It’s early August, and my thoughts turn to the new school year. When my son, John, enters middle school next month, we’ll both face new challenges. He’s excited and a little worried at the prospect. Outwardly, I remind him of his strengths and promise him my support. Privately, I wrestle with fear and doubt.

Wistfully, I reflect on John’s progress since kindergarten. With the help of his teachers, school psychologist, and doctors, he’s learned to understand and manage his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) well. At age 11, he’s an honor roll student, well behaved, and respected by his peers. But he still struggles every day.

A wake-up call

In a recent conversation with my sister, I shared my pride in John’s progress — and my concerns about middle school.

After listening patiently, she said, “I’m proud of John too. But do you realize how far you’ve come? You’re his coach, advocate, tutor, and mentor all in one. Don’t worry about middle school. Just build on what you’ve learned, and you’ll be fine.”

Parallel progress

My sister had a point. That evening I sat down with a pad of paper and drew two columns. In one column, I listed John’s accomplishments from kindergarten through fifth grade. In the next column, I jotted down the ways I’d grown along with him.

My own progress report looks like this:

  • Flexibility: If one idea fails, I don’t panic. Instead, I’ll try a different approach. For example, when John had trouble taking swimming lessons in a large class, I located a swimming school with small classes and a special needs program.
  • Assertiveness: I’ve learned to trust my judgement. Now when I voice concerns to the school and other professionals, I do so with confidence. I’ve also become more comfortable asking others for help. During John’s early school years, I advocated on his behalf. Perhaps I acted as a role model for him because he now participates actively in our teacher-parent meetings.
  • Research skills: I’m good at finding resources. Because John takes medication for ADHD, I keep up with current medical research. My decisions are based on scientific facts and my son’s individual needs. I’m less swayed by popular opinion. I’m a mother, not a politician!
  • Teamwork: I’ve learned how to collaborate with John’s doctors and teachers in a positive way. My network of other parents has expanded. And because of my experience, I can now reach out and help others.

This is a report I can feel good about. John and I will continue to grow as we move from year to year. Middle school will be a challenge but not an obstacle. After all, look how far we’ve come! I think I’ll call my sister and tell her the good news.