Special Needs Parenting: Back To School

Ger Renton by Ger Renton Additional Needs

Ger Renton

Ger Renton

Mummy to three boys and now a mother to a fur baby, Lola. Wife to D and lover of music, books, writing and reading. I'm a believer in the power of...

I will then take him to the school wear store and repeat this except I will hope that he doesn’t have a growth spurt within the first term of the school year. I will buy everything half a size too big for him, experience has taught me well.

I will then take him to the shoe shop and repeat this.

He will argue over wanting runners rather than shoes and I will tell him the school rules state he must have both.

I will complain about how much all this costs while threatening him to mind his belongings for the school year.

I will remind him to try new things but not to expect me to fork out any extra money until he is sure he enjoys the sport, club or whatever he takes a shine to.

I will complain with other parents about the cost of back to school but secretly, I don’t mind. I am thankful I have a child that requires all these ‘average’ things and more.

I won’t acknowledge the sadness this brings me.

There is a sadness that most parents like me carry when it comes to ‘typical’ parenting issues, like going back to school.

The sadness is heavy but one parents like me are excellent at hiding.

I won’t ever be doing any of these things with my eldest son.

There is no book list, there are no extra curriculum activities for him to try out when he gets back to school.

There is no need for me to buy his clothes in bigger sizes as he doesn’t grow much.

His shoes are specially made, handmade to fit his tiny feet. I don’t choose his shoes, I just show up for the casting of his feet.

He will never refuse to wear what I buy.

He will always need me to dress him.

He won’t fight with me over runners nor will he debate having long hair with me unlike his younger brother.

There is a flip side to all this sadness I feel at this time of year.

I enjoy school shopping with my middle guy. I enjoy the eye rolling, I am happy he can voice his wants to me. I like being able to argue with him.

And, truthfully, I like being like every other parent, even if it is for one afternoon.

Sometimes I think that sounds daft but I believe parents like me will understand the perspective having a child with such complex medical needs brings.

So this year my middle guy will start secondary school. He's 12.

Ethan is 15 and isn’t in a mainstream school.

This is the first year I will have a child in secondary school. It is odd when people ask me about my kids and their ages, they all presume my eldest is doing his junior cert or has it done by now. Sometimes I nod and change the subject other times I let them know my eldest is in a special school; and that he is unable to sit a state exam.

People's reactions can vary; most ask follow up questions while the odd few tell me I am lucky that I don’t have all that expense and worry.

The second is offensive, in case you were wondering.

I am not lucky.

I have often imagined Ethan as a regular teenager, something parents like me are not supposed to admit to, but I have and I do.

While I will be just like every other parent this back to school season, I also won’t be.

I will be the one making the appointments for new casts for feet that don’t work as well as they used to, a cruel reminder of Hunter Syndromes’ plans.

I will be buying Ethan a new school uniform for no other reason other than because I want to.

I will buy him a new bag whose main function will to be to hold a lunch, medications, change of clothes, changing gear and still have space for shoes or AFOS

I will also be the mother arguing with her almost teenager over what's an appropriate coat to buy, shoe to wear or school bag to get.

I will enjoy it but yes, there is a sadness there and it never goes away; it simply gets easier to hide.


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