School starts for Brady on Wednesday (I know! A WEDNESDAY, say what!?). And, the start of this school year has brought on a wave of intense anxiety for me. YES, for ME! (Hear the violins???) See, the start of school year is a very stressful thought for most ASD moms. Sure, all moms experience a little stress when their kidlets go off into school for the first time. But, let me explain to you a little more why I am sort of terrified about it.
First of all, if you don't know, Brady has Autism. You wouldn't know it if you saw us passing you. It's not something that he physically exhibits (well, most of the time, at least). And, he LOVES school. I am not terrified he will have a bad time there. I'm certain he will enjoy it and he will fall in love with his teacher. And, like everyone else, they will fall in love with him.
What I am most terrified of is that now he will be facing all those big kids. This isn't preschool anymore. All of those big kids that will probably make some comment about Special Ed (he's beginning the mainstreaming process this year) and God forbid, use the "R" word. I know, I KNOW with a certainty that they will not know the hurt they will cause by doing this. I know, because I was once a kid their age. But, luckily, Brady will probably not care one bit at this time. But, I WILL. I have yet to experience it, but I know it will not be easy. It's dreadful thinking about it. The last thing I want to do is be the mom who unleashed her wrath on a grade school child. Serenity now....
I know that one day Brady will be hurt by being excluded. That he will yearn to be "normal" and not know why he is different. He will wonder why he has extra work, therapy and all the things that "normal" kids don't have to endure. I will have to answer those questions one day. I'm glad I have some time to think it over a bit.
But, what brings on the worst anxiety is facing all the moms. YES! THE MOMS! The moms who just don't understand why I don't have time to do things like afterschool activities and volunteering. Why we can't just "skip" a day of therapy. Why we can't just be like them. It's because we are not. NOTHING like them. After school, Brady has therapy until dinner. UNTIL DINNER five days a week, people! He gets home from school and immediately has therapy. And, that's just ABA therapy. And, trust me, other moms will think it's a little over the top. "Why don't you just have LESS therapy?" Why? Because I want the best for my child and therapy is part of it. We don't do therapy because it's fun.
I will probably get the pity nod as I have to deal with a tantrum, because I'm sure it will happen eventually. But, really, I've been dealing with tantrums for a while, so they don't faze me. I'm sure I'll get a few, "Oh my! He's certainly vocal" comments here and there. Maybe I'll have to explain he has Autism. Maybe I won't. Depends on how tired and cranky I am.
But, what will be tough is dealing with the judgment. Judgment from those who have never walked my path. Judging my decisions, my actions, the tone and perhaps the fact that I will ignore some behaviors. Judging the amount of (or perceived lack of) discipline I have for my kids. I'll probably have to endure the torturous "Have you tried" suggestions. I'll answer probably seven billion times whether I think vaccines caused it, whether we are gluten free, is he like Rain Man, or "Have you heard of Temple Grandin". I'll annoyingly watch people talk to my son as if he is incapable of comprehending what they are saying (and just for the record, he DOES UNDERSTAND and you don't have to speak S-L-O-W). Just thinking about it kind of makes me physically and mentally tired.
I will be up at night thinking of what any new behavior means. I will wonder if services will be cut and if they aren't if he will be getting the appropriate level of services he needs. I will pray each day that his good spell of sleeping will not be disrupted by the stresses of not only a new school but a longer school day. I will wonder if his aides are nice to him, if he is scared or perhaps if all my worrying is for nothing. I will be conflicted with the amount of demands placed on him - for he is only 5. I will ponder if I'm doing the right thing, if I'm acting the right way, if I'm too hard or too lenient.
I know I bring a lot of this anxiety on myself. It's needless worrying for the most part. But, nonetheless, I worry. So, when you see me and pass judgment, remember, YOU, the mom giving me the judgmental glance (because we can all tell), are the LAST thing I need to worry about. But, for some damn reason, I spend time worrying about you. URGH!
Rather than side eye me, try this. Give me a smile. Give me some room. I want to be like you, but I can't. My circumstances don't allow it. I'm not bitter and I am over trying. Don't give me the guilt trip for not helping out at the damn bake sale. Don't think I'm lazy for not selling your magazines or participate in the next fundraiser. Don't think I'm being rude if I cut you off. It's probably because I can tell that my son is about to lose it because he has his head set on getting a sprinkled donut like I promised him and is growing impatient with my petty conversation. Don't get mad if I took up soooo much of the teacher/principal/fill-in-the-blank's time because of my kid's "issues". What you can do is understand that I don't want to be rude, pushy, flippant, whatever you think I am. I don't want to be on a perpetual soap box educating everyone about my son's Autism. It's not what I want to do. I just don't have the energy.
Know that I don't need your sympathy. My life is not horrible. It's far from it. We are happy and we DO have fun. Just not with you. Ha! Ha! I just had to put that in there.
Hey you other moms, what you can do is not tolerate your child demeaning another child for their disabilities. You can refuse to allow your child to treat another child - special ed or not - any differently than they would want to be treated. You can do this by doing it and modeling it for your kids. Your kids are a big mirror of yourself.
What I DO WANT is for my son to have the same experiences and memories of school as your child. I don't want to have to deal with the MOMS. So, with that, what you can do is just be nice. That's all - just be NICE. Simple as that. Oh, and don't take my parking space. I may just flip out.
So, THAT, my friends - that, in a large, long-winded nutshell, is why the start of school is stressful for me. WISH ME LUCK!