Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An Important Post To Me

From Life On Flamingo Row @ AOL-J.

Last night Emily and I headed to our HipHopForFitnessAndFunClass, aka torture for your weary body ... but you'll laugh while you're at it. When we arrived my sister-in-law was sitting in the foyer area with two mothers, Chelle & Elle, holding the baby, chatting. I overheard one say, "Kathy? Yeah, she can."
Approaching from where I've just changed my shoes, I say, "What can I do?" And Elle says, "We were just talking about people who can be a b***h and I told them you can be." As if my sister-in-law didn't know that! Well. Harrumph. What brought this on? I just smiled, nodded and said, "Yeah, that's true. I can be." Since I had no idea the context of their conversation there wasn't much point in getting huffy or offended.

Elle looks up and says, "Yeah, you can be. I remember when I used to be afraid of you!" "Afraid of me? Why?" "Back when I was Emily's speech therapist. I'm not anymore but I was then."

Okay then.

In the early years I would arrive at an IEP meeting about Emily, terrified myself. The school didn't make it easy. What Emily was entitled to - the no frills packet -- I had to beg for. Plead. Cajole. Argue. Cry. Stamp my feet and threaten professional advocacy service or worse ... an attorney. All with courtesy and calm demeanor.

Through it all, I believed Elle was in my corner. Or rather, Emily's corner. I believe that today, still.

I've been through five special needs directors, nearly as many student/school liaisons, and six principals. Each time, the process starts all over. Again. So if I got b***hy, or po'd. Oh well. I never lost sight of why we were there. We were there for Emily.

There were meetings when a cast of thousands would be sitting around a conference room table and I would arrive, sit down and pull out framed photos of Emily and set them down the center of the table so that each person in attendance would also remember why we were meeting. The meetings were not about money or control or cream puff services. The meetings were about just how, as a team, we could educate Emily and bring her to independence.

It so ticked me off (and still does) when team members couldn't focus long enough to accomplish a simple goal.

We moved on from the elementary schools and Elle. She had a busy, sad and happy couple of years there through the fifth and sixth grades. Her mother died. She married and began the adoption process. They bought a house. Sold a house. Traveled to a foreign country for their first baby. Then a second. Her best friend betrayed her and made life miserable for her at work. Finally they bought a house in a neighboring town and she took a job at the elementary school there. One day, a few years later, she told me she had to take a cut in pay and lose seniority even though she worked in the same school union; because she was now in a different community. It was worth it to get away from the strife at school in my community.

The consummate professional and one of Emily's school/student liaisons, Elle never budged and inch more than school administrators allowed and she never ever let on the whys of services not provided, not allowed, not continued.
She never even let me know she thought I was a b***h. True professionalism.

In defense of me I'm going to repeat what I used to say to myself as I would head out to school for another tedious meeting with people I never ever intended to meet or befriend or work with. Period. I didn't even like most of them, but given a chance to meet them elsewhere? Maybe one or two.

I used to say, "If they groan when you walk into the room, you are doing your job." "If they roll their eyes when you speak, you are doing your job." "If they start to fidget when you are making a point, you are doing your job."

That is how I got through many, many of the meetings regarding Emily's education.

And that is why Emily is who she is today. It is why she can read. It is why she can print. It is why she is bright and smart and happy.

Because I was a b***h.

Imagine that.

Why is it that everyone likes you when you agree with them, but as soon as you don't and you try to make your case ... you're a b***h. Why is that?
Me. A force to be reckoned with? Formidable? Scary? Not. At. All.

Why was Elle afraid of me? I think I know why although I didn't ask her. She knew that I knew what needed to be done. She could count on my arriving to meetings prepared and completely knowledgeable about the topic we would be discussing. She knew she couldn't fool me and yet she did her best to uphold the school's wishes while attempting to come to some agreement that would please me and more importantly benefit Emily. Under the direction of 'not enough money, personnel, time and crappy-a**ed principals' she did her job as liaison, as she was expected to.

I understood and I never held it against her. In fact, I never thought she was a b***h.

I wonder now did she think I would attack her? I never raised my voice or pointed a finger or trembled with rage. That wouldn't be effective. I used my words and my knowledge to the best of Emily's advantage ... and I wrote a thank you note after each meeting. Today I feel no need to apologize to any one of the school/student liaisons. Or Elle. I never intended to make anyone feel intimidated by or afraid ... of me. Or anything I represented.

But I did mean to make all of them tow the mark and educate Emily.

There's an old expression: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Emily is one fine pudding. She is deep, rich chocolate, layered with subtle mocha and vanilla, topped with fluffy whipped cream. A pudding full of calories and sugar. A pudding to savor and enjoy each day of your life.

That is my Emily.


Lori said...

Kathy, this was a wonderful entry, and thank you so much for sharing it with us. You know, a mother (or father) has to be willing to be seen as a b**ch or b****rd when it's in defense of or on behalf of their children. It doesn't make you one. It just means you can become that (to some) when you need to. Being prepared, knowledgeable, reasonable, calm, and professional can intimidate some people in situations like the one you described. It can intimidate them because they know they're going to need to be on their toes and do their best. For others it can intimidate them because it would be much easier for them to deal with someone who was ignorant, or rageful (putting the parent in the wrong) or unprepared. Then the so-called professional would be totally in charge, and you never let that happen. I think Elle felt you kept her on her toes. You WERE a formidable person to deal with. And you're right, you have a beautiful young daughter there -- one you can be proud of, and you can be proud of yourself for helping to prepare her for life. I have you on my lists now, so I'll be back soon.

MyMaracas said...

Brava, my dear, brava! If more parents were like you, all our kids would benefit. Your daughter is lucky to have a mom who fights for her and refuses to be intimidated.

Unfortunately, getting special help for any student requires a constant battle. Hang in there.