. She took off running and Liam began to chase her. This happened over and over with some other little boys joining the chase, too.

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While I stood on the square watching Liam, one of his classmates (I should know his name) walked up and stood close to me with his back to me. This little boy has Down Syndrome. I put my hand on his shoulder and said “Hi.” He turned around to face me and put his arms around me so I put my arms around him. We stood like that for a few moments. Then he looked up and said, “Is Liam your little boy?” I said, “He’s kind of like my little boy. I live with Liam’s daddy and his daddy is my boyfriend.” He said, “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Just then the bell rang and Angie, Liam’s teacher’s aid, walked up. When Liam ran up, Angie said, “Liam, are you playing with Jojo?” He just grinned. I said to Angie, “Her name is Jojo?” Angie nodded. I squatted down to get eye level with Liam to say goodbye and said, “Of course her name is Jojo.” He looked right into my eyes and laughed.

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