We remember our most terrifying life experiences all too well, right?
My first Middle School Orientation as a parent was one such moment for me.
My son, “G,” is now 16. He is a super smart, autistic, kindhearted 10th grader.
My daughter, “Z,” is 12. She is allistic, very, very clever, and has some residual attachment-disordered behavioral traits that actually serve her well in her brutal 6th grade milieu.
Four years ago, I attended G’s Middle School orientation. This spring, I attended Z’s. The differences between the two experiences were remarkable:
Then: Abject terror for my child.
Now: Mild concern for other kids since, how shall I say this, Z and her friends are “still developing this skill” of the skill of empathy.
Then: Both children sitting with me. I'm so tense that my little guy — not the most observant kid on earth — is sensing my alarm, and my little gal — showing her rare and dear soft side — is noticing the tears streaming down my face; trying to keep it together for them and for my own dignity, such as it was.
Now: Sitting solo. G at another event. Z up on the balcony with her girl posse, all small but mighty. Scornful expressions masking…nervousness? Nah.
Now: Yawns. Have already seen this presentation. Plus, not worried.
Then: Curiosity tending toward fretting: Will these new teachers really see my child? Will he succeed here on his own terms? Will my child be bullied during this awkward time of life? Will G’s learning differences be scaffolded in such a way that his intelligence can shine?
Now: Curiosity, pure and simple: What will those teachers I was in close contact with for G think when they meet Z? Will my child be actively kind to “different” kids like her brother? Will Z make an effort to do better if getting decent grades is easy for her? Will her developmentally appropriate “attitude” be toned down in class? In the lunchroom?
Then: All-out trepidation about the changes, from multiple classrooms to teacher-specific homework assignments.
Now: Relief, knowing I won’t have to intervene or oversee Z constantly—vis-à-vis homework or anything else.
Then: Organizing Team Friendly Face.
Now: Admonishing (“Please try to look a bit less haughty — there are students here who feel intimidated and scared”).
My special “expertise” has always been around having two very different kids, but these four-years-apart experiences encapsulated that reality for me in the most striking way. It’s nice to see in this latest iteration that from time to time I am able to avoid having a total panic attack when a total panic attack is not warranted (I’ve wondered about that).
Then: Despite all that, my kids are alright. More than alright!
Then and now, I am grateful for these two precious beings and for the ways we all persist in growing and trying, together.
Full Spectrum Mama
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