Sending your first child off to school is emotional for most parents, but is it even more poignant if your child has special needs? Maybe not... but this mom just felt a huge weight lifted from her heart!

Today, I realized I am so incredibly relieved Charlie will begin preschool soon because it means I will have HELP.

I realized that, for the first time in months, I have stopped glancing at the clock with dread every day, feeling guilty that I haven't managed to cram speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy activities into the hours.

This doesn't mean I toss up my hands and dig out 36 months' worth of unread InStyle magazines. It just means the development and success of my son with Down syndrome is not entirely up to just me.

New beginnings

piggy bankCharlie's therapists will understand, I know. While they work with Charlie on varying schedules, from once every two weeks to twice a week, they understand the bulk of his progress rests on my shoulders. It's why I left my corporate career. It's why I buy macaroni and cheese in bulk when it's on sale. It's why I keep stretching my hair appointments further apart, thinking no one really sees me anymore anyway, right? Why not save money? (Before you judge, know that my grandmother's hair was completely white while she was in her 30s and I am 40!)

When we visited Charlie's new school and met his new teacher, a surge of emotion coursed through my body like something out of The Exorcist. I chalked it up to first child syndrome and the emotions that come with staring a new milestone in the eye for the first time. I didn't understand that really, I was sitting in that classroom acknowledging help exists. Feeling like I'd met someone who was going to make a difference in my child's life — perhaps more than I ever could.

The Husband rocks

He's awesome and supportive and if I told him Charlie's OT said swiping a credit card at Nordstrom is the best way to develop his fine motor skills, he would go for it...

This in no way discredits what The Husband does. He's awesome and supportive and if I told him Charlie's OT said swiping a credit card at Nordstrom is the best way to develop his fine motor skills, he would go for it (she said hopefully, wondering why she hadn't thought of that one before). But his job is our paycheck, and so my role as the mom has a heavier list of duties than it did when I flitted off to work each day, leaving my children in the most capable hands on the planet.

And some days, I wonder if I've done them a disservice, by staying home and taking on so much that isn't innate to me. But when I get to brush my daughter's hair from her eyes as she sleeps (then run like hell when her eyes fly open), or when I get to hear my son excitedly chatter, "Bub! Bub! Bub!" — which is as close to saying a word as tough and long as "bubble" as he's come — I know I made the right decision.

I also know how unclenched my stomach has become since realizing just what school will mean for my son — and us.

Team Charlie is about to kick things up a solid notch. Wahoo!

More about parenting a child with special needs

Some days, you wake up with a pajama footprint on your face
When your baby comes home with... a power cord?
The truth about my child with Down syndrome

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