It’s a typical Tuesday morning. I hustle my four-year-old into his preschool, scribble my signature on the sign-in sheet, help him hang up his gear, and turn to say goodbye. But before I can make my way out of the cubby corner his teacher catches me.
“Can we chat for a few minutes at pick up today? We wanted to talk to you about something.”
My palms feel damp.
“No! Everything is fine – he’s fine! We just want to talk.”
“Sure, that sounds great, see you soon” I croak.
I continue on with my morning as planned, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to receive some news that will make me feel uneasy. I arrive back at the school a little early and quietly wait by the entrance. My stomach feels hollow.
My son comes bursting through the classroom door and hurls his body toward me, wrapping his arms around my legs.
“Hey buddy, I have to chat with your teachers real quick. Can you wait for me by the reading cube?”
I make my way into the classroom, settle into an extremely too-small chair. My knees bump against the edge of the shin-high table top. My son’s teachers seat themselves on either corner of the U-shaped table.
“We See Some Red Flags”
There. That’s it. I exhale.
I saw this conversation coming. I think most parent’s wonder where their child falls within the range of “normal” behavior and attitude compared to their peers. I had been quietly observing my son’s quirks alongside those of his friends for a few years, so this statement doesn’t shock me as much as it solidifies my own suspicions.
I’m surprised when I hear myself reply. My tone is even and warm. It’s as though I was preparing for this conversation all along. In a way, I think I was.
We discuss options, screenings, evaluations, possible diagnosis. I’m handed a slip of paper with a name and a phone number with instructions to start there first. They will guide me through the next steps. I stand, shaking the stiffness from my legs and thank the teachers for their time.
My son spots me and leaps up from his nest of pillows and books.
“Everything OK, Mom!?”
“Yep, all good.”
In the weeks and months that followed there would be many appointments. Lots of explaining, form filling, and reports. When I would share the “news” that we were working through some evaluations I would often hear, “I’m sorry” in response from another parent.
This confused me. Sorry. Why? There’s nothing to be sorry about.
My child is absolutely perfect. And so is yours. Each child is unique and all children need different things. Maybe my son needs to receive and process information differently. Perhaps I have to tweak my own expectations and requests. But, by no means is my child broken, and neither is yours.
I firmly believe that.
And even though 5 little words can make your stomach drop, know that you are the exact parent your child needs. I don’t remember anyone telling me how much time and energy I would spend advocating for my children when I first became pregnant. Sure, eveyone likes to joke that your mind, body, heart, sleep, house, car, and life will never be the same. But did anyone tell you, that as a parent, you will be your child’s chief advocate?
No one told me that.
It’s a role I am proud and determined to fulfill, but darn if it isn’t exhausting.