Chicago mom’s dilemma: When to step in and when to step back?

This time of year is full of excitement for many children AND parents, but for me?

Not so much.

When my oldest was small, going back to school was never a worry.

She adjusted well on her own.

I didn’t need to prep her, other than going to buy school supplies and her first day of school outfit.

I didn’t understand all the HOW TO GET YOUR CHILD MOTIVATED FOR SCHOOL books, articles and blog posts that were put out there.

Until my youngest daughter started kindergarten last year.

Then I got it.

Last August, our then five-year-old was getting ready for kindergarten and she was so excited.

She had done amazing in preschool and had no transition issues at all!

So I expected the same to happen when she went to kindergarten.

The big girl bus!

A larger, cooler big girl classroom!

Five days a week!

OK, maybe that was more for me.

The first day went on without a hitch.

She was jumping up and down with excitement!

She couldn’t wait to get on the bus, to see her new teacher, to get to know her new classmates!

I held in my tears as the bus drove away, getting in the car with my husband and following the bus to school.

Hiding in the school parking lot so she couldn’t see, we watched as she proudly bounded into her new school, backpack secured to her little body, a big beaming smile on her face.

It was the next morning as she was getting ready that the “fun” of school started fading.

When she realized this is an every. day. THING?

It was hard.

Harder than I had imagined.

It took all I had to get her on the bus for two weeks straight.

Crying, begging me not to make her go, pleading to stay home.

I would sob as soon as the bus left my driveway feeling like I was punishing my child.


Our now six-year-old has ADHD.

She was diagnosed earlier this year and since then, it has been one A-HA moment after another for us.

The beginning of the year transition was very hard for her.


She wasn’t thriving because of all the changes, the different room, the lots more children and the noise.


We worked all summer on learning numbers, letters and colors; that she completely forgot once she got in front of teachers and kids she didn’t know.


So this year, I feel like I am more prepared than I was this time last year.

We worked a lot harder all summer to stay up to date with school.

I have been preparing her for the changes: longer day, lunch at school, new classmates, new teacher.

School has not taken a vacation for Ella this summer.

She has been voicing concerns about whether her teacher will be nice, who will help her with math and how will she know when to go to lunch.

Fears that the average first grader has.

Only I have been hearing about it on average, two to three times a week.

All summer long.

I am scared to death about the first two weeks of school for her.

I have plans in place for her and I will of course advocate for her but I can’t actually go to school for her.

I can’t help her with a math problem if she struggles, I can’t help her find the bathroom, I can’t flag down the teacher when she needs help while she needs it.

I sound like a helicopter mom, don’t I?


Trust me, I am not a helicopter mom.

At home, she is very independent, doing things on her own most of the time.

The only time I truly “helicopter” is during homework because I need to be or she wouldn’t be able to stay on task.

But because of the diagnosis this year AND because of her reaction to back to school last year, I want to be her invisible shield.

Protecting her all day long against all the outside noises that make it hard for her to concentrate.

Putting all the correct answers in her head so she feels good about herself.

Giving her the strength to be able to focus and make good decisions.

Just thinking about her first week of school sets a kind of terror in me that is almost embarrassing to admit.

I don’t want her to cry at the bus stop in front of other kids.

I don’t want her to miss home during the longer school day.

In all honesty, she most likely isn’t missing home as much as not being able to tolerate a whole day of learning.

And that makes me want to cry.

Give me the strength to do this, to be brave for her, to have confidence in her.

I literally feel like I am kicking her out of the nest.

I feel like I am abandoning her, throwing her to the wolves.



I know she has it in her.

Do I have it in me?

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