Our Final Surrender to Summer: Not Returning to Kindergarten After Surgery

By the time we walked into the hospital the morning of surgery, I knew the date was dangerously close to the end of the school year, but Abi’s pain was too severe to wait any longer. The surgeon’s hope, however, was that she would be able to return to school (in the cast) after a week and a half to two weeks, leaving us with a solid month left of school. (Yes!)

Unfortunately, due to her unexpected circumstances with recovery- the days turned into weeks, and I kept looking at the calendar- HOPING that “maybe in a few days” the pain would dissipate and all of a sudden school would be a possibility. I HATED the idea of her not seeing her teachers or her friends before summer, and since she loves school so much, we had been telling her from the beginning “Don’t worry, you’ll go back.” I even bought a wagon for her to ride in at school while she was still in the cast, a friend brought us the stroller they used when their daughter was in a spica cast- but nothing was comfortable enough to work. Before long a month left of school turned into 4 days left of school. (Abi attends our town’s amazing public elementary school and thankfully they sent us a homebound teacher from the county during this time.)

After weeks of emailing back and forth I finally told her teachers, “I just don’t know if we can make it. And if we don’t – what do we do about the yearbook you have, the library book we have, or her first grade registration?” Since Sean was on the road and Abi couldn’t be in a car seat- I asked if anyone would be in the office first week of summer for me to go to school and handle it all when Sean got back.

Thankfully, they wrote back immediately with a plan. They would come back by the house (they had already visited once) to bring her yearbook and all her goodies from school and pick up her library book. Registration had been reopened online and all would be good. “Focus on her healing. That’s what we all want the most.”

I stepped outside, took a deep breath, called Sean and discussed the possibility of just calling it summer. I had been gauging recovery, not by each milestone, but by how likely it was we could go back to school. I wanted that for her so badly, that when we finally discussed it being summer, I took a deep breath knowing the rush was off. She could heal at her own rate without my incessant focus on the calendar.

I walked back inside, and discussed it with Abi. She stopped what she was doing and listened closely. I reminded her that she would be able to see some of teachers here at the house over the summer and that as soon as she felt up to it, we could walk across the street and see her friends. Also, next year, while she would have a different 1st grade teacher, her beloved kindergarten teacher would still be there, AND (SOO HUGE) everyone else on her team would be the same. (Cue my tears. How lucky we are to have such an amazing group of people ready for our return.)

She listened wide-eyed and then smiled.

The next day her teacher brought her yearbook and her memory book- a spiral bound book full of pictures and memories (that I had not even seen) of her year.  WHAT A TREASURE. The pictures they took with her and her friends are UNBELIEVABLE and it was such a joy to get out of the fog of surgery to remember all the amazing things she DID get to do during her full and exciting year of kindergarten.

Additionally, her amazing team of teacher assistants asked if they could come by Sunday, bring lunch, and visit Abi. Oh my gosh. Abi was in a bit of pain before they got there, but the second she heard their voices, I looked in her room and she was grinning. They brought Panera and a bag of goodies for us (including a magazine and chocolate- oh sweet hallelujah) AND they surprised Abi with books they had gotten for her at the school’s book fair! They all stood around her bed for an hour talking to her and I saw more smiles, giggles, and engagement than I had in a long time.

I told them, the silver lining in this, is that everyone (including myself) got to skip the monumental break down I would have surely had on her last day of kindergarten. I am thoroughly thankful nobody had to witness the hiccuping-can’t speak-must wear sunglasses-unbridled mess that would have shown up for her last dismissal.  I know this scene well because it happened last year as we left preschool. I couldn’t speak. I just nodded to people INSIDE THE BUILDING WITH MY SUNGLASSES ON with a subtle (but noticeable) hiccup under my breath. Thankfully, Sean was there to translate for me. #notexaggerating

Yesterday, I called the school to get a code for her online registration and they told me I’d need to get a packet of papers from the office. In 30 seconds it was arranged for one of Abi’s TA’s to drop it off at the house. Be still my heart. Amidst the pain of a recovery, we are beaming at the gift of a small town and an early summer that doesn’t feel lonely or like we “missed out” – but one that feels generous and open. We can recover as needed, with friends, teachers, new books, and a town that gathers around you when you need some help. Amen, amen, amen.