When your kids have a life outside of mom

I had my second IEP meeting today for Bryan. For those who don’t know, an IEP is an individualized education program. It’s a legal document used to draw out accommodations and goals for children with special needs. They determine what kind of special education services a student is eligible for and how it will be used.

Bryan’s first IEP was drawn up in June, in preparation for the school year. Usually, another meeting this soon isn’t necessary, but Bryan had already met the goals we made in June. So we met again to set some new ones.

Bryan’s teacher, special education teacher, and speech pathologist were all present at the meeting, and took the opportunity to share with me how he was doing in the classroom.

I was filled with immense pride as they illustrated his intelligence –he knows the alphabet better than anyone else in the class, and the other kids turn to him for the answer when they don’t know it.

My heart melted as I heard tender stories of other kids caring for him and watching out for him.

“They all love Bryan,” his teachers said multiple times.

I laughed at the story his speech pathologist told about the time he said her name in an exasperated way because she was bugging him with questions during snack time –she had no idea he knew her name!

I nodded knowingly when they talked about the time they found him with his coat zipped up, and asked all the kids who helped him only to realize he’d done it by himself. I had been just as surprised when I saw him zipping up his coat at home –I hadn’t taught him to!

Ok, I promise the point of this post isn’t just to brag about my son.

Later as we drove to his therapy appointment, I thought of all the stories his teachers had shared with me, and realized they were only the highlights. There were many more moments that I would never know about. They were mysteries to me. My pride and joy for his success in school was suddenly intermixed with heart break.

As I drove I thought, “the hardest part about Bryan being in school is that there is now a part of his life I don’t get to be there for.”

I have been so used to being there for every milestone. Witnessing all those little tender moments. Laughing at situations I played a role in. It broke my heart to hear about such  a significant  part of his life second hand. And it hurt even more that there were parts I’d never hear about. Small, inconsequential things, that you don’t realize matter until you aren’t there for them.

Before I felt too sorry for myself, I put myself in his shoes. He’s been practicing his independence more than ever lately. Wanting to pour the milk himself, put on his own coat, wash apples, etc. He probably loves having time every day where he is truly a separate being from his mom. Where he gets to be on his own, as much as a 3 year old can be. And I realized as I saw things from his perspective, that this is how strong individuals are made.

As much as it hurts for my son to have a life outside of me and our home, that is ultimately what I want for him.

So I will embrace the joy, the pride, and the sadness that comes with it. Because I’ve decided it’s ok for me to grieve for the new parts of his life that I am not a part of. But I also treasure them –they are the stepping stones that will make him who he decides he wants to be.


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