As I lay here in bed on the eve of my son’s first day of Kindergarten, I am surprisingly comforted by the fact that there are hundreds of other parents sending their kids off to Kindergarten tomorrow as well. Parents who are possibly tossing and turning in their beds, withered by anxiety. Parents who are nursing upset stomachs as they think of all of the “what-ifs” that come with sending a child to Kindergarten. Parents who are pacing all over their homes with lists running through their minds of all the things they need to have ready for tomorrow, all the things they want to say to their children in preparation for this immense milestone, and all the fears they are trying to suppress so they can eventually fall asleep. There are parents who are excited for what this year will bring and parents who are silently celebrating the return of a kid-free home for much of the day after a long, exhausting summer vacation.
To all of these parents, I feel you.
But, to my fellow special needs parents out there….I am feeling everything you are feeling even more deeply.
I feel your absolute gut-wrenching fear for your child because he is going to be in a mainstream school for the first time with maybe a fraction of the support and services he has been receiving up to this point.
I feel your stifling anxiety when thinking about the moments during the day where she may have no 1:1 support and could get overwhelmed trying to navigate the newness on her own. You’re praying all the coping strategies and self-regulation tips she has learned will help her not become utterly overwhelmed.
I feel your nervous excitement because your child has shown so much progress and you feel that he will be just fine….but will it last?
I feel your constant, 24-7 concern for your child because of the possible stares, judgmental whispers, unkind words, feelings of isolation, and downright mistreatment that she may experience from other children who have not quite learned empathy and the importance of acceptance.
I am feeling all of these feelings right alongside you and have been feeling them since the day we got our son’s Autism diagnosis. Everything I have done thus far for my son has been in preparation for what awaits him tomorrow morning, but nothing could have prepared me for the level of fear that has taken hold of me over these last few months as August 26, 2019 approached.
However, tonight I am going to will myself to trust and believe that everything is going to be just fine.
I trust and believe that my Nico is ready for this new adventure.
I trust and believe that he is going to surprise me like he has done multiple times before and thrive in Kindergarten.
I trust and believe that my husband and I have made the best decision to place him in this school because he is ready for new experiences.
I trust and believe that his teachers want him to excel and are going to ensure he does through any means necessary. They will protect and advocate for him everyday.
I trust and believe that he will make friends because he is funny and sweet and empathetic and the kids in his class will see value in having a friend like him.
I trust and believe that although Nico may display unique behaviors, it will encourage his classmates to accept difference as something that makes the world a better place.
I trust and believe that I will eventually stop crying myself to sleep and waking up panicked because I’m worried that Nico will struggle and have more tough days than good. I know his good days will outshine the tough ones.
And I trust and believe that with everyday that passes, Nico is going to be a change agent for his new school. Someone who will help educate others about the wonders of Autism and how fantastic the human brain is. He will show others that being different is not something to shy away from, to judge, or want to dislike, but instead something to embrace, celebrate, and encourage.
I want Nico to walk into his new school tomorrow knowing that he matters, that he will be accepted, that he has something to contribute. And when someone stares a bit too long or turns away when he comes around, I want Nico to always say to himself (and even say it out loud): This is me! and then walk away knowing that being who he is will always be enough and should attract, not repel, others.
So, to my precious son….your mom and dad love you beyond measure. We trust you. We believe in you. You are brave. You are our warrior. You are YOU and YOU GOT THIS!
This video celebrates my Nico and the amazing little boy he is!