Today you enter Kindergarten. You, a big, beautiful, grown up little person, begin your educational journey.
It’s hard to believe that you are the broken baby that I cried over in the NICU. It’s hard to believe that your bouncing pony tail, infectious smile, and sparkling blue eyes are in my life when I remember all too clearly placing a trembling hand on my swollen belly 6 years ago, scared at what “Down syndrome” would mean for the baby I had yet to meet.
Because I was scared. Terrified, actually. I received your diagnosis with bitter tears and twisted it to mean whatever my prejudices wanted it to mean. But I was wrong. There was nothing to be scared of. These past five years you have spent surprising me with your brilliance and ability, delighting me with a beautiful personality, and humbling me with how blessed I am to be your mother.
Now as I think of you sitting tall in your seat marked with your name, listening to your teacher, learning alongside your peers, being a kindergartener, I am once again terrified. How will you do with the academic side of things? What if you become isolated from your peers because of your difference? What if you don’t like kindergarten? What if you are made fun of and I’m not there to protect you from it? What if you struggle to follow classroom instructions and rules? What if you don’t click with your new para? And right back to…what if you fall too behind in the academics to successfully remain in the mainstream classroom?
You have been begging to go to school all summer, but yesterday when you realized that “school” was no longer your safe preschool classroom with the para that you love so dearly, I could see you processing this all a bit differently.
I am terrified. This is a big change. For a big girl. For a big step towards the rest of your life.
And so I fall back on what you have taught me so far: do NOT I repeat DO NOT underestimate you. And so I won’t. I have utmost faith and confidence in your ability to adjust to this new thing. To not only adjust and survive but to thrive while doing it. I know that you carry that infectious smile and sparkling blue eyes into the classroom with you and how can those other kids help but love you too?
Remember what we have been working on: kind hands. KIND HANDS. Treat the other students the way you want to be treated. OBEY. Do not just run off whenever you feel like it. Wash your hands. Frequently. And if you don’t get something the first time? Try again. And again. And as many times as you need to to learn new things because it is worth it. (What am I talking about… YOU taught me that last point.)
I know you can do this. It might take a while for you to figure out the new classroom and the new expectations of kindergarten, but you’ve got this. (And I’ve packed your favorite chocolate milk in your lunch to help renew your superpowers halfway through the day.)
I love you, baby girl, and I’m so proud of you. You are amazing.
If you have such an awesome time at school that you forget about boring ol’ mom, no worries. I’ll be the one standing over here in the cheerleading outfit holding pom poms and yelling your name. (And remember who restocks the chocolate milk.)
Have a beautiful first day of the rest of your life. I can’t wait to hear all about it.