For as long as I can remember, or, as long as K has been in school, we've had issues. From her behaviors not being understood, to her off the chart anxiety. Social issues. Extra-curricular failures. Fights over homework that could go up against the best war movies. Or actual wars.
School was always the fuel on the fire. Something we couldn't escape, no matter what accommodations were made, how long the IEP was, or what therapy was tossed in the mix. Every morning I had an upset little girl who sometimes had to be physically put in her van, and every afternoon I had a child who stormed into the house, angry at the world, and set off my the simplest things.
Each August my own anxiety would rise when I saw the back-to-school commercials. Our break had been far too short. Sure we had ESY, but a few hours a week was nothing compared to the actual school year. I tried to remain positive. Maybe this was the year things would turn around. Maybe maturity would be on our side. Maybe my kid would make a friend she couldn't wait to see everyday, and that would get her on the van. Maybe we'd only have one IEP meeting the whole year, instead of one almost every month. I wanted things to go well. I wanted K to be successful. I wanted to experience school like every other parent, and not like I was looking down the barrel of a gun.
Then this year happened.
Third grade. When everything changes. Students are expected to be independent in their school work. Socially, things start to change. Kids get mean years earlier than when I was growing up. I really can't explain the pain you feel when you go to the school to drop something off, and catch a glimpse of your child eating lunch in the cafeteria, alone. At a table by herself. It's an image I won't soon forget. My heart still breaks thinking about it.
And that was the most benign issue this year presented.
A lot happened this year. So much went wrong.
Very, very wrong.
And we knew we had to get K out.
With a lot of help, and after many sleepless nights and anxiety-ridden days, we finally did. We were able to move K to a new school that held so much promise. It took me a while to relax. To say I am a worrier is an understatement. Every time the phone rang those first few weeks, my heart stopped.
But, gradually, the worry got less. K was happy. She didn't even complain about getting up early to catch her van. I knew she would be OK at the new school, and started praying to the universe that our district would allow her to stay.
Last night it really hit me. Life isn't perfect. A new school didn't magically make K's autism go away. We still have our really trying times.
But, one problem we don't have?
And that's huge.
I no longer have a child who is a constant ball of anxiety, living in a perpetual meltdown. For those six hours every day, I'm not curled up in a fetal position, crying, feeling desperate.
For those six hours a day, my kid is happy.
It's an experience I never thought we'd have.
Like I said, things aren't perfect, but they are a hell of a lot better. It's a whole new world of school not being a catalyst, or something we all fear.
And it's about time.