My little girl is not so little anymore. Starting fourth grade means she is the big fish in the school she started so long ago as a three year old. Little Miss M wants so badly to be independent, to stand on her own, and to be accepted. Little Miss M is different. You've probably already received the Moby Dick size file that accompanies her as she moves from grade to grade. Perhaps you've heard stories from the staff who have worked with her for six years. I'm certain you've noticed the air conditioners in your windows, and the various cushions, putty and other accessories that are now decorating your counter. But, none of these things tell you who Little Miss M is.
Little Miss M has autism, there's no question. From her repetitive fixations (she told us about her fabulous fish & chips for a week straight until she got a grilled cheese that was even more delicious) to her lack of eye contact and social understanding -- there is no disputing the diagnosis. However, autism means something different to every diagnosed individual. While there are plenty of bullet points in the challenges column: self care, social appropriateness, walking, attention, etc; there are also many wonderful bullet points in Little Miss M's accomplishments column: loving, caring, kind, mathematically inclined, creative, etc.
As her mother, school drop off is both the most difficult and most satisfying time of the day for me. It is not difficult because Little Miss M resists school, because she loves school. However, it is difficult for me because I have to place an incredible amount of trust in those that are responsible for her well-being and care. Will they watch her the same way I do? Will the know when she's going to fall? Will they see a meltdown coming and help her navigate it? Will they protect her from cruelty? Will they keep her safe? I'm sure all parents in this day and age feel this way about sending their children to school, but I don't have the same deep concerns about sending my neuro-typical first grader off. I think I will always worry more about Little Miss M. I am always close by, I'm never off guard. From the hours of 9am to 3pm I feel like I am teetering on the edge of a precarious cliff.
However, I'd be lying if I didn't say there was some satisfaction and relief when I drop the big two off at school. The routines they so crave are not so easy to achieve when you are working from home and trying to care for three rambunctious little girls at the same time. Them being in school gives me breathing time and time to focus my energies on my very active two year old and my job. It also means that for five days a week I am not cleaning the floor under the kitchen table at lunch time and listening the endless litany of requests for entertainment. I don't think this makes me selfish, I think it makes me honest. I love my children with all my heart and soul, but I'm excited they are starting school!
That being said, dear teacher, bless you. It's not just Little Miss M you are meeting on that first day but twenty-something new faces in various stages of development and learning. You are also taking on all the families and baggage that go with them.
And so it is with an anxious heart that I send my beautiful girl into your arms to educate, protect and even love. She will have orthotics on her feet and straps twisted around her legs. She will sometimes drool and shout out at inappropriate times. She will dance in her seat. She will watch the clock. She will work hard. She will be devoted. She will try to turn everything into a theatrical performance. She will inspire.
Little Miss M may have a complex diagnostic list, and a thick file, and many needs but in spite of all that she goes through, all her challenges, she never gives us. She is amazing. Thank you in advance for all your work, and know that this family appreciates you.
Best wishes for an incredible year!
From Little Miss M's Mom, and in honor of all moms sending their own children to new teachers this year
Although Amanda is excited the kids are heading back to school, she will miss her two big girls during the day. Luckily, one little cutie is still home to help!