It was the first day we’d planned for her to stay after school for math tutoring. For almost a month, we’d talked about her starting this week. We walked through the routine at school that morning—which classroom she’d go to, what teacher would be there, what they would do for the hour until the after-hours bus arrived. She’d ride bus D and get off at the school she’d attended for elementary.
She understood, repeated it all back to me. I kissed her forehead, prayed for her day as we said goodbye. She’d crinkled up her nose and made that snort noise she makes when she’s giving me her special version of an “OMG, mom! Stop hugging me!” middle schooler.
Nine hours later, the after-hours bus drove away from her stop, and my daughter was nowhere to be found.
[Insert panic here.]
“What did I miss?” I re-ran through the details in my head.
- We’d accounted for her vision deficits—the teacher would walk her to the bus pick-up point.
- We’d mitigated her ADHD by writing the details in her planner where everything else important lives.
- We’d supported her anxiety by walking through the routine together and designating a person in the office she could go to if she had a question or got lost.
As I ran the scenario over in my head, I sent a text to her friend’s mom. The friend she usually rides home with.
“Have you heard from my kiddo?” I texted her.
“Yeah. She’s here, like usual on Tuesdays before youth group.” She wrote back.
You know those moments when about two hundred emotions traffic jam in your head at once? That was me right then!
- I’m so glad she’s okay!
- How did she end up there when we did EVERYthing to get her to tutoring?
- That’s great that she knows the routine to get to her friend’s house!
- Wait, why didn’t she or anyone else call to tell me that’s what happened instead of the plan?
Then it hit me. We’d planned for every contingency but one: the part where she’s a normal seventh grader, despite her long list of diagnoses.
We’d missed the part where she sometimes defies the heck out of our plans. Where she tells me off (even if her speech delays prevent me understanding any of it). When she magically doesn’t show up for a resource not because she’s lost or unable to get there, but because she just plain old doesn’t WANT to.
In other words, the “I’m raising a middle schooler” craziness that, throughout history, has always been a special need of its own!
Yes, my girl is 100% normal, defiant, hormonal, sneaky pre-teen sometimes. She takes my phone so she can play a game when she’s supposed to be doing a chore. She pawns off an act of disobedience on one of her sisters. She gives me the silent treatment when she gets caught for any of the above.
Often, it’s parenting the “normal” moments that can throw us for a loop with our special needs tweens.
For me, it’s having to discipline my girl for every-child issues. The “I’m a pro at ‘special,’ but how do people actually manage this teen eye-rolling thing every day??” moments.
Just about every week, someone says “I don’t know how you do it” as they observe me raising my daughters with special needs. But my hat goes off to them in moments when I drive up to the empty bus stop. Those moments when the scariest diagnosis of all is “typical kid.”
Those are the moments when the deep camaraderie of ALL parents on the planet makes itself clear. Knowing I’m not alone in the “normal” gives me confidence in the face of those uncharted waters.
What “normal” situations with your child are unexpectedly hard? How do you manage (or find humor in) them?