Got those back-to-school blues

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 7, 2002

"It's time to wake up. Let's hop out of that bed."

My daughter rolled over, tucked her knees against her chest and pulled the covers up to her chin.

"Oh no, don't ball up and close those eyes," I said. "You have to get going."

She blinked in my direction and turned toward the wall.

"I'll give you five minutes. Then you have to get up."

I walked up the hall and sat down with my cup of coffee.

"I don't think she is too excited about the first day of school," I told my husband.

"There are kids all over this county doing the same thing," he said. "It's going to be a rough day for some of them."

Five minutes ticked by. I walked back down the hall and stopped at the bedroom door.

"OK time is up," I said, moving over to stand beside the bed.

A kind of half grunt, half moan came from under the covers.

"Move it," I said, pulling back the sheet.

Grabbing her pillows, my child stumbled toward the living room couch where she fell in a heap with her arms tucked under her.

I flipped on the television hoping the noise would entice her to open her eyes. It didn't work.

I gave her shoulder a shake or two as I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.

Blinking her eyes, she sat up and peeped over the back of the couch to see her backpack hanging on a chair in the dining room.

With a sigh of resignation she plopped her head back on the pillows and rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

"You have to get dressed now," I said. "It's almost time to go."

I watched, as in slow motion, my daughter buttoned her shorts and pulled on her shirt. Then zombie-like she marched toward the bathroom and reached for her toothbrush.

As I pulled her hair into pigtails, she stared at me in the mirror, a look of acceptance on her face.

"I remember what the first day of school is like," I said. "Everything will be fine. You just have to get used to it again."

She headed back to the couch as I went to the kitchen to get her lunch ready.

As I packed juice and crackers, I thought about all the first days of school I lived through as a child. They were always a mixture of excitement and fear. Excitement about the possibilities of the new year, and fear of the unknown – different classroom, new teacher, harder subjects.

Oh course because my child is autistic, her situation is a bit different. She spends much of her day in a classroom she already knows with a teacher with whom she is familiar. Still, there is a new classroom setting for part of the day, a different routine, all things that make the first day a challenge.

"Get your backpack and lunchbox; it's time to go," I said.

In slow motion, my daughter headed for the van, climbed in and fastened her seatbelt.

"Turn it up," she said, wanting the radio louder.

That was the only sound from the backseat on the ride to school. We parked and I opened the door to let her out.

"Get your lunch, and wait for me," I said. "I'll walk you to class this morning."

Deciding that school was going to happen no matter what, she smiled and headed toward the building.

She hung her lunchbox outside the classroom door and pulled the materials she needed out of her backpack.

"Good morning Mikelyn," her teacher said as we entered the room.

She mumbled "good morning" as she surveyed the changes in the room.

"I'll see you this afternoon," I said, giving her a hug.

"Bye," she said, pushing me away and heading toward the shelf to check out the folder holding her work.

Back at home, I picked up the pajamas beside the couch and put the pillows back in the bedroom.

"Boy, this is house is quiet," I said to the empty living room.

There was no television blaring, no child bouncing in and out of the front door a hundred times. The new school year was underway.

"Everything will be fine," I said to myself. "You just have to get used to it again."