Since before Hope could even hold her head up, I’ve dreaded her entering the public school system. I dreaded not being with her during her therapies. I dreaded handing off responsibilities I feel should be mine. I dreaded the individualized education plan (IEP) process. I dreaded the end of naps as we knew them.
I also dreaded closing the door on her being my dependent little baby to growing into the independent little girl she was destined to become.
When we decided to move from our rental apartment to a house, we knew the school system was going to be a critical piece of our decision-making. We had two choices: a small town, where everyone knows each other and theoretically takes care of each other like family, or a big town, where students don’t all know each other but resources abound. A small town, where school administration operates from deep within their hearts to help a child with special needs, or a big town, where school administration operates with deep pockets and a strong reputation to uphold.
It’s really not that black and white, but at the time we thought it was and opted for the big town with resources and a reputation. Fast-forward two years, and after months of paperwork, evaluations, and meetings, Hope’s initial IEP was written and signed and we knew we’d made the right decision. However, we were caught a little off guard—the big town with resources and a reputation seemed also to be operating from the heart.
Hope has now been in school for about a month, and I’m not sure any of us really have the hang of it. I still sometimes cry unexpectedly at morning drop-offs because I don’t want to let her go, and Hope still sometimes resists her afternoon nap and melts down even before we reach dinnertime.
Having a non-verbal toddler away all day is taxing on this mama. I rely on information from the new but strong relationships we are building with the school, and I take advantage of some conversation time with her teacher and classroom aides at drop-off and pick-up. Hope’s baby brother, Henry, and I stay busy for the hours she is away by working on gross and fine motor skills; going to music class, therapies, and the grocery store; doing laundry, house cleaning, etc. Our time is certainly occupied. But a piece of our hearts is so clearly missing during the day. And now that Henry is trying to say Hope’s name (he says “Bop Bop Bop”), my heart aches even more when I see him look at her empty chair at the kitchen table or a book with her picture on it and start babbling, “Bop Bop Bop.”
I miss Bop Bop Bop, too.