So the day has finally arrived. River's first day at school.
It's a day we had imagined even before he was born. When we moved to our village I was in the early stages of pregnancy, and we were so happy to be back in the village that Tim grew up in. We walked around the village and up to the primary school that Tim went to as a child. This is the school our children would go to. I imagined doing the school run for the first time- holding the hand of a little boy or girl, probably juggling a baby and maybe a toddler too, and giving them a kiss before watching them walk into the classroom with all the other children. I'd shed a few tears with the other mums, maybe exchanging the usual comments like, "they grow up so fast!" and, "where have our babies gone?!" It might be the first step to making new mum-friends at this special milestone in my child's life and special milestone in my parenting journey.
But things don't always work out as you planned them to. This morning, instead of getting both of us ready for the first ever school run, we only had to get River ready. And half an hour before school started- a different school to the one we'd daydreamed about- a taxi arrived outside, with a man & woman we'd never seen before, & five minutes later they were driving away with our precious boy. They would hold his hand as he went into the playground, say the final goodbye to him as he embarked on his first day at school. It wasn't dreadful, it was ok- but it wasn't what we'd planned.
River did so well this morning. We got him dressed and explained what would be happening this morning, just as we've done for the last couple of days. He wasn't too keen on the idea of Mummy and Daddy staying at home but didn't protest too much. Before long, there was a knock at the door and Keith the driver and Jane the escort introduced themselves. I gave them an A5 booklet all about River so they can know what might trigger a meltdown, how to handle it, what he loves and hates. Jane came in and met River. We told him he was going to go to school in the taxi with Jane. "I want Mummy & Daddy in the taxi please." He repeated it a few times but in the end was quite happy to give us both a kiss at the door, be led to the car by Jane, and fitted into the car seat by Keith. He looked very confused by the whole arrangement, but not at all upset which was a relief. I felt it was really important to sell it to River as a really positive experience, and also not a massive overwhelming deal, so we stayed really positive and happy and chilled about it all until they were gone, when we shed a little tear.
In many ways, we are so so fortunate. We had a look round the village primary a year ago, and whilst it would definitely have been an amazing magical school for a neurotypical child, the headteacher made it very clear that it wasn't the school for River and left us with a heavy heart. Then we found out about the amazing autism unit that River is at this morning- within a tiny mainstream village school, it is run by a very experienced autism teacher alongside two experienced teaching assistants. River will be integrated into a mainstream class-in a school accepting of autism- for as much as he can cope with. We couldn't have found anywhere better.
He's been for 8 visits in total in the last 4 months, two of which were in the summer holidays. The autism teacher has also attended three of our multi-agency meetings. So they know him so, so well. And one of them will be by his side for every minute of the day. Most parents of neurotypical children are this morning saying goodbye to their little ones amongst a class of 30 children, with one teacher and one assistant, neither of which know their child yet. We don't have to worry about that. We will be getting a phone call from his teacher today, and a weekly phone call thereafter. He has a daily communication book, so I will know what he's done each day, if he's eaten much, if he was upset about anything. We have so much that most parents won't.
We are so grateful that he's got a place at the autism unit- not every town has one. We are grateful that he can talk, and communicate his needs- we were so fearful that he would still be non-verbal at this stage in his life.
Today is a massively positive day for River, and for us as a family! He is so academically minded, so very bright, that he is going to thrive at school. He is so, so ready. His mind revolves around academic things! We spent most of yesterday playing with playdough. Did he want to make cute animals or cars or planes? No. He wanted me to make every letter of the alphabet, in order. Then a circle. Then a square. Then triangle, oval, rectangle, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, decagon, dodecagon. He knew how many sides they all needed. Then sphere, cone, cube, cuboid, cylinder, pyramid, triangular prism. He is very, very ready for school!
And just this second, I've had a call from his teacher to let me know that River has arrived safely and is very happy. She is going to call me at 12:30 once he's been put in the taxi to come home. Not many parents are getting that today!!
So we are very happy about today- for River. And we aren't dwelling on past dreams too much, as doing that would stop us from embracing the amazing boy and life we do have. But there is still that pang of sadness today, and today is another milestone to remind us of how different our boy is, and how different our journey is compared to most other families. It's not awful, it's just not what we'd planned.