This time next week, I will have just tucked my kids into bed in preparation for their first day of school. This time next week, I will be an emotional wreck.
As internet friends all over the country have been sending their babes off to school this week, I have been watching closely. I’ve been reading their posts and emails about feelings on loosening the cord and saying goodbye for seven hours a day. I’ve also been reading article after article about easing the transition and offering the right kinds of support to the people we are sending off. Some might say I’m working myself up over nothing. I say, I’m arming myself for the battle. “What the hell is so stinking bad about sending your kid to school?” you ask. Nothing, I guess. For most moms.
I; however, am not most moms. Among a myriad of personal issues too neurotic to name, I’m also a mom of a kid with Sensory Processing Disorder. You may be wondering what SPD is. You may be rolling your eyes and guffawing that another mom is buying into another “disorder” to make excuses for their bad parenting. I know there’s plenty of people in my life happy to have that same response.
For those of you eager to pass judgement, save it. Just save it and keep moving on. For those of you wondering what SPD is, it’s a neurological condition that makes it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, thereby creating challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. To the average person, the child may look like an incredibly shy introvert that hides under her mom’s skirt and refuses to play at recess, or he may look like a wild maniac that bounces off the walls, runs over the other children and refuses to settle down and obey even the most basic classroom rules. (Some children that look like this, simply are those things, and some children aren’t. It’s up to parents to investigate and decide what category their children are in, and I’d happily support all parents in their decisions.)
Just like thousands of other parents in my position, I’m anxious about many things as the beginning of the school year approaches. Have I been too lax this summer and created a monster for his teacher? Will he be able to grasp a new routine, new rules, new environment that is different from last year’s? Will the support the school has promised in order to help him succeed truly be there? Will he come home every day with sad faces on a report regarding his classroom behavior? Will his report cards hold all ones and twos or will he be on “grade level” threes and fours? How the hell am I going to do this? Am I a failure as a mom? And a thousand more questions just like these. On a loop. In my head.
More than anything right now, I hear these words: “Do not let that school put a label on your son. It’s not worth it. You know he’s a good kid. He’s just a little boy. Don’t you dare let them label him.” As much as I have struggled with the decision, I have let them label him. Do you know why? Because I’m not too proud to let my son get the help he will desperately need to succeed throughout school. Do you know what the label means for my son? The label means the difference between him growing up to be a tow truck driver or an engineer if he wants to. (Not that I would have a problem if he wanted to grow up to be a tow-truck driver. God bless the tow-truck drivers. But if he wants to be an engineer, then he should have that opportunity.) As much as I know in my gut that I have made the right decision, because I know my son, the people in my ear that don’t agree with it, wear me down and make me question myself. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true.
And then I remind myself: that label, those extra classes and the special seat he gets in the classroom? Those are the difference between success and failure. The therapy he receives? That’s the difference between learning to read fluently by the end of the year, and it taking until fifth grade to read at a first grade level. That file? The one that they keep in the office that says my son has special needs? That file doesn’t mean shit to me, except that my son, the one that I am responsible for, he gets to have his best shot at life.
I cannot wrap my mind around stubbornly refusing my son his best shot at life just because I am too proud to let someone evaluate him and put a label on him. If every time he ran around the track in PE he turned blue and couldn’t breathe, would I refuse to let a doctor check him for asthma? If they found he had asthma and I refused to let him have medication to treat it, would I be a good mom because I wasn’t letting someone label my son as an asthmatic? Would I be teaching him a special kind of discipline that would turn him into an Olympic sprinter later in life or would I be hamstringing him for the sake of my own pride? Does that make any sense whatsoever?
This year, I will be entering new waters. In the four earlier years I’ve had children in school, I’ve never been the mom that had to attend IEP meetings or therapy sessions. I’ve just been the mom with the smart kid and the cute kindergartener. Now I’m the mom that decided not to take that great job so I could be the mom that goes to school and helps with the hard days. I’m the mom that packs the special bag and does the extra work to make sure things go smoothly. I’m the mom that makes sure the label doesn’t mean he gets stuck in the seat in the corner, but gets all the special help he needs to be the brilliant kid that proves you wrong. I’m that mom. And I’m bad ass.
*I feel badly that I didn’t add this earlier, but I also want to make clear that my husband is also that dad. He supports every decision and makes every hard sacrifice right along side me. When one of us has lost our focus and determination to give Jordan his best shot, the other is there to remind us why we’re doing this. He lovingly watches me devour books and articles and try crazy-brained ideas to help ease life around here. He sacrifices for all of us. And he is most definitely bad. ass. :)*