Transitions are Tough…

Today is Tommy’s last day of 3rd grade. This summer he will start at an intermediate school (4th & 5th grade) and then in two short years, he’ll be in middle school. Speaking of middle school, Will is off to middle school in September. As for James, he’s off to kindergarten. All three boys are on the cusp of transitions. Yet, sometimes I think these transitions are tougher on moms (dads, too).

I’ve tried so hard to think back to when I transitioned from 4th to 5th grade. It was 1986. I don’t remember being sad to leave my elementary school. I don’t remember being nervous to start a new school. I do remember Janet Jackson, Peter Gabriel and walking …Like an Egyptian. All these years later I hope I’m projecting my nervousness of the unknown onto Will. But he is so sad to leave his elementary school. He truly has had so many amazingly talented and caring teachers; every single one of them. He’s so happy he and James will share the honor of being a “Bennett Cardinal.” I am, too.

It’s different in Tommy’s case. He’s had some of the same teachers and professionals working with him since he was 3 years old. I have come to rely on their expertise to help navigate “our” intersection of autism and education. School has been relatively smooth sailing for Tom because these folks know what works and what doesn’t. They know how to manage, redirect, teach and enter the world most people aren’t lucky enough to be a part of. They don’t teach subjects, they teach the whole child. They don’t just teach the child, they teach the whole family. I’ll miss them terribly.

Change is good. Tommy will start in July in his new school with new teachers and still some familiar faces. He will continue to be in great hands from the time he is picked up until he’s dropped off back at home. Tommy’s much too literal and unaware to worry about a new school. I’m the one, in all honesty, that’s having trouble with the change.

I’m terrified of Tommy getting older. The challenges for kids in general are so difficult to navigate these days. When you are socially and physically different, it’s amplified. What once was cute can quickly become weird. Stares in public can be tough. Comments in public are worse. My maternal instinct to protect is so acute with Tommy; it’s hard to articulate.

We’ll get through it. We always do. When Eric and I are faced with new medical “stuff” it hits us hard and then it becomes the new norm. This isn’t much different.

I’ve sat on “this side” of the teacher’s desk for over 23 years. Each year I wonder if I did enough. Did I reach every student? Are my students better people for having sat in my classroom? I hope the folks who have worked with Will and Tommy for the past 5 and 6 years respectively know that for our boys, the answer to those questions are a resounding “yes!” Thank you. Freetown Fox and Bennett Cardinal(s) for life!


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