Hi, I’m Krystal. I’ve wanted to say that every Tuesday and Thursday when I see you in the preschool hallway. I don’t know why I never say it. It might be because I’m afraid to. Maybe you just want to get the drop-off over with and get out of there. I get it.
Hunter is crying . . . hard. People are looking . . . they always look. Your face is flushed, your jacket twisted. You are caught between trying to do what you are supposed to do and what you want to do. I can tell. I know because I’ve been there.
You see me walking in with Beau. He’s friendly, capable, happy to be at preschool. Beau is well-liked, does everything right. Beau never cries at drop-off. Beau doesn’t break rules. Beau scores high on all the assessments. Beau has a lot of friends.
Dropping Beau off at preschool is one of my favorite times of the day. I get to feel normal. I get to be one of those moms—one who gets invited to play dates, chosen for a “mommy and me” photo to be in the local newspaper, told my child is “exceptionally bright and also kind.” Yep. That’s me at 9:30.
What you didn’t see, Hunter’s mom, as I looked a little longer than I probably should have was me at 8:45. At 8:45, I left Beau in the car as I walked his older brother to his Montessori. His older brother has autism and drop-off is difficult.
There’s a lump in my throat as I take his warm little hand. My stomach is in knots because I am not sure if he will cry today. A worry builds in my mama heart that if someone hurt him today, he wouldn’t have the words to tell me. An ache in my heart because I wish he could stay home with me.
I slowly walk him in. “Hi, Teddy,” says a boy sitting near the shoe rack. “Hi Teddy,” my son answers back using echolalia to process what the boy just said. The surrounding children giggle. They don’t understand why Teddy talks like that. I quickly say goodbye while Teddy seems happy even though I know he isn’t.
Beau and I drive to his 9:30 preschool. I distract myself from the Montessori drop-off by chatting with Beau. When we arrive, I see you. I don’t mean to stare, and I don’t—I look away.
All I want to do is comfort you in some way. To tell you that we are more alike than you know. But I don’t because I don’t want to bug you and because sometimes even I don’t have the right words, just having experienced something similar not even 40 minutes ago. I am always waiting for the right opening, but it never comes.
I’ll tell you now: You are a good mom. All kids are different. Some parts are hard for one child and not for another. Just because drop-off is hard, doesn’t mean all parts will be. Even though I’m looking, I’m not judging. Quite the opposite. I’m wishing I had the right things to say. I wish I could tell you that I get it. I want to tell you I know you are trying—we all are. I want to say I understand. I want to tell you about the mom I was at 8:45.
“Hi,” I say in a quiet voice as I pass you on the way out.
Maybe someday, I’ll tell you.