I’ve struggled with writing this post for several weeks. Then I decided to wait for an update before publishing. Then I needed a week to mull over my thoughts and recover emotionally after the update before I published. I found my “happy place” after an exhausting week with Nick at Children’s…. Sitting in a dark EEG room and long, traffic-ridden drives give the brain plenty of time to think things through.
Before the twins could begin school this year, we had to participate in a transfer admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) meeting with a committee that consisted of school representatives, teachers, audiologists, deaf co-op administrators and a speech therapist. I’ll spare you the major details, but towards the end, I felt unheard and misunderstood. I had repeated over and over the twins’ background, their intimate story, in the hope that everyone present would comprehend and feel to their core, as our family does, how important the boys are and how hard we’ve all worked to get them to the successful level they demonstrate today. I laid out what felt like every single piece of my heart on that conference table and when I didn’t get the response I was anticipating, I began to cry. My breakdown was clearly uncomfortable for many at the table, but one (yes, one) angel reached for a box of tissues. Everyone else either glanced down at their paperwork or wouldn’t meet my eyes. I felt as though my trust in this committee that would ultimately determine my children’s fate had been betrayed. And it hurt. It took me several days to regain my footing after the first ARD.
A month later, we have the 30-day ARD for both boys to review an encyclopedia’s worth of testing and determine best placements. I wrote my opening speech and spent days practicing. However, as soon as we entered the room, I lost my urge to help these strangers see our life and fully understand it. I lost the desire to share our story, because your story is shared with those who deserve to hear it. Entering that room, which had more in attendance than the first ARD, had me leaving our story in the lobby.
At one point, I did make an abbreviated statement as follows:
Parenting is a shame minefield. For all of us, but especially for those of us who were called upon and chosen to adopt a child with special needs. Someone thought our family would do a pretty darn good job putting these kids on the right path, so when we screw up, we feel as though the critics not only come out from under their rocks, but they’re also renting planes with huge banners that read, “These parents failed big time! Don’t be them!”
I imagine none of you have been on this side of the table, but I’ve been on your side. Guess which side cuts you off at the knees and leaves you open and exposed? Guess which side takes DAYS to recover from? This side.
I want to address my mental breakdown at the first ARD. I felt unheard, even though I repeated my story several times. I still honor my emotions, but I’ve shifted my trust from this committee back to those invested: my family. I’m putting trust in these little boys, who are happy. They may be frustrated at times and a bit confused, but at the end of the day, they are happy. THAT is all we care about – their happiness.
They love going to school. So, I thank all of you here. My family thanks you, too. Whatever is decided in this meeting I know in my heart and soul is right, because of the time, energy and effort everyone has put into these boys. Our family will not just jump in with both feet, we’ll cannonball into this.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised that none of this was entered into the meeting’s notes under parent comments. What WAS entered were my concerns of the behavioral approach used in one classroom, which was fine for one child, towards the other child and how he would respond. My comments and beliefs were not accepted well by the principal in attendance, understandably, but what followed was like a punch in the chest that literally knocked the wind out of me. She informed me that if having the twins in the same classroom was disruptive to the other students’ learning environment, she would move one child to a completely different school. I attempted to explain how a new school would do NOTHING to improve behavior and would be devastating for a child who had a long history of trauma and abuse. Her words, “I am not saying that is what will happen. I am simply letting you know ahead of time.”
I choked back the bile rising in my throat and the tears forming in my panicking eyes and said, “I am simply letting you know ahead of time that I will NEVER allow that to happen. I will homeschool them again before I allow them to be traumatized again.” I sat back, firmly, and crossed my arms, like a 5 year old. I suppose I did it as a body language message that I would not budge on my belief of protecting these kids at all costs. How could she NOT see how her statements made no sense for the child’s well-being? How could she NOT see how her statements of threatening trauma affliction to my family would cripple me as an adoptive special needs parent? I would have recovered from the chest punch quicker.
What I’ve realized this week is that there’s NO WAY she could see the effect of her statements. Because she’s not a fish (watch this brilliant TED Talk by Seth Godin for an explanation). Essentially, she’s not an adoptive special needs parent who has spent 7 years trying to right wrongs and doing everything you can, 24/7, to make life brighter and better for a kid who can only thank you in hugs. She’s not us, she’s not invested. She’s simply a school principal. So, I discarded my dislike of her for making such a crass threat. I will say, however, that as a fish who has swam through all but 2 of the 7 seas, she’s missing out on a great life adventure.
Truth: Michael has sailed 5 of the 7 seas
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