A few years ago when my youngest started kindergarten, I was over the moon excited. FINALLY both boys would be in the same school and they would have each other under the same roof. Unfortunately it would be the same year that my son would have one of the worst school years on record. Fortunately it was also the year that I quit my full time corporate job to become an entrepreneur so I was available to manage all of the crazy.
Here begins the tale of two school experiences. My eldest child, who has a disability that the school claims to “accept”, did not do well in second grade. It was a devastating year that I’m pretty sure I still have PTSD from. We didn’t know what was going on back then, he didn’t get evaluated officially until the end of the second grade. Once he was diagnosed, we knew what our options for treatment were.
However, on the opposite end, my little guy was loved immediately by everyone in the school. It was a completely different experience being the parent of a “loved” child versus the parent of a “tough” child. It was a truly hot and cold experience–it came to a point where I refused to speak out loud with any of the deans/teachers about how “different” they were because I didn’t want my eldest to develop a complex of being “less than“.
My youngest child was flourishing. His grades were amazing. He had friends in every grade, he hugs everyone and brings smiles everywhere he goes. His first grade year was no different, he started to get a bit more antsy, but he was still doing well academically and socially. My eldest on the other had some good moments and some really bad ones. It wasn’t nearly as bad as second grade but the counselors made it crystal clear that they had given up on him with the culmination of it all happening in June when they forced me to pick him up at 12:00 pm every day because of his behavior. It was a horrible stress on me, my work, and my event life. Not to mention that my youngest had to miss some really fun school events because I was NOT going back to pick him up 3 hours later…pregnant and first trimester sick.
So I made the really hard decision to remove my eldest from the school that he had spent four years. It was a super difficult decision but I knew I had no other choice. He started a new school this year and I pray that this will be a better environment for him. He deserved more than a school that never let him forget his past. He has also been medication free, and we have been having detailed talks about what happens during the day. The days are shorter and the new school is 1000x more welcoming than the old school ever was. I feel good about it.
As for my youngest? I asked him at the end of last year if he wanted to leave his school. I let him know that his brother would no longer be there. I gave him the option, even though it would have been WAY easier to yank them both out and register them together somewhere new. I gave him the option even though the schools have completely different start times. I gave him the option even though I had no idea how I would make it work with a newborn. I gave him the option because I believe in him, and his happiness. It is SO HARD to be the sibling of someone with special needs. He has sacrificed so much because of his brother–I wanted him to simply choose what he wanted to do.
He looked at me with tear filled eyes and said “I am going to miss my brother, but I really want to go back”. And just like that I had to put aside my personal feelings for the school just to make sure that my baby was happy and comfortable. I know he would thrive anywhere because he is just that type of kid, but it was important that HE made the decision, not me.