We all know by now that my daughter, Ainsley, has special needs. She’s bright, motivated, sweet, empathetic and kind. But, she’s also challenged academically and socially. Fortunately for her, and for Kurt and me, she has an amazing team of educators and professionals at her elementary school who help guide her through her days.
However, even the most well-oiled machine derails sometimes. Today was a big train wreck of a PPT. Kurt says he wrote the wrong date on his calendar, but I secretly think he had some divine vision telling him to run far and fast away from 108 Main Street. We have almost monthly meetings with Ainsley’s team, so when Kurt was a no show, I wasn’t concerned. I figured he had an emergency at work and I was confident I could handle the meeting solo. After six years of PPTs, it was old hat.
Yeah- it was an old, smelly, ugly fedora with a ticking ticking time bomb hidden under the feather kind of hat. After I left school, I called Kurt to ask if he’d forgotten about the meeting or had run off with a twenty-year old chippie. Then I summed up the ninety minutes simply by saying, “I yelled at two team members, then ran out of the room crying.”
This is interesting for me to write because usually the subjects of my blogs are strangers who have had the misfortune of angering me. In those cases my pieces are anything-goes-I-will-hunt-you-down-and-punch-you-in-the-face, free for alls. But, I love Ainsley’s team. I mean truly, write glowing letters to the superintendent of schools about them, love them.
One positive of today? It answered this question- Is it possible for me to want to punch even people I like in the face? The answer is a resounding yes. Nobody did anything wrong, other than me yelling and stomping out like an irate toddler. While no one stole my lollipop, one person did take my confidence that my daughter is okay.
Ainsley is her own kid. And I will never, ever, ever do anything to take that uniqueness away from her. She has a heart as big as the sky and more enthusiasm for the things she loves than anyone I’ve ever met. However, she expresses it unlike her classmates, which may cause some to think she’s different. No kidding she’s different. She’s not like them so why on earth would we try to squish her into the mold of other kids?
Let me share with you some of the punching-in-the-face moments from today.
Two boys are walking down the hall, talking about a basketball game they’re going to later that day. They’re so excited for it that they high-five each other. They’re not loud. They’re not disruptive. A teacher witnesses the exchange and smiles to herself. Fast forward a few hours. Ainsley can’t wait for the end of the day. She knows in a few minutes she’ll be released into the wild to go ride her pony. Ainsley’s world revolves around Perfect James, so she is literally counting the minutes until the bell rings. She knows she has to follow the rules in the classroom, so she waits until she gets into the hall to express her glee. She tilts forward on her tiptoes and shakes her hands. For those thirty seconds, she is unaware of her surroundings, she’s just immersed in the happy thoughts of seeing James.
According to a professional in the building, Ainsley is engaging in a behavior that must be modified because it’s not, and I quote, socially acceptable. Seriously? Not only do we push her way beyond her academic and social comfort level on a daily basis, now we have to squash her expressing her enthusiasm because she doesn’t do it right? Pardon my language, but fuck that.
It’s an interesting paradox. As parents, we pat ourselves on the back for encouraging our children’s individuality… but only if it matches everyone else’s. I’m a fairly intelligent person, but I cannot make that make sense. So here we have a kid who is most definitely not like other children (nor would I want her to be given the number of self-absorbed, materialistic, clique-ish bullies that are out there); yet we’re constantly telling her she has to cram her perfectly trapezoidal body into a parallelogramish hole. Really people?
Another example from this poop show of a meeting is that Ainsley rocks to soothe herself. I’ve never, not once, seen her do it at home which tells me it’s how she calms herself when she’s anxious. As I’ve said, school is not easy for her, and it often gives her cause for worry. Too bad, kid. Apparently rocking is another socially unacceptable behavior because her classmates don’t do it. Maybe if more kids did try to self-soothe, there would be fewer trips to the principal’s office and happier children. So, let me see if I understand this. I have an anxious child who is being told she cannot engage in the one activity she knows brings relief. Where, I ask you, will all that angst go?
Now do you forgive my evil desires to punch people I genuinely like in their pretty little faces? I’m telling you, there’s not a jury in the world who would convict me. I’ve heard of simple assault and aggravated assault. I’ll throw a new category out there- how about necessary assault?
It was only in the last twenty minutes that the meeting took such a sinister turn. Right up until the last presenter, everyone had positive reports to give on our girl. She doesn’t advance as quickly as her peers, but she’s been making steady and encouraging progress since the start of the school year. Isn’t that all we can want for any of our children? The positive feedback made the last bit that much more perplexing. The phrases negative responses and non-compliant got tossed around. I’m sorry, but if my kid is behaving this badly, I really needed to hear about it before the seventh month of school. And furthermore, why was only one team member of twelve reporting these behaviors? By the way, a negative response is her stating she’s tired instead of informing her teacher that she needs a break. And non-compliance is taking more than three seconds to respond to a request. Let us not forget that this is a kid who has trouble processing the meaning of what people are saying. As my friend, Timmy, would say, what the fuck fuck?
Circling back to the beginning of this ill-fated tale, I did return after I left the room in tears. Much to my relief, the team was patiently waiting for me. Our leader did the only wise and sane thing to do, and put an end to the PPT. I left there angry and hurt, but also with the knowledge that no matter how many folks I wanted to deck, I am still beyond fortunate to have so many people who, even though I may disagree with them sometimes, love my kid as if she’s their own.
Oh Sue, how I feel for you. It is one thing for me to navigate situations in which I feel defensive but when it’s my children, the tiger mama in me ROARS! As the mother of an “Identified Child” I have sat through many a PPT, and like you, mostly have felt that the team is doing a fabulous job but I do end up in tears at most of the meetings due to the sheer overwhelmingness of the situation. I agree that you should have been made aware of this team member’s concerns before now. I ask you, is this one team member new to the team? And do you think you can calm down enough to speak rationally about why it is important for you (for Ainsley) not to be stuffed into the conformist hole?
I had a similar discussion with my son’s team last month and as I was losing it, the new principal, bless his heart, won me over by stating, we are in no means suggesting that anyone do anything to C that would make him any less C-ish. He is a wonderful, intelligent, big-hearted boy and we understand it’s all part of his package. We just want to help him advance at his pace and reach his full potential.
At the risk of getting punched in the face by you, may I suggest that you make another appointment (bring Kurty) and talk this through with that particular team member and at least one other one to act as a facilitator/mediator/referee.
Big hugs to you my dear. I think you are an awesome mother.
Thanks Jeni. Emailing you now. xo
hi Susan AS A MOTHER OF TWO SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN I FEEL YOUR PAIN AND FRUSTRATION I went to countless ppt s and had many of the same feelings you have. Your daughter is a gift and its long overdue for people to allow each others differnces Schools are so rigid I was also a pRent advocate so if you ever need my help or just want to talk i m always here for you.I would love to meet Ainsley one day She is so beautiful Keep being the Mom you are and always follow your heart Bless you
Woosh. I am so sorry about that. I worked in a *self-contained* classroom in 3 diff. schools with handicapped, mentally challenged and emotionally challenged kids and loved the heck out of my job.. it wasn’t a job. It was a JOY to help kids that were *different*. Probably why when I see Ainsley I am drawn to her. 🙂
Here to support you in whatever you need or just to vent. Ainsley delights me. 🙂 So does Cooper of course. You go mom. HUGS.
Sweet Pea, I LOVED this post. Of course, I love Ainsley, she’s from the angelic realm, and if you want to punch anyone in the face on her behalf, can I come with you? And, in terms of the writing, this was a piece of incredible emotional depth and clarity, not a word wasted, I was there with you the whole time. I love having you in my world. I hope so so many people see this, it can help all parents, everywhere and even people who aren’t parents, to learn the art of acceptance and seeing it from the child’s eyes. You and A. are so lucky to have each other. Big kisses, S.