Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wearing the Brave Face

First Day of School!  First Day of School!

Usually that is what I am shouting at the kids, with a little extra spring in my step.  I am all smiles, happy that they are back at school, learning, hanging with their peers and teachers. 

Last week, however, I did not feel that way.  I was a nervous wreck. My daughter with special needs was about to enter 5th grade and she was terrified.  

Despite the fact that we met the teachers, she knew the school, had friends in her homeroom, and had a returning Resource Room teacher, she was horribly anxious.  It started the previous week when she announced to the family that  she did not want to go to school.   

Over the years, I have learned how to deal with some of her unfounded anxiety.  I understand she gets nervous about things that make everyone nervous, it's just to a greater degree.  Plus, she obesses and frets over it.  We can usually get by with "let's not worry about it today; it's a week away, let's just enjoy today" and she can shelve it.   We got through that week fairly well.

That morning however, I started to feel her anxiety.  I knew she didn't want to go and that she was still very nervous.  I hid my nerves pretty well, donning the brave face I often have to wear for her, to let her know I was confident everything would turn out fine.  Even when she asked if we could "cancel school" today, I told her "no, today will be great.  It's your job to go to school."  She got ready, but was very quiet.  We made it to school early, snapped the required photos, and dropped off the 2nd grader to his classroom (he of course, was insanely excited for school to begin).

Then we went to the 5th grade hallway and helped her find her locker.  A friend from last year was there too and when C. said hi, and said friend replied with a sullen "hi."  Okay, that didn't go too well, but it's early.  Well, then the friend turned and gave an enthusiastic "HI!" to a few other girls, complete with hugs.  Then a mom took a pic of four girls together while C. was off to the side, watching.  It broke my heart.
Just a side note here: Parents, if you see a kid off to the side, get them in the pic too, okay?  It's not too much to ask, especially since you are the ADULT in the situation and wouldn't want your kid left out.  
Usually, C. bounds into a classroom, acting like she OWNS the place.  Today it was tentative steps, slowly walking to her desk, clutching her backpack like her life depended on it.  A girl sitting next to her, who was in C.'s class in 3rd grade, said hi.  Claire smiled a reserved smile.  She was clearly nervous.  We left quickly, not wanting to disrupt class.

I am not a cryer, but the tears were falling the moment we got into the car.  Thankfully the spouse was there to tell me everything was going to be fine, it was just the first day, etc.   Then I called my BFF and we cried together.  I was a bundle of nerves all day, waiting for the bus to arrive.

When she stepped off the bus, she was all smiles.  A GREAT day, she said.  And it's been that way since. 

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Jennifer Giroux is a mom to 3 children.  Her oldest, "C." was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at 18 months.  She writes about all things related to special education and living with a family member who has special needs.  Read her blog at