The Roc started 1st grade two weeks ago, and again I did a little hop as I closed the door on another summer. It may sound callous, mean spirited, or even that I am not a very good mother to want my son to go back to school, for us to have some time apart…but it’s the truth. There it is, and I’m willing to own that truth.
So much so that I had to giggle at all the facebook statuses I saw leading up to the first day of school. Back in Delaware school starts earlier than here in Minnesota, so I was seeing some of my mom friends writing about shedding a few tears as the the bus pulled away, or even how a few of them followed said bus to school and then cried the whole way home. I read through some of the comments left on one mom’s status,
“Aw, sending you love… It’s hard, I was there last year. Big hugs.”
“Aw, you’re such a great mom. I still tear up too no matter what age the kids get.”
” The 1rst & the last were the absolute hardest for me..but I cried with every one.”
” I sobbed as my baby girl left too…it goes by so fast!!!”
” :-( I feel your pain…hang in there mama!!”
“I did the same thing with my youngest…cried all day!”
and I had to leave a comment of my own, which apparently resonated with no one on her friends list,
” I guess I’m in the minority. I did a happy jig when Roc went to K! Lol. (but he rode the bus to prek so that’s when I was a twisted up.)”
In actuality I was all twisted up when I left him in his special ed preschool class for the first time when he was 3.5 years old, not when he eventually rode the bus to preschool later that same year. I cried so hard I could hardly see the parking lot and get to my car. I did cry the whole way home that day. But not because my baby was going to school, but because he was going to a special preschool because he has autism. I worked and worked to get him evaluated and into school where he would get some help as soon as I figured out he was on the spectrum. When I finally dropped him off for his first 2.5 hours of special preschool I felt shredded. No one but a special needs parent really knows how that feels.
So I welcomed the start of school with joy this year. We had such an eventful summer, so full of big life changes that we needed to get some balance back. Because we need our routine. He needs his routine. And he needs his services to start back up, speech, occupational therapy, friendship group, and social skills group. He needs to be around other children. He needs more people working with him, challenging him, to keep him stretching and growing.
I was also looking forward to seeing how this first year would play out at this new school, with all new (to us) teachers and administrators. I worked hard to get a good program set up for the Roc in Delaware and so I was nervous going to our first official IEP meeting a week before school started here in Minnesota. I was pleasantly surprised at how nicely that meeting went, we still tape recorded it, I still wore my IEP outfit, I still came with my big binders of information about the Roc, and my notebook of questions, concerns, and points that were really important to me, but it went better than I had anticipated.
They didn’t try to remove any of the services we had upp’d in Delaware and the special ed teacher had already worked in a “motor break” for the Roc that would happen each day after he’d been in school 2 hours. The social skills group would actually be a social skills group in this school as opposed to just the Roc and the school social worker, as it was in Delaware last year, because he was the only one who had the educational label of autism in his kindergarten center, therefore he was the only one eligible for the social skills group. The friendship group is something separate from the social skills group, and again, new to us this year. When I raised concerns about how chaotic recess and lunch would be for the Roc, they had a suggestion right away – that the Roc would get to leave recess a few minutes early, head into the cafeteria with a couple other children, find his lunch bag, and get started at his table. Again, before lunch is over, the Roc is allowed to leave a few minutes early with a few other children (who presumably cannot handle the chaos of the whole 1st grade leaving lunch at.the.same.time) and head to a story time. I was impressed by all the teachers who will be working with the Roc and how excited they were to get him this year. We left the meeting feeling cautiously optimistic.
The Roc and I skipped the craziness that is open house and instead went to the school at an alternate time so he could see his locker, his classroom, put his stuff in his desk, and meet all of his new teachers and therapists. He was able to tell them that he would be anxious on the first day and articulate that he was worried he wouldn’t know where his classroom was. The special ed teacher immediately came up with a solution and made him a tag that said his name, grade, and teacher, and we put it on his backpack so if he was lost and tongue-tied, he would be pointed in the right direction. The Roc was able to see exactly where the van would drop him off and where he was supposed to go from there. The teacher also printed out a sheet with all of his teachers and therapists pictures and names on it and we went over that in the days leading up to the first day.
When the big day finally arrived the Roc was excited, and he got out of bed willingly to get ready. He was bathed and fed with time to spare and so we waited by the front door with the sheet of teacher photographs right beside him.
After he had been waiting for a little while, his anxiety got the best of him and he got really silly on the front stoop, jumping, waving his arms around, and letting out some repetitive yells.
He did pose for one more photo before the van came.
And when the van drove out of sight I exhaled into our foyer and grabbed the leash, ready to take the dog for a nice long walk, alone.
About and hour later I got an email from the special ed teacher, complete with a couple photographs of the Roc in school. He was doing fine, following directions, still smiling.