Preparing Emotionally To Go Back To School

Going back to school is typified by fresh supplies, morning photo shoots and great anticipation of all that a new school year can offer. It’s hard to negate the promise of a new year. That is, unless the years previous have been less than promising. The potential of a fresh start can be lost on us who’ve not enjoyed many school successes. It can conjure up trepidation and dread for us that armor up each August in anticipation of the heavy lifting that school requires. Yet, even still, it’s truly miraculous how resiliently we’ll cling to the tiniest flicker of possibility. This could be our year to shine.

Ali’s story: So Close and yet So Far.

This morning my youngest will take his high school senior pictures. I’ve done this before, watching from afar, nostalgic and proud. Those aren’t exactly my feelings today as grade twelve kicks off since I know a lot can happen between now and graduation. He’s not flinching though, so I won’t either. But beneath our façades the war wounds remain fresh from more than a decade of an arduous school journey.

I’ve been working on this school year since before the last one ended. That’s just what’s required with a Complex ADHDer. You have to start early to secure the best tutors, meet with admin and work to ensure teachers are well informed of accommodations and diagnoses. It’s a juxtaposition of niceties and hard-ball negations.

I’d like to wipe the slate clean and just enjoy some of the excitement of his last year. I’ll allow myself some of those moments and I desperately want them for my ADHDer too. But the reality is, there’s much work to do for all of us. Our continual support and encouragement will be required as we tackle our student’s lack of motivation and confidence. Advocating can’t stop either and the ADHDer has his work cut out for him too. It’s time to clock in on the job!

I can’t believe we’ve made it to senior year. I want it to be done already, yet I don’t want to wish it away. I just want it to be different – dare I say enjoyable for us all. I’d settle for not being nerve wracked all the time. There have been zero absolutes in this journey except for one: God Himself has carried us through and I KNOW He’s not going to stop now. So my focus will be the finish line, not in apprehension but in full expectation. I BELIEVE.

So my focus will be the finish line, not in apprehension but in full expectation.

I BELIEVE.

Nor’s Story: School PTSD anyone?

Looking back, I was so unprepared for what back to school meant as the mom of a complex ADHDer. As a child, school was a refuge for me. I loved being at school. I was chubby and awkward but gifted and earnest and the teachers liked me. As a new mom, I dreamed the same dreams as other moms for my kids: coordinated outfits or cute uniforms, fun backpacks, new friends, and most of all, smiles.  

That dream didn’t become reality. My first introduction to school as a parent was when my son went to a Mother’s Day out nursery school at a local church at the age of two, when his sister was six months old. My first school meeting was myself and about eight preschool teachers and administrators. We needed a meeting because of his severe eczema and life-threatening food allergies and the care needed for his conditions. And then there was the, umm, sensitive yet energetic aspects of his personality.  They didn’t blink. They gathered up the director of the nursery school, his two teachers, the aftercare staff, and I don’t even remember now who else was there. I just remember sitting in those tiny chairs, so overweight and with a baby in my lap, wearing pajamas and crying with anxiety, but feeling surrounded with love.

That year, he cried and I cried. I often spent thirty minutes to an hour in the hallway, waiting to make sure today was a day he would adjust. I stood in the hallway with the baby and the stroller and bated breath every day for months.

Did anyone else need a meeting for two-year-old nursery school?  I’m writing that thinking, no wonder I have PTSD. A meeting with eight people for a two-year-old?  Thank you to each and every one of those people who cared for him for the next three years.

And now, the back-to-school meeting and accompanying dread that begins, oh let’s generously say, about two months before the present school year even ends, is de rigueur. Sometimes it still makes me cry. It always makes me anxious and my heart race. These days I don’t dream of happy young children with new backpacks and coordinating lunchboxes. I dream of the year where I can breathe again. I long for the days of third grade. I pray we finish the year in school.

I dream of the year where I can breathe again.

This year, with the pandemic, I’ve done nothing to actually prepare for the year, except watch endless school board meetings and follow the news.  My children are not the least bit prepared either.  The nice thing is, this time it’s a little easier to breathe because that same pandemic that’s wrought chaos has also brought a deep sense of calm–it will be what it will be.

Tackling school supply lists and clothes shopping is the typical prep for a new school year. But if you’re the parent of a ADHD+er you know that it takes a whole lot more. How have you been prepping for this new school year? Are you doing anything differently because of the pandemic? What’s on your mind?

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