There are things that give me more anxiety than the start of a new school year.
Acid rain. Nuclear winter. The off-chance one of the boys will discover “Caillou” on one of our streaming services.
Yes, there are things that I agonize over more that the start of school.
Not many, though.
When you have small kids, it’s only natural to be a little nervous about them “flying solo”. You get used to being your kids’ sole provider, making sure they have everything they need, watching them like a hawk to make sure they don’t do themselves bodily harm. Remember how nervous you first left your new baby with someone? It’s no different when you send them off to school that first time.
Except with Footloose, EVERY year feels like the first time. Might be the same school, but every year means a new teacher. Every year means new classmates. Transition can be rough for autistic children. It’s just as rough for their parents. Will he respond well to the new teacher? Is he going to be okay going into a completely new environment (classroom)? Are any of the kids that were with him last year going to be with him this year? How will the new kids he meets treat him? How’s he going to handle the demands of moving up a grade, and the more challenging work that comes with that?
I agonize over all this ever year. And every year (knock on wood, throw salt over the shoulder, give Jobu a shot of rum), he ends up making me look like a complete ninny.
There I was at the bus stop last week, thumping my foot up and down, pacing like a caged hippo, waiting for the bus to show up. Fretting over how he would do with the ride after three months off. Meanwhile, Footloose is doing his thing, chasing around after his brother (who insisted on coming, because he needs stimulation like Johnny Five needs input), while Momma Angel happily took pictures. I was the only one waiting for an axe to drop, playing scenario after scenario of doom in my head and trying to come up with as many contingency plans as I could should a meltdown present itself.
The face of calm, collected parenting.
Then came the moment of truth. Bus pulled up. Doors opened. Miss Connie (the driver) and Miss Sherry (the monitor) both peeked out their heads and told him “hi”. That’s when it happened.
That’s when he completely forgot I existed and jumped right on board without so much as a fare-thee-well.
It’s been a week, now. I’m getting a little better, a little more relaxed, but I still haven’t completely unclenched. This in spite of the fact he’s come home happy every day. In spite of the daily reports with the little smiley faces circled marking his behavior anywhere between “Good” to “Great”.
Truth is, I know he does much better when school’s in session. Common wisdom is that autistic kids thrive with routine and structure, and school definitely provides that. He’ll be a little resistant to going in the mornings, sometimes, but I chalk that up to him waking up hangry more often than not. Breakfast drink, bowl of Cream of Wheat, cup of yogurt or Jell-O, the declaration that it’s “Bus Time!”, and he’s usually good to go.
Still can’t help myself, though. There’s always a part of me that dreads getting a call from school while I’m at work. Always a part of me that worries the teacher won’t be patient enough with him, or that the kids won’t be kind enough. Anxiety over whether his IEP will be followed to the letter. Terror at the thought of something setting him off, causing a meltdown that ends up with him accidentally hurting one of the other kids as he throws himself to the floor and starts kicking.
Never mind the fact that the school and teaching staff seem to be right on top of things, and there’s no indication that won’t be the case even if something does go wrong. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s just hard to trust anyone to look after him the way I hope he’ll be looked after.
Don’t confuse me with reality. I’m a special needs parent. Sue me. Trust is a luxury.
So with all that said, it appears that young Master Footloose has made another terrific start, once again making me look like an overanxious grandmother. Of course that’s not really fair to say that, because even his grandmother didn’t worry over everything as much as I did. He’s hit warp five, and all systems read as normal.
Now I just have to get Roundbottom in school.
Lord, I NEED that child to be in school. He needs the stimulation. We need the break. He’s deliriously excited at the prospect of making new friends. I’m deliriously excited at the prospect of school wearing his little @$$ out. Sign-up is next week. Momma Angel and I are fully willing and prepared to camp out at the school the night before if that’s what it takes to get him signed in.