I am totally THAT mom.
Each year when I send my daughter off to her first day of school, it hurts.
Like physically, in my gut, hurts.
My breathing feels shallow.
My heart seems to skip beats.
My cheeks are hot and tingly.
Waves of nausea pass through my belly like the ocean when a storm is near.
Each year on that first day I feel sick with worry because I am here, and she is there.
I know my daughter is not going out into the world alone when she makes her initial ascent up the stairs of the big yellow bus each new year. I know there is a huge team of educators, helpers, and friends all along the way. And I know that my daughter loves school and learning and socializing.
But, back-to-school time can be overwhelming. For many parents, it is emotional to watch our kids growing up and can be a time of uncertainty with all the novelty and unknowns of the fresh start of a new year.
But for me, the mother of a child with disabilities, it is just plain hard.
Of course there are the typical concerns of whether she will be able to find her classrooms and who she will sit with at lunch. Yes, there are many little (big) challenges like this that a new school year brings. But on top of all of the expected speed bumps, I am still worried sick.
I am worried sick wondering if she will receive the accommodations that she needs educationally.
I am worried sick thinking about whether or not she will get all the opportunities she deserves socially.
And, I am worried sick that people who are new to her will not presume competence and will lower their expectations of her.
This is the never-ending battle for parents of children with disabilities. It shouldn’t have to be, but in reality it is one that will always exist for us. We have to be our children’s advocates in the world now, as we teach them the skills necessary to self-advocate in the future.
Despite her challenges, my resilient little girl has exceeded expectations from Day One. She has met milestones we were not sure would be attainable. I have witnessed firsthand what she can do with the right supports and opportunities, and I know what could have been without them.
Every single moment of every single day I see the potential behind my daughter’s beautiful brown eyes. My biggest fear is that others will not see the same things in her, and that is why letting go each school year is so difficult for me.
So, yes, I am THAT mom who is terribly uneasy on the first day of school.
I am THAT mom who struggles and has to make a conscious effort to NOT email the teachers during the first hour of the new academic year.
I am THAT mom who sees her child with disabilities as an amazing, bright, and equal member of the community at school and in the world at large.
And, I am THAT mom who wishes everyone else did, too.