It’s the seventh anniversary of James’s first day of school. That seems like such a long time, yet I remember that day as if it were yesterday …
By far, the hardest day of our entire first year of James’s autism diagnosis was his first day of school. I went through all five stages of grief in one afternoon. My idols failed and fell. God gently but firmly placed Himself in the middle of my mess and redeemed it. It was a turning point for me.
On January 19, 2011 we stood outside the school at 12:30 waiting for his new teacher, therapists, and aides to walk him through the front doors. He had been diagnosed with autism just a couple months before and at that time they told us there were three preschool options for us in the county. Thankfully, there was a spot for him in the one closest to our home.
We took lots of pictures and pretended we were excited. I was heartbroken. Lee went on to work and David and I came home. I went into the bathroom and shut the door. I told God the whole truth. I didn’t want my child to have autism. I didn’t want to take him to a public elementary school when he was only three years old. I really didn’t want to take him to the special ed class. I didn’t want to know the names of any therapists. No IEPs. No paperwork. I wanted to homeschool him like I homeschooled his brother. I wanted our home to be enough. I wanted to be enough.
Pastor Pete Wilson writes, “I think for those of us in the midst of a Plan B we’ll discover that one of our idols all along has been a picture of the way life should be. Our idol was an expectation or a dream.” That certainly described me. I was angry because my life was not going according to my plan. Again I struggled with the sin of entitlement.
I called Lee but he didn’t answer. I called my mom but she didn’t answer. It was just me and God in the bathroom that afternoon. After moving through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, I finally calmed down by reminding myself, “God loves me; God loves James.”
Eventually I came out of the bathroom. I went back to school to pick up James. His teacher said he was sad on and off, but that overall he’d had a very good first day. Even in my grief, I was thankful. We were going to have to adjust to our new normal.
Going to school does seem very normal now that James is in 4th grade. There have been great years and hard years, but each one has taught him and us so much!