Today was DÁndra’s first day in middle school.
“I’m scared mommy,” DÁndra said as we walked in the office of Raytown Middle School. I was scared too but I can’t show fear. After all, I’m the big strong mommy adult.
I stood in front of the counter for a few minutes while office staff scrambled trying to figure out how to get a student that walked in his schedule. “This student doesn’t have his schedule,” one of the staff told the ladies behind the counter. I stood their silently fighting the urge to leave.
“If they can’t figure out how to get this kid’s schedule, is this a safe place for her?” I wondered. “Uhhh, I need to check my daughter into for school,” I interrupted the scramble behind the desk. “What’s her name?” The lady behind the desk asked. “DÁndra Haywood,” I answered. She handed me a yellow slip. Was I suppose to let my daughter with special needs navigate the maze to her first class on her own?
“Excuse me, my daughter is in the special ed class with Ms. Morgan,” I said. “Will someone come up here to get her from the class?” The lady looked puzzled until another staff person said that someone would escort DÁndra to class.
This is the school that had a rape a year ago and a police officer on the grounds. I was in major hover mom mode to ensure my daughter’s safety. The school doesn’t have a great reputation but I absolutely adored her teacher, Mrs. Morgan.
A guy showed up and said he would escort her. “Can I walk with her?” I asked. “Of course,” he said. He chatted as we walked through the massive entry way, through several hallways, down the stairs and pass the pile of office junk that met us before we got to her class.
“I want to go home mom,” she said when we walked past the auditorium filling up with sixth graders. “No, you’ll do great here,” I said. Signs encouraging students to not do meth or smoke cigarettes were posted on the walls along the way. I wanted to go home after that.
“Why are there so many signs about meth?” I asked the chatty staff person. “Oh we’re encouraging students to not do drugs or smoke,” he said. “You know, it’s the anti-drug campaign.”
DÁndra then said, “I need to go to the bathroom.” Knowing that this is her body saying she is scared, I assured her that she would go to the bathroom when we checked in with her teacher.
When we walked into her class, a young woman with blond hair and kind eyes opened the door and welcomed DÁndra. “Look DÁndra, they’re waiting for you,” I said. I handed the teacher the giant pizza kit that we brought with us. “She needed a transitional object to get out of the house,” I laughed.
A transitional object is an object that a special needs child may need to help them transition from a familiar location to an unfamiliar place. The greater the fear and unfamiliarity, the more objects DÁndra will haul to the new place. On the first day of school she brought an acoustic guitar with her.
Today it was just a pizza kit. She probably has forgotten about the pizza kit by now. And forgotten about her fears.
D’Andra overcame her first day fear. And so I have. We’re now starting a new chapter of middle-school. God help us.