I cried when I took my boy to preschool for the first time and I sobbed like a newborn when I dropped him off for kindergarten. We all do it. But taking your child to someone else to care for and manage their education, balance their behaviors, and meet their needs all day when you know they struggle even to articulate their feelings is next level torture.
In the days leading up to the start of school, most parents are crossing items off of the supply list, stuffing book bags with pencils and hand sanitizer, packing lunches, and scheduling after school activities.
We do all of that too.
But we are also prepping prescription bottles, filling out med forms, getting papers signed by therapists and specialists, stressing out over IEP meetings, readying our binders for teacher discussions about accommodations, and making sure we’ve remembered communication cards, change of clothes, undergarments, adaptive equipment, and so, so many more.
We aren’t just laying out clothes for their first day after summer break. We are checking gears on wheelchairs or leg braces, setting their favorite compression gear out to wear under school clothes, putting school approved fidget toys in every nook and cranny, and making sure we pack a lunch with all sensory savvy foods our kid will eat without a fuss.
I am not only entrusting my child to the school with the hopes that they learn, pass their classes, make friends, and survive the social pressures and media horrors surrounding public school. I am doing all of that plus the layer of trusting aids and paraprofessionals to treat my child like their own. To not take them to the lunchroom if they are shouting or having a meltdown moment. To wipe their chin should they spill food. To change them should they have an accident. To not let other kids make fun of them in the hallways. to not label them because of a diagnosis but to give them a chance to be who they really are.
Friends, dropping off our child at school looks less like a step and more like a leap. It is one of faith, of trust, and of prayer-filled tears. It is one I’ve dreaded but one I hope will bring so much joy and friendship, curiosity and learning for our boy.
So classroom aids, room parents, paraprofessionals, staff members, teachers, and administrative staff, THANK YOU. Thank you for showing up despite your inadequate pay to do a mostly thankless job because you are empowering kids like our and changing lives with your devotion to educating and loving our little ones. To those dedicated to truly impacting the hearts and minds of young people, I cannot thank you enough because I know that once I cry allllllll the tears when I leave my boy, that he is in undeniably good hands.