The TV show Parenthood is a gift to me, allowing me to watch from the sidelines as another family navigates the same world that I inhabit. Like a voyeur with a note pad, I scribble notes rapidly. “It’s OK to be a controlling mother… at times.” “It’s OK to obsess over how your child is doing at school… at times.” “It’s OK to be that mom… at times.”
Last week we met with our son’s teachers. The meeting went… OK. Just OK. The meeting was called because they had RSVP’d then rescinded their RSVP for our child’s IFSP meeting. When I asked them why they had cancelled, their response was: “We didn’t understand why we needed to be there.” (See my previous post for the meltdown on my part that ensued.) It was clear that we needed to have a meeting to talk about exactly how important it is that we hold this IFSP meeting and why their involvement is crucial.
When the meeting began, we sat at a little table in the fireman’s class room, me and Bruno on one side of the table, perched on our miniature chairs. On the other side of the table, like a line drawn in the sand, sat the fireman’s teacher and the school administrator, the married couple that runs his Montessori school. We were clearly in hostile territory. No one spoke. They looked at us. We looked at them. They smiled. They said nothing. I shook and stared at Bruno, telepathically screaming, “What do we do? What do we do?!?!“ Finally, Bruno began to speak and was immediately cut off by the administrator who barked, “We don’t know why all of this is necessary. We know that the government likes to spend money on special education when it is not needed. What exactly is wrong with the fireman that he requires this special meeting?” If this story was illustrated with a timeline, a huge arrow would pulsate at this exact time-marker, with words in sizzling bright red, “And Gina’s blood pressure shoots to dangerous levels right about NOW!”
Several days prior, we had discussed the upcoming meeting with our family counselor. She gave us great advice, which Bruno diligently wrote down on a tiny piece of paper in scribbled pencil. In the minutes leading up to the meeting, we stood outside of my car in the school parking lot, trying to decipher those notes and then commit them to memory.
Note #1: Do not discuss diagnosis. Discuss lagging skills.
Note #2: Tell his teachers that we do not want them to change the way that they conduct their classroom.
Note #3: Doesn’t matter because it flew out the window, along with Notes #1 and 2 as soon as Mr. Administrator began his soap box tirade. (OK, it wasn’t really a tirade, but in my current state of mind, it felt like I was being lashed with a cat 0′ nine tails.)
Taking a deep breath I paused and then quickly broke rule #1. And, just as before, I was interrupted by Mr. Administrator.
“Start from the beginning,” he ordered.
“Because, we don’t see anything wrong with him,” piped in the fireman’s teacher, “beyond a bit of laziness and some behavioral problems.”
I was fighting the urge to tell them to F-off (inappropriate) and then walk out (irresponsible). Instead, I employed my best yoga breathing and, with a false show of calm, I told them the story of our past year, emphasizing that the fireman was not, as they had so aptly put it, “lazy,” but that he was “stuck”. There is a difference.
And, that’s when I broke Rule #2. “Understanding the difference between a lazy child and a child who is stuck because of a developmental issue is key,” I told them. It turns out, Montessori does not believe in aiding a lazy child. Or a stuck child that they believe is simply lazy.
The rest of the meeting went much the same. There were moments with glimmers of hope, but I had basically shut down to them after that stellar start, and didn’t see the point of hanging onto those moments of hope when the reality was, even if it is an amazing school, it probably isn’t an amazing school for us.
I became a fan of Parenthood on Facebook. The day following our meeting there was a post asking fans what their personal experiences were with mainstreaming their children. Wow! What great timing! Here I am struggling so much with mainstreaming and apparently others have been in my shoes. Who knew that I was NOT the first person to endure this struggle? But, as I read the hundreds of comments, I became discouraged. Our experience was not unique and, if the other commenters are to be believed, we will continue to fight this battle for many years to come.
I have three major reasons for resisting a change in schools. #1: His very best friend is in this school and they are glued at the hip. He is comforted by her and looks forward to seeing her every day. #2: Change is horrendous in our world. The anxiety that this causes the fireman is off the charts and the subsequent tantrums are impossible to control. And #3, which is completely selfish on my part (I think), is that I worry about him being in another special school. If he ever successfully mainstreams, will he be the kid that used to be in special ed? I don’t even want to think about what that would do to him in the future. But on the other side of that coin, without special intervention, what chance does he stand for success? Ultimately, that will outweigh everything else.
So, I head into the next week with some very important meetings ahead of me. We will begin the week with family counseling, followed by a meeting with the psychiatrist and then spend the next few days preparing for the IFSP meeting. I need to be armed with information so that I walk in there empowered instead of a passive participator. And sometime during all of this, I need to find time to sew my Super Mom cape.