“One morning you’ll wake up to find you are grown and the bells that you’ve rung and the whistles you’ve blown will say to the world that the story you told was clever and brave and daring and bold – and I’ll be prouder than words can tell of every chapter and every bell.” – Nancy Tillman
It is the first day of school, and I am a bit overwhelmed by all the emotions that have come along with this milestone. For both girls, this year is filled with firsts as they move into full-day school, but the transition will be most extreme for Eliza. Her new program sounds amazing, and we are thrilled for her, but there are some very big changes from last year. She is surrounded almost exclusively by typically-developing peers, she has no full-time therapist in the classroom, she has no morning snack, she is expected to be potty trained (which is still a struggle), and her day lasts seven hours (opposed to last year’s three) with only a 40-minute rest time. The girl is going to be tired. Scratch that. The girl is going to be totally exhausted.
And yet I’m so excited for all the ways I know she will rise to this challenge. It may not be smooth or predictable or even pretty, but Eliza has grit, and she constantly amazes and surprises me. After scribbling random lines for her name at check-in this morning, she hugged me goodbye with no tears and no hesitation, ready for the next adventure. My hope and prayer is not that she learns to write her name or recognize numbers and letters (although that would be amazing). My hope and prayer is that she sinks more deeply into a love of community and rises more confidently in her awareness of all the gifts she brings to this world. The sky is the limit for all she can do!
But none of that changes the fact that I am afraid…afraid that she won’t be able to hold it together when morning comes and goes without a snack, afraid that she will feel embarrassed to have a Pull-up on when everyone else has long outgrown that stage, afraid that her exhaustion will translate as meltdowns or falls. I am afraid that she will feel truly different for the first time. I want so much for school to be a safe and happy place for her to grow, and the thought that she could see it as anything else terrifies me. Her independence and determination can swing both ways, and I know how hard the battles can be to get her to do anything she doesn’t want to. The struggle is real, and the stakes are high.
I don’t know what she’s doing at this moment or even how she’s feeling, but when my mind spirals down every potential scenario and panic creeps in, I remind myself of all I do know. I know God is with her. I know that He created her exactly as she is meant to be and that she is surrounded by a fierce and unconditional love. And I know Eliza. She is already everything Nancy Tillman writes about in the children’s book I read the girls last night – “clever and brave and daring and bold,” and no matter what the day brings, I’m already “prouder than words can tell of every chapter and every bell.”