Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Friday, February 08, 2008

FIERCE

Parenting a child who is wired a little differently has taught me a lot of things. Truthfully, he has taught me far more than I have taught him. And one of the most important things he has taught me, is that I have to be his champion.

When there is nobody else in his corner, when the world is against him, when injustice and bias and intolerance threaten, when he is being slapped with insulting labels and shoved into ill-fitting boxes...I have to be the one to stand up and demand that my child be given the same treatment and opportunities as every other child.

No. Better.

That's really hard to do sometimes. Nobody wants to be *that* mother. Nobody wants to be the one that is talked about in the staff room. Nobody wants to be the one that makes teachers, administrators and office staff cringe. Nobody relishes cultivating a reputation as a bitch on wheels.

But it's possible to advocate for your child without being the quintissential problem parent. Oh, sometimes you have to rant and rave to get what you need, but most of the time, you can accomplish your goals with the right combination of determination, politesse, and a little good old fashioned flattery.

Example:

"Ms. Firstgrade teacher, Diminutive One tells me that you kept him in for recess today as punishment, despite our discussion about it. I understand that he has to face consequences for his bad behavior, and I will support you in any other way you see fit.

But it is especially important for children like him to be allowed to have time to decompress and unleash a little pent-up energy. Not letting him have that is only doing more harm that good. Thanks for your understanding in the matter.

BTW, I LOVED the project you assigned last week. It was a really creative way to learn about___________ and we enjoyed doing it together."


See? What I really wanted to say was:

"Listen here you dried up old prune. I specifically told you not to keep him in for recess. First, it's against the law, second, it makes him do bad things. You know it makes him do bad things. He is hyper active and he NEEDS to get outdoors and run. Seriously, how friggen hard is it to understand that taking recess away from a hyperactive child is completely counteproductive and monumentally stupid?"

This particular teacher and I went around and around about this particular issue, and eventually, I did have to go into full metal bitch mode. But I always go with diplomacy first. Usually, it's pretty effective.

I have my mother to thank for these skills. And I have her to thank for knowing when diplomacy has failed. She was never afraid to do what needed to be done. She didn't care about being *that* Mom. She always demanded the best for us. She demanded that we not be overlooked or treated differently because our clothing was second hand. She demanded that we were afforded dignity and respect, always.

I remember one day in particular...I was in 2nd grade, so that must have made me about 7. Just a baby, really.

I was sent to the principal's office for wetting my pants. I sat, wet, reeking, ashamed and miserable. It was winter in Wisconsin, and I was cold. I shivered as I sat there waiting for my mother.

I remember everything about that office; the ceiling tiles stained with amorphous yellow blobs, the hard wooden bench I sat upon that reminded me of a church pew. The smell of hot lunch, decades of cigarettes smoke, and cheap perfume. The swinging saloon style doors that led to the back office. They creaked and shuddered every time someone walked through them.

Nobody looked at me or spoke to me as I sat there.

Finally my mother arrived with my little sister upon her hip. Her hair was in curlers, which were covered by a thin nylon scarf of aqua blue. She wore lipstick, but no other makeup. She was dressed in her stay at home clothes; polyester pants and a shawl collar sweater. She hadn't intended to go anywhere that day, and I knew she hated going out like that.

She was frazzled and looked very, very angry.

She didn't look at me, but she put her hand on top of my head to smoothe my hair. Suddenly I felt a little better.

"May I help you Ma'am?"

The secretary was looking at my mother over her half moom eyeglasses with disdain. Her drawn on brows were raised, and her wrinkled ruby mouth was pursed. Her hair, which was very thin and dyed a most unbecoming and unrealistic shade of brown, was teased high off her head. The sun from the window behind her shown through her teased locks, making them look as if they were aflame.

I hated her for how she looked at my mother.

"Yes, I'm Mrs. Antagonist, b.a's Mother. I need to speak to the principal. Immediately."

"Ma'am, I'm afraid he's occupied at the moment and can't be disturbed. All we needed was for you to bring b.a. dry clothing."

"Yes, well, all *I* need is to speak with the principal. I informed b.a.'a teacher that she had a medical condition and told her that she needs to be allowed to use the restroom when she asks, as soon as she asks. Clearly, that request was not honored. So either you get the principal out here, or I will go talk to the teacher myself, RIGHT. NOW."

"Ehm, just a minute Mrs. Antagonist. I'll see if he's available."


My mother paced while she waited. She jiggled my sister up and down on her hip. She touched her hand to her curlered hair.

Finally the principal appeared. I hated him too. He had made me feel ashamed.

"Yes, Mrs. Antagonist, what can I do for you today?"

"I need to know why my instructions to the teacher, that b.a. be allowed to use the restroom when she asks, were ignored."

"Now, Mrs. Antagonist, there are 25 children in that classroom. If Mrs. Meanspitefulbitch let everybody run to the restroom every time they asked, they would never have time for learning. I'm sure you can understand that. It's time for b.a. to grow up and learn that big girls don't go to the potty every five minutes. She has to learn self control."


My mother turned the most amazing shade of scarlet I had ever seen.

"She has a MEDICAL condition, Mr. BaldyBuffoon. It's called kidney reflux and she is under a doctor's care. It means that when her body tells her that she needs to use the restroom, she is INCAPABLE of NOT using the restroom.

Do you think any child WANTS to wet their pants at school Mr. BaldyBuffoon? Can you imagine anything more humiliating? She can control herself quite well if she is allowed to use the restroom when she has the urge. Which is why I explained that all to Mrs. Meanspitefulbitch. There was NO reason this had to happen and I will NOT stand for my daughter being treated this way!"


At that moment, my baby sister chose to take a very loud, smelly and runny poo upon my mother's person. She must have been so embarassed, but she never even acknowledged the fact that she had feces running down her leg, though the odor which it imparted was difficult to ignore.

"From now on, my daughter WILL be allowed to use the bathroom EVERY TIME she asks to go. And furthermore, she WILL receive an apology from the teacher for how she was treated. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

I don't remember what he said to her. All I remember is how utterly fantastic my mother was at that moment. She was so fierce. And it was all for me.

She motioned to me and I went to her. She put her arm around my shoulders said to Mr. BaldyBuffoon,

"I am taking her home. She's suffered enough humiliation for one day. Please inform Mrs. Meanspitefulbitch that b.a. will not be returning to the classroom today."

And we left.

When we got home, I got cookies and milk and I got to watch The Brady Bunch. My mother was angry the rest of the day, but I knew she wasn't angry with me.

The following year, I did not return to that school. I have no idea how my mother did it, but she got me and my sisters into another elementary school that was outside our district, but still within walking distance.

She wouldn't make me go back there, to Mr. BaldyBufoon's school. I overheard her telling my Dad that he was a gutless moron and the teacher was an incompetent bimbo.

So you see...I had a good role model. My mother always stood up for me, even when I didn't realize that she was fighting for my own good. There were many years when we were adversaries. I thought she was mean and that she didn't understand. She didn't care about me or what I wanted.

The thing was, she did all the things she did because she DID care, and as a parent, I realize that now.

Sometimes being a Mom means being a champion and sometimes it means being the bad guy. But it always means looking out for our children. Trying to keep them safe. Trying to help them make their way in the world without getting lost. And sometimes, when that fails, it means letting them know that you'll always find them. That you'll always be where you can be found.

Thanks Mom.

You have no idea how much that has helped me do the things I've needed to do for my son.

You have no idea how much it has helped me be...fierce.

28 Comments:

  • At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Andrea said…

    That was lovely.

     
  • At 6:43 PM, Blogger margalit said…

    I am a mother like your mother. I am fierce and I do not take shit from any buffoon in schools. And there are PLENTY of buffoons to go around, as you well know.

    The best thing about being that mother is that the school systems knows when I'm about to blow, and all of a sudden mountains are moved for my children. It's just AMAZING that what was impossible yesterday becomes possible today when you are a mom that will not allow stupid school administators to walk all over them.

    As I proudly say, on my son's permanent folder it says in big black letters right on the top, "Mom has lawyer, not afraid to use."

    Yeah. It is just AMAZING what being fierce can do!

    You go, BA!

     
  • At 7:23 PM, Blogger slouching mom said…

    what a manifesto! i'm on fire right now!

    you and your mother have this parenting thing down pat.

     
  • At 7:40 PM, Blogger bubandpie said…

    Actually, I think there are some people who want to be "that mom." They think of it as winning. Your way seems far more effective (though perhaps a little mention of the law in the diplomatic letter would make it that much more, um, forceful.)

     
  • At 8:04 PM, Blogger Life As I Know It said…

    I wanted to stand up and cheer for your mom as I read that.

    Excellent post.

     
  • At 8:36 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    Your mom kicks ASS!

     
  • At 9:08 PM, Blogger SUEB0B said…

    I LOVE your mom. And you're not so bad yourself.

     
  • At 2:16 AM, Blogger Tismee2 said…

    I haven't had to do that for my kids - I've been very fortunate with their schools so far, however I find the same approach works a treat in shops too! I once waited in an electrical store for 30 mins while a very embarassed assistant tried to get hold of the manager who was on lunch to authorise a replacement TV (looong story)while I walked around 'advising' potential customers to check their purchases worked properly once they got home.
    I even got an upgrade!

    Your story was very inspirational!

     
  • At 10:17 AM, Blogger Hairline Fracture said…

    Thanks for the inspiration. It's a challenge for compliant types like me to get in authority figures' faces and demand justice, but your post reminds me that I need to be prepared to do so if the need arises, for my children's sake. (If it happens in the schools, I was a teacher, so at least I do know how to get their attention. And btw, you are so right on that it's always best to start with a diplomatic approach the first time the mistake is made--UNLESS it's something you've already made very clear is important, like a child's medical condition.)

    Your mom's fierce defense of you was very important--not just that your needs got met, but that YOU realized your mom was there for you, that you were not just left out there to fend for yourself in a hostile environment. All of us need someone to be totally FOR us, and who's a better candidate for the champion role than Mom?

     
  • At 10:18 AM, Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said…

    You had a GREAT role model.

    When and if it becomes my time I hope I can switch into full metal bitch mode when I need to.

     
  • At 10:31 AM, OpenID wheelsonthebus said…

    I can only quote my MIL in response (and she's an elementary school principal): "If you don't stand up for your kids, no one else will."

     
  • At 10:41 AM, Blogger Pioneering in PA said…

    My mother stood up for us on more than one occasion with the school systems, but it usually was related to aides/teachers laying their hands on us. Even in those days it wasn't allowed in public schools, but most felt that they could do it.

    At those times, my mother was more than fierce, she was livid and ready to brawl.

    If it weren't for my mother sticking up for us at that age, I never would have learned to be confident enough as an adult to refuse to be walked all over like a rug.

    Go MOMS!

     
  • At 12:31 PM, OpenID realitytesting said…

    Hey--I just found you on Stumble, but I see some of my favorite people here in your comments too. No surprise. What a great read you are. And as a teacher, I can totally say that I wouldn't be chatting about you in the lounge (I'd be too afraid)...seriously...you seem to know just how to advocate for your kid in a way that will be heard. I could learn a lot from you I think.

     
  • At 2:20 PM, Blogger Hetha said…

    I found this post from Slouchy's favorites in the sidebar. Your mom, and this post, both kick serious ass. I'm getting all psyched up for school, even though my one and only is 2.5 years old!

     
  • At 2:38 PM, Blogger Tracey said…

    First, I love your mom. I want to hug her and say congratulations on being a superhero, cuz I'm sure she questioned herself as we all do.

    Second, isn't life awesome that it gave you a mom that was a role model so that you could mother your own children the way they need? Inspiring.

     
  • At 3:18 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    I am so loving you and your fierce mama right now!!
    Good for you both, for taking on the toughest job in the world ~ motherhood ~ and doing such a kick ass job.

     
  • At 4:38 PM, Anonymous midlife mommy said…

    I hope your mom reads your blog. Such high praise indeed.

     
  • At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Kelley said…

    Your mum is awesome.

    I have a child with Autism, the worse than Rainman kind of Autism, and I have to deal with the school every freaking day.

    But I do it with a smile on my face. And a thankful tone. And make out like we are working together for the good of the school, and the teachers and the OTHER students. Not just my son.

    Soon they will see through my ruse I am sure. But for the moment, I am the mum that gets all the help and the information and they listen. And for that I am thankful.

    But if I have to, I will become your mum. Cause she sounds freaking awesome.

     
  • At 9:32 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    I hope I can be fierce for my kids too. Your mom sounds awesome.

     
  • At 10:58 PM, Blogger mamatulip said…

    That was AWESOME.

     
  • At 7:30 AM, Blogger Jeana said…

    I love this post. I had a very similar experience with my mom and my bladder.

     
  • At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Kathy said…

    I could feel my blood pressure rising as I red both parts of the story. I was in the room with your Mom and you. There is nothing in this world that can grab us and make us act more then someone messing with our children. Mother's will explain what is needed and if it is ignored, oh, just don't go there.

     
  • At 4:39 PM, Blogger mrinz said…

    If we don't stick up for our kids who will!!

     
  • At 7:02 AM, Anonymous mel from freak parade said…

    Woo hoo. Your mom is awesome....and so are you.

    I have been there, done that with my son. We homeschool now, but it was my final "do not mess with my kid" throw down that was the catalyst for us to take that leap. They also kept my son in from recess....frequently....among other things, but still...duh. How does that do anything but aggravate a situation?

    I learned from my mom, who took it to my principal the one and only time I was sent to his office...in high school. :) Hooray for fierce moms.

     
  • At 8:29 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    In the beginning, when you wrote "Nobody wants to be *that* mother", my gut reaction was " why not?".

    I was fierce. I would do for my child what I would never do for myself.

    Isn't it fantastic what your strong mother taught you?

     
  • At 11:09 AM, Blogger sltbee69 said…

    What an awesome post! I've had to use my momma bear claws on only one occasion. I'm filing this post as inspiration for the future because I know that day will come again.

     
  • At 11:15 AM, Anonymous gurukarm said…

    I grew up in a very tiny town in the middle of nowhere, central-western NYS, an eon ago. There was an old, rickety, but still-in-use wooden schoolhouse that the larger school district sent kids from my town to for kindergarten, instead of to the nice shiny new brick school in the district's home town (where kids from all the other towns went - there were 5 towns in the district).

    My mom was convinced the local school was nothing but a firetrap, and decided no kid of hers was going there (my older siblings already attended nice shiny new school). So she fought the school officials about it, to the point of keeping me back from the first week or so of kindergarten (in the days when home schooling had never been heard of, much less actually practiced), until they caved and agreed to let me go to kindergarten in the nice shiny new school. Pretty cool mom! I miss her like crazy.

    (Oh, and she was pretty much right - many years later, after the school had long been shut down, the local firefighters burned it down in a training exercise!)

     
  • At 4:28 PM, Blogger NatzG said…

    You are my heroine!
    I never had that...mom who stood up for me. My mom was off having a lovely child-free life and my step-mom (who actually raised me) always sided with the teachers. I was miserable and alone.
    I am now a step-mom to my hubby's 2 kids. And I want to be you and your mom for his kids. Thanks for showing me how it can and should be done.
    Bravo!

     

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