Whether it's sports, or school, or extracurricular activities such as Boy Scouts, there's always that one parent that all the others talk about. And there's always that one parent (or...twenty) whose name makes school administrators cringe.
They rock the boat. They speak their mind. They defy authority. They challenge convention.
They are usually not well liked, are they?
Well, I now find myself among their ranks. I also find that I don't really give a rat's ass.
For a lot of years, I tried not to be the boat rocker. But for a lot of years, I didn't understand the nature of my sons' problems. I thought he was simply "spirited". I let things happen that I shouldn't have because I thought that the school and the teachers knew best.
They are educated people, afterall.
I do not have a degree in education. I do not have a degree at all. And I let that stop me from trusting my own instincts.
You may have read about the incident that ocurred with my youngest son. It's just a couple of posts down if you haven't. In a nutshell, he said "Suck My Balls" in the lunchroom and they brought down the WRATH OF GOD upon him.
He had to eat lunch in the office for five days. He lost recess for five days. He lost Fun Friday that week. He lost the privilege of participating in Field Day.
He didn't hurt anybody. He didn't threaten to hurt anybody. He was not disrespectful to any of his peers or any member of the staff.
After discussing it with my husband and with Diminutive One's doctor, we agreed that this was unacceptable, for a multitude of reasons. Also, we were extremely displeased with the way he was treated during the course of investigating the incident.
So I wrote a letter to the Principal. I was going to post it for you here, but then I thought better of it. To my knowledge only three people have read that letter, but with my luck, some secretary who picked it up off the floor after the Principal crumpled it up and threw it across the room in a fit of rage, reads this blog.
So anyway, this letter stated unequivocally that we did not consent to these measures and that we considered one consequence at home and one consequence at school to be sufficient.
In addition, due to his ADHD and related disorders (anxiety) he was absolutely NOT to be denied recess.
Specifically, I said:
"Therefore, we expect that he will continue to have recess according to the customary allowances for all students."
I made it very clear that this was a decision that his mental health care provider was completely in agreement with, which she was.
There was a lot more, but you get the gist.
I sent the letter in his backpack this morning, and then spent the interim researching advocacy groups here in Georgia that provide assistance and representation to parents of children with disabilities in these types of situations.
Luckily, I have a friend who is a veritable encyclopedia of state resources of this kind. Her autistic son has been in public school with my oldest son since kindergarten. My experiences are a cake walk compared to what she has been through.
Once, while trying to help a Mom from another state who was relocating to Georgia with her autistic son, I called my friend to ask if she had any advice for this Mom. Her response was:
"Tell her not to."
That should tell give you some small idea of what I'm up against.
The Principal called while Husband was on a conference call. When I got her message, I decided to wait before calling her back to find out if Diminutive One had been denied recess today.
I saw red.
That was a ballsy move, but I expected it. She is not a pushover this gal.
But neither am I.
Husband and I called her back. I made Husband do the talking because I was so angry I was afraid that I would not be able to articulate my thoughts without coming off as a carping shrew.
I'm good with words and writing letters, (my letter rocked; I really do wish I could share it with you. Thanks for your invaluable insight AA.) but Husband is really better in a face to face confrontation. So I suppose we make a good team.
Basically, it went well. She was pretty tough, but Husband was tougher. At one point, she stated:
"You do not get to dictate what punishments take place here at school."
Husband politely but emphatically disagreed. She was noticeably taken aback at being directly challenged in that manner, and from there on her tune changed somewhat.
We got what we wanted, although the circumstances are slightly different than what we had dictated in the letter. But that's okay. A small concession on our part was worth it to achieve our objective.
All of that is really beside the point, however.
Whether you agree with our stance on this or not...whether you agree with how we handled this or not...(several readers have very politely expressed disagreement, and I truly appreciate their perspective)...what I want you to know is this:
You are your child's only advocate in a world that doesn't yet grant them a voice. If you believe that your child is being treated unfairly, do NOT be afraid to get in there and stir things up. Do not accept the mandates of an authority figure simply because they are in a position of power.
Be your child's voice. Be your child's champion.
You lose nothing by doing so, but gain everything.
I have plenty of regrets in how I have handled Diminutive One's disability. I wish I had had him evaluated sooner. I wish I had gotten him medicated sooner. I wish I had yelled less and listened more. I wish I had fought harder for him those two years he had SUCK ASS teachers who did inestimable damage to his self-esteem and his academic progress.
I don't plan to add any more regrets to that list if I can help it.
I, or rather, we, are the problem parents now. And proud of it.
Goddamn that's a load off.