The women down the street are popping the champagne for mimosas as they join together for a mothers party to celebrate the first day of school. All of their cute Pinterest-y photos of kids neatly groomed holding chalkboards proclaiming their first day of 1st Grade, 7th Grade, or Senior year have already littered the Facebook feed. The joyful smell of new school supplies and lingering warm weather make these parents feel light as their children march forward into a new year.
That’s not the case for too many of us who are raising the nearly 16% of children with some sort of developmental disability. Whether it be a physical challenge, cognitive delays, or psycho-social difficulties, parents like us have been on edge for weeks before school began. Still trying to recover from the battles of the previous school year, we have already been hard at work trying to assure this new school year will be better than the previous one. Last minute physicals are being conducted as we scramble to submit the reams of paperwork that are required by administration for our child’s health management during the school day. We are working to orchestrate staff meetings to bring new instructors, medical staff, and administrators up to speed on proper protocol for our child while in their care, all the while PRAYING that they will actually follow through with these instructions.
On top of these details a large elephant, incapable of remaining undetected, bears its full weight on our chests — Who will be teaching our child? While every parent is somewhat nervous or apprehensive about this annual transition, it is a disproportionately HUGE issue for those of us with challenged children. We hold our breath, anxious about the unknown, praying that this year’s set of instructors will be a loving, encouraging, understanding group of people who will spur our child on to their full potential. We pray that we won’t have another problem instructor, one who just refused to try and understand our child or adapt their teaching approach, like we had in a previous school year. We pray that there won’t be conflict between ourselves and the school these next 9 months. Yet, we fear that these battles for the sake of our child are inevitable.
As one mother I spoke with this week put it,
“I dread the start of school.”
Add to these concerns at school the turmoil that presents itself in our homes, and it isn’t any wonder that a mother should feel this way. The closely-guarded routine has changed. Sleep is off. Mood is swirling. While other parents are rejoicing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” because they have regained their freedom for most of the day, we are held captive by the ugliness of transition that always feels wrong. Life isn’t supposed to be this way, is it?
So while the neighborhood book clubs, coffee klatches, play groups, Bible studies, and shopping sprees resume, we are relegated back to a place of isolation. We are once again subjected to the PTSD trigger of seeing the school phone number appear on our Caller ID. We had our brief opportunities to connect with friends at camp or with family at reunions this summer. Now we are pushed once again to the margins.
Friends, it doesn’t have to stay this way. YES, it is so very hard this time of year. YES, it can take every ounce of energy within us to get our child and their staff adjusted to this new rhythm and routine. Yet, the God who never leaves us nor forsakes us always gives us the gift of one another. We must be deliberate during this time of year to reach out to other parents like ourselves, sharing our struggles. We must not further isolate ourselves by taking the seemingly easier route by hunkering down in our homes, avoiding opportunities to meet with other weary travelers on this bumpy road. This year, let’s commit ourselves to ending our own isolation and multiplying our strength.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-15, NIV)