Last spring, my family unexpectedly found ourselves with the opportunity to build our dream home in our dream neighborhood. A hundred things had to go just perfectly in order to make it happen, and by some cosmic miracle, it all came together. This house isn’t gigantic or luxurious. It’s just a regular house, but it’s set up perfectly for us. It’s in the same neighborhood as our best friends, and it’s zoned for brand new, amazing schools. The opportunities my kids will have in our new school district are worth the move and the sacrifices we will have to make to raise them there.
But I’m so nervous for them. Our house won’t be ready until a couple months into the school year, so my oldest two kids will have to move from the school they’ve been attending for several years to a brand-new school just after their fall break.
That means two first days of school this year. Two brand-new teachers. Two classrooms to learn, and two sets of classmates’ names to remember. Two buildings to navigate.
I’m nervous for both of my boys. Being the new kid is always tough, and leaving everything you’ve known is scary. I know I’m making the right choice for them in the long term, but this short-term transition makes me feel a little bit guilty. I know it’s not going to be easy.
I’m especially nervous for my first grader. This move means transferring his IEP to a new school, and figuring out the best way to accommodate him in a whole new environment. He is autistic, and he succeeds really well in his current school, but it’s hard as mom to trust that a whole new team will love him and support him the same way his current team does.
The team my first grader has in place at their current school is incredible. I have already asked them if someone will accompany me to his IEP meeting to help make the transition for him easier. I know they are all willing to do anything they can to make his move successful. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when I gave them the news that we would be moving; they have loved my son so well.
Will his new speech therapist celebrate his success the same way Miss Hillary does? She’s known him since preschool.
How can his new OT possibly be as proud and adoring as Miss Presslee?
Will he get an educational assistant as patient as Mrs. Sara?
We hit the absolute jackpot with our current special education lead teacher. Will the lead at the new school high-five him and make him feel special in the same way?
And his small-group teachers … I can’t even think about the day he says goodbye to them. They’re his favorite people alive.
I’m not worried about his classroom teacher. I know he will be okay in whatever general ed classroom they choose for him. My boy is pretty laid back, and I happen to believe that teachers are the closest things we have to angels on earth. I know he will win over any teacher who gets his name on her roster, and he will be happy at school most of the time.
But I think it’s natural to wonder if moving your kids from their comfort zone to a totally new place is the right thing.
I’ve discussed this with my kids at length. We go visit the new house regularly, and they’re excited about the new home and the new neighborhood. I have driven them by the school, and they both know that they are starting at one place, and moving to another.
Right now, they both insist that they are fine with it. Happy about it, even.
But they haven’t had to do it yet. They haven’t walked out the door of their school for the very last time. They haven’t bought their last lunch with the code they were given on the first day of kindergarten. They haven’t walked past the nurse’s office where they’ve been bandaged and comforted and realized they will never go back. There are so many lasts that they just don’t even see coming.
My boys are excited for the future, but I don’t think they understand exactly how it’s going to feel to leave such a big part of their past behind to move on to new adventures.
I’ve wrestled with whether this move is right for them a hundred times, especially when it comes to my first grader. His comfort is only thing that has ever made me seriously consider backing out of this whole thing. If he gets to the new school and seriously struggles, I don’t know how I’ll ever make it up to him. I haven’t taken this lightly.
But in the end, as a parent, we have to do what’s best for the whole family. There is no cruelty involved in the decision to move my children to a home that puts us close to the people we love. There is no selfishness in wanting all three of my kids to attend schools that will set them up for opportunities down the line.
And it is not poor parenting to expect my kids to do a hard thing now and then.
But, oh, how it breaks my heart. How I wish I could spare them from even the smallest disappointments and difficulties and make things like changing schools a piece of cake. I wish I could just wave a magic wand and make this transition seamless, exciting and fun — without any of the fear, nerves, or frustrations.
I know this isn’t a trauma. It’s just a new school, and kids do this all the time. I know they will be okay. These same kids just survived a deployment and went without their daddy for many months. They have lost people they loved, both to death and the cruel circumstances of life. They’re soft, but they’re strong. I know they will rise to the occasion.
I also know that they will do this with some trepidation in their little hearts. They will walk in on their second “first day” with their knees shaking. I think it’s normal for me to wish I could spare them that feeling, while also acknowledging that they are brave, smart, and capable, and totally ready to take on the challenge of changing school districts mid-year. Even if I’m not.