The Rookie Mistakes of a Veteran Mother

Brian started his first day of school on Monday.  First day of school with new staff, new programming, and a new school.

We did all the pre-school work such as visits to the classroom, working with the new staff during ESY (Extended School Year) to acclimate to them, updating my “Brian Manual” that I pass out every year, and so forth.

Monday morning I woke up 30 minutes early so I could cook the boys a big breakfast to start their first day off right.  As I stood there mixing the ingredients together for pancakes, my mind started to run away from me.

My baby was going to a new school with new programming and new staff.  Did they know everything they needed to know about him?  Would they understand his under-enunciated scripts and what each script really means?  Would they know to protect his AAC device if he went into meltdown mode, as that is usually the first item that gets thrown (and we really don’t want to replace it)?  Would they know the triggers for his meltdowns and would they recognize the warning signs to nip it in the bud before he got to that point?  Would they give him a hug if he needed one?  How would I know how his day was going?  I’m not Facebook friends with any of the new staff, like I was with our old.  They would send me pictures throughout his day to keep me in the loop.  Would they remember his allergies?  Would they make sure he got his sensory breaks?

And I started tearing up over the pancakes.

This was my first mistake.

Mistake #1. Do not let your own anxiety set the mood for the day.

Brian was hard to wake up.  All summer long he was sleeping in, quite consistently, until 7:30 or 8.  Considering it was just last year, at 10 years old, that he finally started to sleep through the night, we have been soaking up the sleep.  But since his school starts at 7:20 in the morning, I knew we would be in trouble.

We got through breakfast with a smile but then it was time to get dressed.

Mistake #2.  New school clothes.

Here’s the thing people.  New school clothes really aren’t a must.  It’s still 80 degrees here and if Brian wanted to wear his summer clothes that were already worn in and comfortable to him, then I definitely should’ve offered that as an option.  But I didn’t.

I laid out brand new spanking clothes.

During dressing, he cried real tears and was starting to fall apart.  As I massaged his feet with essential oils, I bribed him.

“Would you like to bring three animals to school today?”

He responded positively and finished dressing.  I am not above bribing.  Reward systems work really well for individuals on the spectrum and animals have proven again and again to be a calming tool for Brian.

He brushed his teeth through the tears and I ran around making sure both boys had everything on their school lists.  Brian ran out the back door, still crying and climbed into his carseat.

I tried to get him out so I could take our traditional “First Day of School” picture but he refused and I finally got out of the mind-sight of what “should” happen to what really matters.  Adding another transition was not going to be a good idea.

Finally got them both settled in and drove them to the school.

Brian flopped out of the car and threw himself on the school parking lot crying tears and kicking his feet.

I told Corbin he could go ahead if he wanted.  I gave Brian squeezes, spoke to him gently about his upcoming day.  He got up, wiped his tears away, held my hand and walked to the school with me.

About two feet from the door, he looked up at me and asked, “Three animals?”

Mistake #3: Don’t bribe if you don’t intend to follow through.


I got so caught up in the hustle & the bustle and he just ran out to the car from the house that I forgot and I assumed he had forgotten about my idea of bringing animals to school.

He started crying again when he realized I did not have three animals for him to bring to school.

It took 15 minutes or so for him to calm down in his new classroom and I left the school with tears in my eyes.

I got in the car and I took deep breaths.

Arrived back home where my husband greeted me with, “How was drop off?”, and I just started bawling.

All in all, Brian ended up having a great first day.  The new staff seems amazing and caring.  He made it through despite a rocky first day transition.

Wish I could say the same for his Mom.


Heather Nelson

About Heather Nelson

Heather resides in Rockland where she is busy juggling life as a newlywed, a mom to two boys (one of which who has autism), a part time job in direct sales, and a full-time job as a pediatric occupational therapy assistant. She has a love for live music, karaoke, and cheering on the underdogs.