Foolishly Optimistic

I have been awake since 4 am, because it’s the first day of school: my own (returning as a university writing instructor) and two of my children’s (as students). This is how anxiety manifests in me—sleepless early mornings.

I’m sorry if you’re sorry to see summer end. But I’m personally okay with it because I love the fall and we (meaning, my family) all do better with routines. If you give our days structure, we flourish, me included.

For the first time ever, I am not putting Jack on the bus for his first day. He will begin 8th grade this week in a different town, in a different school district. I shipped him a new backpack, size 14 Birkenstocks (men’s, clodhoppers, whoa!), a few of his favorite stretchy shorts, and some Star Wars t-shirts. I am doing my part from a distance. I think I’ll text his caregivers and ask for a back-to-school pic.

I don’t feel sad about Jack starting school in his new town. I’m excited for the fresh start. This could be my own Pollyanna-ish love for new school years and new school clothes and the chance to start over again.

But even if I’m foolishly optimistic at the start of a new school year, the fact remains: stagnation is bad. I prefer progress and growth. I can see now that we had reached a point of stagnation in the last couple of years with Jack at home with us. He wasn’t progressing, despite all our efforts. He needed a new setting, new routines, new people, new environment. Now he has it, and he has made progress in his new town and new home. He is less violent, more verbal, wears underwear and socks (score!), and eats almost everything. The beige “carbivore” diet is gone.

His caregivers moved Jack and his housemate to a different house on the outskirts of town. It’s bigger, newer, and sits on a large lot with flowers, grass, and fruit trees. It’s a good place for being outside, which is Jack’s favorite thing. His new school is a short drive through town, and is the right setting for Jack’s learning needs.

Every one of my children is attending a new school this year, and I feel elated, if also terrified that they (with autism and anxiety) will be swallowed whole.

I’m also teaching a new curriculum this year at the University and feel the same sense of newness. I’m at the cusp of good things, too.

We are moving onward.

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