The Big K

On Thursday, Tessa will have her first day of kindergarten.  That’s right.  The big K.  I would be lying if I said I was not feeling a bit unsettled about it all right now. Thankfully, I am very distracted with other projects and deadlines so I am not completely focused on the fact that my firstborn is heading to school full-time for the next however many years. As excited as I am for her, I am equally as nervous. Even though she has been in school for two years, there is still a knot in the pit in my stomach as we gear up for this transition.  I have a hard time explaining it.  Like a twinge of heartache mixed with immeasurable joy.

She is so excited, and she talks about starting kindergarten in her new school all the time.  One of my jobs as her mom is to fortify her excitement and reassure her that this next adventure will be grand; while fighting back mama tears and worry.  Standard parent stuff, right?

I know, I know…I have to suck it up, set aside my sentimental baggage and just be there for her.  There is nothing I can do to change the fact that she is growing up. And thank goodness for that; otherwise I may have kept her little forever.  This is the first step toward her forever.  From Thursday on, her life as a kid changes and my life as her parent does too.  This is one of the things–not so long ago–that we hoped for, prayed for and dreamed about.  The first day of kindergarten.  I remember a time when we worried she might not see this day. Here we are, just days away, and I marvel at how it will go.  Now my hopes and dreams for her at school have shifted to her finding her niche, making new friends and progressing her education. And, more importantly, to continue to carry and sprinkle her infectious joy around like pixie dust to those she meets along the way.  

My girlfriend has a daughter two weeks younger than Tessa who also has Down syndrome. So she gets it…all of it. The age, the attitude(s), the diagnosis, the need for wine nights, and the roller-coaster ride we often find ourselves on together. She also knows why this new phase tugs extra on the heart.  This is the picture I text her today.  Just sending my girl off to kindy like…

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How long will it take me to leave her classroom after I drop her off that first morning?  I imagine longer than necessary.  You know, just in case she changes her mind about this whole school thing. I will also more than likely arrive entirely too early for pickup as well.  I take my role as “that mom” seriously.

Is everyone this beat up over that first big day or is it just me?  I kid.  I really will be fine.  Even if it takes three bags of dark chocolate Ghirardelli squares to make it through.  While the veteran moms are out celebrating and high-fiving each other after their kids are off to school (which I envy by the way), I will be eating my feelings in the corner booth of a little breakfast diner.  The rest of you kindy first-timer moms are welcome to join me.

Here we go…

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Change: Part 1

You know those relationships that come into your life and change everything? Most of them time, it is just one person we think of.  But in my case, it is an entire team of people who have swooped into my heart and changed my way of thinking.  Last week, I had to make the decision to let them go. Not for lack of love.  Not for a lack of caring. But simply because we need to go where the wind is blowing us right now.

I am not a fan of change.  I do not usually adjust to it well.  Routine is good for me. It reassures me and keeps my busy mind focused on a daily plan.  This is where Tessa gets it from, huh?  

That is the really neat thing about life, you really never know what is going to come your way. When opportunity pops up, you can either take it or run from it. And I have learned that that decision is so much more than simply deciding to do one or the other; especially when we cannot guarantee that the decisions we make are the “right” ones.

I broke up with Tessa’s school last week. I can call it a breakup because it was painful and heartbreaking and I was a serious hot mess about it.  Plus every time I thought about it, I just wanted to cry. I held onto Tessa’s open-enrollment at her first school for as long as I could, but it was not until the superintendent called me early last week to chat that I finally broke down and told her the news.  We had a heartfelt conversation and she assured me that Tessa will be incredibly missed. I couldn’t even properly thank her for the chance to have attended such an amazing district without erupting into more tears. Shocker, I know… Luckily for my husband, the crying has finally stopped.

This probably looks and sounds so dramatic for a school change, but it just proves how meaningful the relationships we have built there really are.  We love this school so much; the staff, the students, the atmosphere, the values of the district…everything.  This team of people at her school set the bar so high and blew away my expectations.

Everything I was concerned may happen going into school, didn’t. They took her in as their own and treated us like family. They saw her full potential and pushed her to it; never suggesting that having Down syndrome may hold her back from certain things. Never.  Not once.  They have done so much for her and for me.  This is where she started. They changed a belief in me and ignited a flame in my heart to always push for my girl no matter what.

This team of her’s, so passionate about their roles, has shown us what the right mindset can do.  They constantly demonstrate what every child deserves in education. They see her as a child first over her diagnosis and they fiercely believe that she can achieve anything.  The power of their confidence in her has made such a positive impact on her life.  Because of these values, Tessa accomplished so much with them.  This is all we have ever wanted for our daughter’s education–belief of what she is capable of and the chance to see it through.

I could go on forever about her team of teachers, therapists, aides, etc.  I could preach about how incredible each of them has been, but I will just assume that by now that you get it.  So when I say this decision was incredibly difficult to make, I sincerely mean it.  I am guilty of taking advantage of how good we had it there; how fortunate we were to have had our daughter in great hands. Now that it is time to say goodbye, it is hitting me how much we will miss them.

Tessa will be starting at a new school this fall…because our family is moving (again, this is another post in the near future). Not far by any means, but back near my hometown which is just a few minutes away from where we are now.  I never really imagined that I would find myself there again, but I feel good about it.  It certainly helps that some of our friends and families and their kids are there as well.  We have already been so welcomed by the new school.  They understand that the transition may be hard for us, but they have reassured us that they have Tessa’s best interest in mind as well as we move forward with them.

While this change feels rough right now, I am incredibly fulfilled about the experience we had at Tessa’s first school and thankful for her team there.  I am also hopeful and optimistic about what is to come.

Here’s to a new school adventure–wish us luck!

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Just a few members of her team from this past year. Glad I snagged a few pictures on the last day of school.