The Anxiety of a Special Needs Parent Before the First Day of Kindergarten
So many parents are rejoicing and celebrating this time of year. After two months of summer vacation, the beloved yellow school busses are returning to bring children back to school and bring parents the daytime respite they so desperately need. The time has come to settle back into the school day routine.
But my heart aches. The pain is subtle and underlying, and I cannot shake it. I feel scared. I feel helpless. The past five years have been consumed by my job as a special needs parent. The planning, the research, the doctors appointments, the early intervention. Everything I have done and worked for was and is to protect my daughter and to help her grow in every way. Now I feel like so much of the control I have had is being taken away as my daughter starts kindergarten.
My stomach is in knots as I think about it. The panic is beginning to envelope me more and more as the hours tick by. Did I do enough to prepare her for this? Did I advocate hard enough in all those pre-kindergarten IEP meetings? Did I agree to the best possible placement for her? What if she struggles? What if she is not challenged enough? I don’t know.
And now there is no time left to do anything more. Stop. Put your pencils down. This is really happening. Like now.
I believe my daughter is ready for this big step. She is excited to take on this new challenge of kindergarten, and I am excited to watch the successes I know she will have. My biggest fear is that others will underestimate her. Her speech and language delays, coupled with her shyness and anxieties, cause some people to get the wrong impression of her. When she doesn’t respond immediately to prompts or questions, it is not usually because she doesn’t understand. There is often something else in the way. As her mom, I am well aware of this. I know the intelligence and awareness behind those beautiful brown eyes. I long for my daughter to be able to one day articulate all those thoughts I know are running around inside her mind. For now, though, I am afraid others may not understand all this and may lower expectations for her. This would be a huge injustice for my little girl.
I wish I could always be there with her to translate when others don’t understand. I wish I could always be there to help her speak up when she needs something. I wish I could always be there to make sure others are seeing her like I do.
But I know at this point I need to take a step back. I need to take a deep breath and tell myself I did the best I could up to this point. I need to let school start and let my daughter shine like the star she truly is.
I must take the advice of my daughter’s favorite song and “let it go” – let her go (but just a little bit). I must remind myself she will do great (she really will). And perhaps most importantly at this time, I must learn to start to trust others to look for the best in my little girl as I do. This is by far the most difficult for me, but I know as others truly get to know her, they will see the special girl I do.