“Mom! Ginger’s mom is teaching kindergarten!”
“Phaedra, what are you talking about?”
“The sign on Ginger’s front lawn! It says ‘kindergarten’ on it; doesn’t that mean she’s teaching it?”
“No, honey. It’s just a sign telling everyone that Kindergarten Round-Up is happening soon.”
I fucking hate that sign in my neighbor’s front yard. Every day, I pull in the driveway and there it is, reminding me of the latest spoonful of different I’ve had to swallow lately because of Bella’s diagnosis.
Kindergarten Round-Up is the registration event hosted at the elementary schools in our district each spring. Rob and I should be getting ready to bring Bella to her big sister’s school this year to make a paper bag puppet and bring home a ridiculously oversized t-shirt with her graduation year emblazoned on the front. That’s what we should be doing. But should is a word you quickly drop from your vocabulary when you live with autism, because you realize it’s a useless, meaningless word. She should, but she’s not, so why are we still talking about this? Don’t focus on the should, because it gets you nowhere. Focus on what’s actually happening, because that’s your reality.
Our reality is Bella won’t be starting kindergarten in the fall. She’ll spend another year in her fabulous preschool program with her fabulous teachers that adore the shit out of her. It’s the right choice, without a doubt. She’s not ready for kindergarten at all. She needs more time to build her confidence, gain independence, and improve her social skills. Going to kindergarten in the fall would destroy any progress we’ve made this year. So really, no, I don’t want to send her to kindergarten in September at all.
Except I do.
This is what I want, Universe, you crappy bitch: I want Bella to be the beautiful person she is, minus all the baggage she has to drag around because of autism. I want her to be excited about starting a new school in the fall. I just want to take my charming-as-hell daughter to the stupid Kindergarten Round-Up so she can ride the school bus around the block like it’s a goddamn adventure, instead of something she does every single day when the school bus pulls up to our house and her anxiety sometimes go through the roof and I leave her crying hysterically because she just wants to stay home and zone out for hours on end watching videos on YouTube instead of going to school.
That’s what I want. For once, I want Bella to have a single fucking milestone in her life be simple and normal. I want it, not Bella. Bella doesn’t give a single ounce of shit about the Kindergarten Round-Up. I’m the one ignoring all the blue yard signs and restraining myself from karate-kicking my neighbor’s sign across her yard. I just want to send my five-year-old to kindergarten like everyone else, but I can’t and I fucking hate that.
I know this isn’t a big deal. I know Bella will flourish, and when it’s time for her to go, it will feel so good because she’ll be ready. It’s just that this is the first in a long line of major milestones that looks different than it always did in my head. And while I’ve learned to accept and even celebrate the fact that “normal” is another one of those meaningless words, some normals are harder to give up than others.
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