Exhale. Week one of the school term is almost over. I remember the anxiety of this week like it was yesterday. It was yesterday.
I was the exhausted mother with an anxious child wrapped around my leg crying that she could not go to kindergarten. She would not leave me.
Then I was the mom who, when finally free of that child, cried all the way home in the car. That was me. I was that mom. Ask anyone who knew me back then.
The fact that this drama happened daily, well beyond Thanksgiving, was an indication that my instincts were right. I wasn’t dealing with typical separation anxiety. My child was dealing with much more.
It would years before we would get my daughter a proper diagnosis of autism. Girls don’t show up on the spectrum like boys do. Go figure. It would be another few years before I could even fully wrap my head around what that diagnosis meant. I’m still learning.
If you want to meet a parent who has beat themselves up for not knowing for years what her child dealt with, or who made mistakes that were the result of exhaustion, frustration and, if I’m being honest, embarrassment, well look no further than me.
If you want to see the rage of a mother whose child was bullied and excluded, I’m right here. I’ve battled it all.
So, I want to send virtual hugs out to the parents of the children with learning challenges or disabilities (that are actually incredible abilities) for whom the path to education will involve obstacles and anxieties as unique as your child themselves.
I see you. I understand you. I know you’re tired. But you’ve got this. Trust me. It gets better, but you don’t know that yet.
Many of your friends will not understand, because they cannot and frankly, don’t want to. Parenting is hard enough. Parenting a child with extra challenges is extra hard. You may lose some people along the way. Let them go. Your courage isn’t for everyone. Your child isn’t either.
The sacrifices and choices you’ll make for your child’s success will make you the subject of judgement from those who haven’t stood in your shoes or tried to teach a teenager to tie their own. If you wouldn’t seek their advice on your child’s care, please do not accept their criticisms.
Do what’s right for your family. Think outside the proverbial box. Your child’s future is your investment. Follow your instincts. Trust your gut. Advocate for your child by working with the teachers, not against them, or find an alternative learning program. But don’t expect anyone to be the solution. It takes a circle of care. Build that.
Listen before you react. Be mindful that your anxiety doesn’t become your child’s and don’t rush into rescue mode over every challenge. Trust me. Tough lesson.
Now 22, my girl has a sense of self-worth that comes from living outside of that proverbial box. She is remarkable. And beautiful. And kind. With a career. Yep.
So if this parenting week was tough, please be kind to yourself. It will get better. Just do your best. It’s enough.
You are enough.