And so, here we are. The evening before one of childhood’s greatest milestones: the first day of kindergarten.


It feels a bit anti-climatic after 4 years of school. I’ve processed leaving my child in the care of others, the total fear of putting a non-verbal child on a bus. We’ve done IEPs, communication notebooks, meetings, and phone calls. We’ve packed lunches, picked out first-day-of-school outfits, dreamed of big things to come.

Yet, underneath the normalcy and routine of this beginning, there lies something new: Rowenna isn’t a little kid anymore. We are transitioning to a new set of…stuff. We spent 6 years getting her here and it’s time to face what “here” means for her.

Until now, she’s been safely wrapped in the cocoon of preschool and play-based curriculum. She’s been with fellow students who are still navigating toilet training and social skills. Her peers are about to jump on an academic track that moves so quickly I can hardly believe there are experts out there who think a 6 year old should be able to write a simple poem by the end of kindergarten. Ro is on that train, too, but her approach will be more different this year than it’s been in the past.

Where on earth did nap time and coloring sheets go?

Rowenna is in for a challenge this year. The academic expectations of kindergarten are quite rigorous, but I have faith her team can help her access curriculum in a meaningful way. She will do and achieve in her own time, and we will back her every step of the way. And while the academic skills are still emerging, there is so much to say about Rowenna and who she is becoming.

She is so kind and so gentle. I can hardly believe the selflessness I see in her. She won’t sit down to eat dinner until her dog has had kibble; she won’t take a glass of juice unless she sees a second glass ready and waiting for Afton. She is full of hugs for all of us, but especially her dog. For Afton, she has head rubs. When she sees me having a sad or tired moment, she nestles up beside me and pats my hand. She says so much without words. She just knows what to do.

Sitting in the car, whether a quick trip to the store or a long distance drive, she runs her toes through her dog’s fur and reaches across to hold her sister’s hand. When we walk, she herds whoever is with us into a group so that we might stay together. She will not let anyone stray or leave anyone behind. Inclusion is front and center in her mind. Always.

She loves to dig and fill and dump. She loves to feel grass beneath her feet, sand slip between her fingers, water swish around her. She lives for the outdoors.

Rowenna brings so much to her school. A gentle pat for a sad friend, a huge smile for anyone who crosses her path. Kindness, gentleness, patience, and enthusiasm.

Tomorrow morning, she will board her bus once again, eager for school and all it brings her. I am so grateful for the team we built last year, the team that will be waiting with open arms and an energy to match Rowenna’s when she hops off the bus. Knowing we have a team in place that respects Rowenna and what she brings makes sending our sweet girl off and away that much easier. The rest? Well, that will fall into place.

So here’s to a magical, challenging, wonderful year of kindergarten!


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