Our district does a “Meet the Principal” Day a week prior to the start of school for the elementary students. This day allows the kids to visit their hallways, say hi to their principal, check out their class lists, and socialize with classmates and friends just prior to the start of school. The PTO for each elementary school runs the day, and also uses it as a way to showcase upcoming events and scope out volunteers.
As “MTP” Day approached, I was both excited and abjectly afraid. Excited to see some old friends, find out my boys’ classmates, and jump back into the school routine. The fear? Well, quite frankly, the fear was having to drag 3 boys into the school gym. By myself. With eleventy billion other people. The gym is Tate’ s nemesis. Really. Since Jake has been in school, we have attended this day. Every single year Tate completely loses his shtuff when we get to the gym for “MTP” day. The gym is loud, echo-y space, has harsh-on-the-eyes florescent lighting, way to many people, newly sealed floors that omit fumes that can make even a non-SPD person ill, and enough chaos to drive any of us through the roof. It’s a nightmare.
I had begun to run through a social story for Tate about the “MTP” day. It discussed going to his new school (he had been in a different elementary school for Early Childhood Preschool and Kindergarten). It had pictures of the gym and the outside of the building. For Tate, who has Autism, among other things like SPD and ADHD, preparation for a big event like this is key. When I would get to the part of the “story” where I discussed the gym, Tate would stop me. No, mommy. No. I not going. Ugh…I kept it up, though, every night for a week. Jake was really into helping me out. He has been so excited that Tate will be at “his” school this year. He told him not to worry..he’d help show him around the school. That, however, wasn’t the issue. The gym was the problem.
Three days before “MTP” Day, I got some terrific news. Due to some setbacks in repairs to the gym’s sliding door, the gym floor hadn’t been resealed yet. The school was told that it would be done on Wednesday afternoon. As in, the day before “MTP” Day. The floor cannot be used for 72 hours after being sealed..or something like that. A glitch. And yet…maybe not. Yes, our PTO board had to scramble with a “Plan B” for the big “MTP” Day, but we weren’t going to have to face the gym. Yesssssss!
Plan B consisted of setting up the various PTO and school club tables through out the hallways of the school. There was a good flow, and spacing between the tables. When we got to the school, we walked right up to the principal. She greeted my boys by name (since both have quite comprehensive IEP’s, we’re fairly well-known these days…no slipping under the radar here), and asked if they’d like to sign the “Back to School” poster. Jake signed quite neatly and appropriately. Tate, excited as all get-out that he was FINALLY a student at our home school, wrote his name loud and proud in bright red Sharpie across the entire poster. The principal laughed. I apologized and shrugged. She said she was glad to see Tate so excited about school.
We walked down the hall towards the first grade rooms. Jake showed Tate where his “mainstream” class would be. Tate will have Jake’s first grade teacher for mainstreamed activities. After that, we stopped by the Cub Scout table to say hi to Jake’s den leader and one of Jake’s friends. When asked if he wanted to Cub Scouts this year, Tate answered with an emphatic, “Yes!!”. (This is a surprise to me, so I’ll have to talk to Hubz about it later…) From there, we found the hallway where the boys will be this year.
Tate found his classroom first. He has 6 kids in his class. I read off a few of the names, and 4 of the 5 other children are from his class last year. He was so excited that he started to spin in circles and then shouted, “whoa!” as he crashed into the lockers. He was totally seeking at this point, but I knew it was because of his excitement. Once he crashed into the lockers, he was able to stand nicely in front of his, and smiled so big I thought it was going to burn his cheeks! Jake’s classroom is 2 doors down from Tate’s. Jake told Tate that he would help him walk to his classroom any time. Man, I love that kid! As Jake checked out his class list, Tate was giving him bear hugs and “chinning” him to calm himself down. The excitement of the day was starting to wear on Tate. Jake took it in stride and gave his brother a big hug in return. Tate, please stand here and I’ll squish you again once Mom takes a picture of my locker. ‘Kay?! Tate was on board. So we took a picture and then Jake gave Tate a huge squeeze.
While we were visiting the classrooms and lockers, a gaggle of boys from Jake’s grade were making the rounds. Jake is friendly with many of them, but not all. He did a great job saying hi to the group. I know that it was difficult for him to do that…and seeing as he was a bit overwhelmed, it was a huge step when he said hello and introduced his younger brother. Tate waved and said a fleeting “hi” as he stared at the book fair ahead. But I’ll take it. Cole, on the other hand, shouted “hi” to the boys, and gave many of them high-fives. Ah, my social butterfly…
Our last stop of the morning was at the school office. We had to buy the school-approved assignment notebook for Jake. I knew that we were going to have to be done after that. Tate was starting to rub his body against the lockers. He was beginning to script from his favorite show, “Doc McStuffins”. Jake was busy trying to keep Cole out of his friends’ gaggle. I made small chit-chat while I fumbled in my wallet for the $6 to buy the notebook. As the secretary handed it to me, she said hi to the boys and said she’d see them next week. Tate shouted, “Okay!”
So that’s that. He’s okay. We’re okay. Heck, we’re better than okay. We made it through a “MTP” Day without an overabundance of drama, whining, or melting down. The boys each got to see their classrooms, their lockers and their class lists. I got to chat with a few moms and make some friendly small talk. So this is what “normal” feels like…or, well, as close to “normal” as we’re going to get. And I’ll take it.