After 690 days – they went back to school and this anxiety is not new

When I was a kid, I loved going to school.

I hated making friends and socializing.

But I LOVED learning new things. I loved learning things so much that I never could sleep the night before the first day of the school year.

As I write this, my girls are back in school for the first time in 690 days.

The last time they left the same school building was March 13th, 2020 for what was supposed to just be an extra week of Spring Break.

An extended spring break we all joked.

When the world stopped – I am not gonna lie – but I was relieved.

You see, school has sucked for our girls.

Our oldest, B, was bullied during kinder and 1st and we didn’t know.

Our youngest, E, has so many diagnoses that have made any environment with more than 3 people rough.

I picked her up early 4 out of 5 days in kindergarten. I even hung out in her classroom the last 30 minutes for the last few weeks of 1st grade.

The school called me so much for E that I now have PTSD from my phone ringing.

I once played negotiator over the phone with E and her principal to see if she would unlock the bathroom and leave it.

I almost got fired from too many attendance points due to leave without a 2 day warning to pick up E early from school.

We started 2nd grade with the knowledge that E might need to go to a special school. An environment that would be suited to her needs, and not the public school environment she was struggling in.

But by the time the world stopped on March 13th, she was finally thriving.

I was finally able to get rid of those attendance points and distance myself from the threat of being fired.

As a parent, I was finally able to breathe a little.

But then the world stopped.

My best friend died.

We tried unschooling.

And it turns out – I am not a teacher. I became a parent to not become a teacher.

I wouldn’t have sent them back yet.

We are still in the middle of a pandemic and I give it a month before the kids are home sick or in quarantine.

But E wanted to go back. She has been begging to go back. And when I told her yesterday that today was the day – she had the biggest smile I have seen in 2 years.

Hell, she was up before I was this morning. That’s not saying much because she is always awake before I am. But she was genuinely excited.

An excitement towards school I have never seen from her.

As I walked back to my car after dropping each kid off in their classroom, I felt my heart wanting to escape.

I sat in the car in the parking lot for a moment.

I didn’t realize how good I was holding it all together.

So I sat in the car, and felt the feels.

I would have kept them home and continued to fail at homeschooling.

The school system isn’t built for them. But we have no other choice.

I know the staff will look after the girls. They are going to be fine.

But this anxiety I am having – isn’t like the anxiety I had before the pandemic.

This anxiety – is a byproduct of the reality we live in.

I have always had anxiety around sending them to school. Wondering if each day would bring another room clear, or another bully that would push my precious B to the edge.

But this anxiety is not like that anxiety

Between the pandemic, school shootings, anti-vaxxers, gun toting madmen and women, anti-maskers PLUS having a transgender kiddo that is just growing up too fast and both girls being behind academically PLUS all their other diagnoses – of course I am anxious.

Only this time, I am not just prepared and anxious, but I am healed and anxious.

And because of that – I am no longer losing sleep.

I am no longer being controlled by the anxiety, by the worry that the phone is going to ring any moment.

My heart may have tried to escape this morning and I may be holding on to my phone tight just in case – but they have grown so much in the past 2 years.

They have both learned how to be confident in their own skin. They have found their voices and aren’t afraid to use them anymore.

It’s still hard to understand E 70% of the time, and she may have a nervous cough tic that I am sure is going to drive her fellow students crazy – but I have to believe that she is going to be OK.

I know B is going to be just fine.

And if not – at least I am my own boss, make my own hours, and can pick her up at the drop of the hat without fear of being fired.

But the hope is that this transition is going to go smoother than I ever catastrophized about.

E requires a transition and prep for every thing in her life. So I am sharing the reality of the world and all the possibilities about what could happen when they return to school because that is our reality in America in the year 2022.

I am preparing them because I know if E were to be put in an emergency situation – she could erupt and the consequences dire.

I am preparing them because I know when I prepare for worst case scenarios – I am the calm in the storm when the worst case happens.

But in all honesty – I don’t know how my kids will react.

They have been doing so good for the past 690 days but that’s at home, with their family and their cats and their tablets and their Youtube.

And I’d rather they be prepared than frozen in fear. I can help then through the trauma afterwards. But in the moment – even though they are 9.5 and 12 – they need to be ready for anything.

I’m not gonna lie – parenting in 2022 kind of sucks.

So as I sit here, eating my lunch kid-less, watching the cats walk around aimlessly, and actually getting things on my to-do list done – I may be anxious about this new chapter in our lives…

But it’s going to be OK.

We are going to be OK.

They are going to be OK.

Me waking up at 6am – might not be OK. But it will become easier.

In the meantime, I am going to Adventure on with Curiosity,
-Kelly Steele

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