Our family is kind of beginning to get the hang of all the new things that this new year is bringing to us. Up until last year, Sammy was enrolled in a state provided therapy program called Birth to Three. The day she turned three is the day her therapy transitioned over to our local school district. Starting this year she has a new therapy schedule that is morphed into preschool setting. We have spent the last two months talking about and thinking about this transition for Samaira. We even had the option to use school bus as her means of transportation, which ultimately didn’t work out for us. So for now, my layoff situation is working out really well as I get to drop off and pick up Samaira for an afternoon preschool session.
The first time we were told about the possibility of a school bus being there to pick up and drop off Sammy, my muscles tightened a little. School Bus. The big yellow bus. The bus that stops the traffic on the road with its blinking red sign. The bus that has been another family’s realty for me so far. The thought of my own child in that bus brought so many emotions in my body. There was fear, apprehension, extreme excitement, and a realization that this kid is going to grow up no matter how much I want to hold on to her childhood. I thought about the logistics, the responsibility, the process and everything to do with a school bus ride for Sammy. I was pretty convinced that Samaira was not quite ready for a school bus just yet. But I was also convinced that there is nothing she can’t learn given sufficient time and patience. I have to admit that I was a tad bit disappointed when the bus option did not work out for us, because I had started getting accustomed to the idea of that yellow bus becoming our reality. Oh well.
For the last two months, my mind had been munching over the transition phase that Samaira will have to go through starting this year. The impending reality did hit me last month when we toured her preschool. Going out in a big bold world is not an unfamiliar situation for Samaira because she goes to a day care. But there is still a different vibe to this new preschool that I can’t quite define. I think it is the yellow school buses that are parked outside. Her new schedule started this Monday. I was not sure how Samaira would take to a new routine, new class, new teachers, new friends, new environment. I wondered if she would be anxious, or shy, or less talkative, or happy, or herself.
On Monday I told her that we will be going to a new school. I don’t think she quite understood the concept until we got there. All the kids were supposed to stand in a line as the teacher continued to gather all the students together. The teacher told me that Sammy looked fine and I could leave if I wanted to. But I couldn’t let go. Shocking, I know. Behind Samaira’s I-am-fine face, I could see slight nervousness, what-is-this-new-place expression. I was not really concerned about it. It was quite natural for her to feel that way. My only concern was that she is not able to articulate her feelings just yet. How will she tell me that she is liking this new school or not? So I stood there with Sammy in the kids’ line, so she could feel like she belonged. Once all the kids were present, three teachers guided them to the class. I walked with her to the class and had a long 5-10 minutes monologue with her teacher “She isn't familiar with you or the class yet so she will not tell you that she needs to go pee-pee. Can you please ask her periodically? Also, she loves to read books and sing\listen to songs. And…she hasn't taken her nap yet. She may be tired so let her sleep for some time if she wants to. And…she has started stuttering a lot recently so please keep an eye on that. Please let us know when we can talk to the speech therapist about her stuttering. And…Samira loves grapes so I brought some grapes for her to eat. She should be fine for the most part. She likes people.” This went on for a bit until I realized that the teacher had a job to do and she was being polite while I took away her precious time. I think she understood that I needed some comforting. While I was monologuing my way to comfort, I saw Sammy was already inspecting and exploring the new class. She was walking around, looking at the new toys, the new carpet, the new furniture, the new environment. She then found a book she wanted to read and she sat in the middle of the room and started reading the book. I was still talking to the teacher when I saw her do that.
Suddenly I felt my muscles relax a little. She got this.
I went to her and told her “I am going to leave now. I will see you later. Tell your teacher if you need to go pee pee. Ok?”
She hesitated for a few seconds and said “Bye bye mumma.”
I left. I have to admit, with a heavy heart. I don’t know why. I was slightly surprised especially because both Samaira and I are used to her day care schedule. But this was different. I can’t quite tell how. The only four words that somehow explain this feeling remotely are “growing up so fast.”
Today was her third day in this school and I heard her say in excitement “I go to new school. Yayy!!” Her transition was definitely smoother than mine. I am still getting the hang of sending a backpack to the school, feeling of dropping off my daughter at school curb side, picking her up at the end of the school and watching other kids run to their parents. While I am still getting used to this new routine and all these new feelings, I have to say I am kind-of sort-of digging it. I had pictured myself shedding a tear or two on her first day of preschool, but I didn't. I think a smiled a little instead. It just happened. I might have chuckled too.
We sail in our she-is-more-alike-than-different boat most days. But there are times when I wonder what the next few years will bring for her. She will eventually develop a better understanding of herself, others, her environment, her differences, her similarities. How will she react to it? Siddharth and I have always been confident that our conversation with Samaira, one day, about her diagnosis will be a cake walk. We will tell her as is. We will tell her about the science of it and sociology of it. We will tell her it is all about believing in yourself. It is all about being confident in yourself and knowing that we love her. But we do also know that it isn’t all about that. We know that it may not be a cake walk because it is not all about the glass-half-full view of things. It will also be about experiences that will be far beyond our control. It will be about Samaira’s emotions that will be beyond our control. It will be about how Samaira takes it in and reacts to it, which is also going to be beyond our control. We can foster, nurture, attempt-to-influence. But it ends there. She will consume her surroundings in a way that she wants to and react to it in a way that she wants to. While I keep singing my all-I-want-is-for-her-to-be-happy song, I realize that it is not all about being happy. There will be sadness, disappointment, anger and frustration. I hope that she copes with it. She deals with it. She conquers it.
But in the meantime, I will try to bring myself to the present, and lecture myself about not worrying about the future so much, and live in the present, and all that jazz. Today is a good day because she is happy. She is excited. She looked forward to her new school. I have to call it a win. Today we win.
Tomorrow is another day.