I love traditions. I especially love traditions that don’t require any consumerism, cost or extra budget.
Many people take “First Day of School” pictures: Pre K, Kindergarten, 3rd grade and even seniors. I love it! I love seeing them on social media, and I even love the parents who have been doing it long enough they have pictures to compare.
That said, I also hate it. Posed pictures don’t always work well for my kiddo. And mornings… they stink! (I feel like I’m getting a teenager out of bed) And the first day of school brings anxiety, stress, new routines and did I mention anxiety?
I’d like to blame it all on my son’s special needs and how “hard” it makes things , but I can’t. I’m a teacher, and first day of school for me is plenty nerve racking on its own. My job is to love, care for, build relationships with and teach kids. More specifically, middle school kids. (Insert your own version of, “Bless your heart.”) I’ve spent hours preparing for my students, setting up my classroom, attending trainings, all while trying to balance that with back to school shopping, creating new visual schedules, going over new routines, and reading “My First Day of School” books for my son.
If life is about balance, then Back to School is like walking a high wire while juggling.
This year, as I planned for my own classroom and students, I slipped away from a training to attend a staffing for my son. I wanted his new teacher to be fully prepared to meet his unique needs. Most of all, I wanted her to know how amazing he is. I left the meeting knowing he had plenty of support and caring teachers.
Tip: if you can meet with your child’s teacher BEFORE school starts, do it! I find that teachers appreciate parent support and involvement. You know your kid best. When passing the torch, it’s good if they know your concerns, and any suggestions you have. I had a parent of one of my students do this, and was the BEST start for an Autistic kiddo I’ve ever had. I knew what worked best for him and most importantly his interests.
On the first day of school, my son’s first day of Kindergarten, we entered a busy school building bustling with parents, teachers and students. The noise, the newness was overwhelming. My son stood still not wanting to go any farther. I left him with his teacher, kissed him goodbye, and I didn’t cry. I trusted in his teacher and her ability to do her job. The day would be hard on him, but hard is a part of life. (Please note: I cried every day for the first week of Pre-K.)
But I never took a picture.
I never got him to hold a cute sign, stand in front of the school, nor did I even try. I just hurried away to make it to my own classroom in time.
As my day went on, I watched the clock unable to remember the names of my 138 new students. (I have 4 Isabelle’s in one class period! I can’t even!) My mind wandered to thoughts of my son and how he was doing. None the less, he arrived at my school after riding the bus. He was tired, didn’t say much, but seemed okay.
I could have done a “we survived” picture, but it took all my effort to just get home. I basically just forgot. My feet hurt, and as usual, I was loosing my voice from all the talking.
Each day was similarly hard. Eventually, drop offs got easier.
On Wednesday, we had a full on meltdown after school. He cried. I cried. It was messy.
But by Thursday, he finally mentioned school. Well, building a volcano out of wood chips at the playground.
By Friday we gathered as a family, crashed on the couch with take out and a movie.
But still, no pictures.
You see, relationships with teachers, with school, take time to build. And for some they take a little more effort. I may not have a great first day picture, but I know I’ll have an amazing last day of school picture.
When I see last year’s end of Pre-K picture, the one where he was hugging and smiling with his teacher and teaching aide, I have hope.
He isn’t excited about school, he would rather be at home, but by the end of the year, he won’t want to leave.
As for me, I gained 138 new kids this year. They already have my heart. I’ve learned two thirds of their names, but ALL of their faces. We decided on nick names for that Isabelle class. And my feet don’t hurt as much. I look forward into settling into routine, and coming down from this high wire act.
Two weeks later, life settled down. The routine became predictable. He told me about recess, how LOUD gym class is, and how funny his music teacher is. He peacefully walked down the hallway of my school, asking me to take pictures of him spinning.
Right then, we got our “Back to School” picture.
To all those families with special needs, those to whom back to school takes more effort, stay strong. You got this!
When you have moments that are less than Pinterest picture perfect, hold tight to your joy, and love the life you have.
Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here!