So it’s that time of year…back to school or beginning of school. A time that brings up a pile of emotions for all parents…joy, fear, excitement, worry. For me…it’s brought up them all in a seriously messy way. A few weeks back during a follow up visit with Riley’s BMT doctor Riley showed up wearing one of Presley’s finest out-grown school uniforms and was all excited to ask if she could go to school. Her doctor hesitated…”Like this year?…2018/19…I’m not sure…maybe next year?” Riley (who has been dying to go) accepted this let down with a tiny exhale and a “Mmmmmmokay…maybe next year” and went right about playing for the rest of the appointment. I was flooded with guilt…guilt because I knew she was ready but that I was not so this news was sort of well…welcomed. And then came my amazement…amazement once again at her ability to let life happen to her and move right along. She wastes none of her precious time on things like disappointment…it’s kind of incredible. And then sadness…because well…now that I was told she couldn’t go the news was no longer welcomed.
Fast forward to her doctors all having a meeting on the matter and I get a call “We’ve all agreed…Riley can and SHOULD go to school this year.” Yay! And then. Fuck! Were my immediate emotional responses. See unlike Riley I have not mastered the art of letting life happen to me with fun acceptance…I waste enormous amounts of time on feelings. Ok maybe not enormous but enough. But ultimately I accept. I accept that this is what’s best for her…best for her health mmmmm mayyyyybeeee but for her quality of life…absolutely.
Registration for school then came…I did the portion I could online, got together all the normal paperwork and then all the “Riley” paperwork you know because she’s not “normal” and had my meeting set. That morning I woke up filled and I am talking FILLED with anxiety. Like battling a looming panic attack anxiety. You see I don’t often have to explain Riley to people…we live in a bubble…a bubble of family and friends who know all about her and doctors and specialists who are why she is here. School district registration staff…they’re not going to know. They don’t reside in my bubble. I am going to have to explain. So. Much. Explaining. I don’t often have that come up because well…bubble. But this…this was enrolling her outside of the bubble and I was (and still am) fucking terrified.
I got to the office, turned in the necessary “normal” paperwork and then tossed out some verbal cliff notes regarding her condition and asked if there was anything else I would need to provide for the school. Already shaking and swearing off tears…see heres the thing with me…I don’t cry often and when I do there are 2 very clear forms…1.) Panic attack can’t breathe sobbing spells (maybe once a year) and 2.) Uncontrollable yet functioning…tears escape from my eyeballs and roll down my cheeks while I pretend it’s not happening and go about whatever task is in front of me. I could already feel those coming…I’d been fighting them off all morning and was fitna lose. I was handed some forms to fill out and made my way to the brightly colored plastic chair to get started. Okay you can do this. Yellow medical form. On it were the basics…you know the little line for any medical conditions they should know about and a space (ie 2 inch line) for medications. Tears. Right on que. Fuck. This form was meant for someone with a bit of asthma. My Riley. Our Riley. There is no space for her on this form. There is no space to explain what she has been through. I’m going to need another piece of paper…make it 2. Actually no…there is not enough paper in this entire fucking office to adequately explain what she has been and continues to go through. Uncontrollable function. I wrote words and wiped tears. Write. Wipe. Write. Wipe. Mind you I’m aware at this point how insane I look…you see there are piles of other people in this room in their own brightly colored plastic chairs and not a one is crying because this is not typically a crying event. I look insane. I am insane. This is insane. As I finish filling out what I can I prepare myself to ask for a sheet of paper to list her medications. I sat there doing all the breathing exercises I’ve learned over the years trying to get the stupid ass tears to stop falling before the registrar returns. Here she comes…pull it together McDonald.
“So unfortunately…your school of choice is full…there is no space…Riley will have to be enrolled in another school and placed on a waiting list.”
My head literally dropped and all that breathing work undone…more tears. I looked up at the woman and said “I just…that won’t work…I can’t do that to her…this is her first day of school…ever…she HAS to be where her sister is…I can’t put her in some random school…I just can’t.” She responded back something along the lines of “Well I know but you waited so long to get her registered and so there just isn’t anything we can do.” My head dropped again. Fuck. Now I get to explain that I’m not just some irresponsible parent who waits until the last minute and then gets entirely too emotionally worked up over school placement. “I didn’t want to wait…she was just medically cleared to go to school…” I trailed off into further explanation…very calmly explaining Riley…explaining what she’d been through. “Let me get my supervisor.” My head dropped again. I hate being that person…that person that needs to speak with the supervisor. I wish I could have just strolled in, handed over the bevy of colored forms and walked on out months ago but here’s the thing…I will never be that person. Riley will never be that person and I need to get over that right now because real school life for her hasn’t even started…hell I haven’t even completed the registration.
As I waited I just kept hearing over and over in my head “There is no space for her. There is no space for her.” No there’s not…no space on the form, no space in the school. No space. I’m out of space. I don’t think I can do this. How am I going to handle this. “There is no space for her.”
When the supervisor returned I was no where near any sort of ability to turn off the tears. I quietly explained that to her before our conversation…”I’m sorry…I’m ok, all this…the tears, I’m ok, I really am. This is just…I just…this happens…I’m okay…what do I have to do to get her in this school?” She explained the wait list, the fullness, all the things. Through pleading and honestly pathetic sobs I managed to very slowly get out “Yes, I am familiar with how this sort of thing normally works but Riley is not normal so I’m going to need an abnormal solution…everything in her life has required an abnormal solution. I need her to have this first day of school, at THIS school, with her sister…this is…she…she deserves that. I need to make this happen for her. Please.” The woman understood. Well…no she didn’t. I mean…she was understanding. Very few actually understand this because in order to you would have had to live it. But understanding…yes, she was certainly that. She left and returned several times…each time leaving me sitting there in a puddle of self-pity, fear, frustration, exhaustion and tears. Told ya…I was messy. On her final return she explained that she put in a call to the principal, that she’d left a message and that the principal would be the one to make the decision…she would call me Monday and let me know. I thanked her and so very ready to take my crying fit to the privacy of my parked car I then remembered that I still had to ask for that additional paper to list her medications. Damnitt. Head drop again. She brought me a blank page and as I filled it from top to bottom with her medications and all their dosages and frequencies her face softened. With every line she watched me write she understood a little more the magnitude of Riley. I did too. You see I pull her meds up on the daily without ever thinking about it…it’s second nature…but writing them all down, that reminder of what all it takes for her…it’s heavy and I was all out of strength for heavy.
I walked out feeling utterly defeated. There’s no space for her. There’s no space for her. I need there to be space for her. There has to be space for her. The next two days were hard. When I break it takes such a physical toll on my body. I’ve learned to give myself permission to be messy and found ways to slowly find my way back to even ground. By Sunday I knew there would be space. I knew it would be ok…that it always is but that the road to “ok” isn’t paved for us…it’s rough and rugged and a lot like off-roading in a Honda civic.
I got the call Monday morning…she’s in. There wasn’t space for her but they MADE space for her. There is now space for her. Riley starts school tomorrow. She is busting out of the bubble and into the cesspool that is public school Kindergarten. Let the record show I am terrified and overwhelmed and not at all ready but most of all…I am my most favorite emotion of all time…grateful. Whether I am ready for it or not there is space for her. And Riley…Riley is ready and that is all that matters. Go Riley Go.