Dear Teacher and/or Educational Support Personnel,
You do a wonderful job of caring for our children. You nurture them. You hold a parent’s expectations in check. You challenge the child and keep the parents honest. Yet sometimes in your quest to be empathetic to our families, your kindness becomes a falsehood. Especially for parents whose child has a special need. You try to understand how difficult our life can be. You want us to focus on the positives, the milestones that are achieved and the goals that are finally captured.
You also lie like a rug.
In meetings you tell us that she never bangs her head, is disobedient or has tantrums. I send you a video of a full-blown tantrum as proof they do exist and you act surprised.
Every day I get home a slip of paper that says Bridget was “happy” or that she had a “great day”. I think to myself I must be doing something wrong. Because rarely does a day go by that Bridget does not have a meltdown. They are short. They are not sweet. While they are not the whole child, they are a part of her personality. Hearing from family members that she “never acts this way” when we are no there is as helpful as the teacher/educational support person who tells us that every day is “great”.
The parent begins to question not only their version of reality but if they are doing a good job parenting this unexpected child. We begin to think that either the child has multiple personalities or that we are truly inept. Neither is a good feeling, by the way.
Last week Bridget began a hybrid summer school/summer camp program. Every day I received a report that said Bridget was “happy” and a quick one-word activity that (I thought) she enjoyed at camp. She came home every day to tell me (excitedly) that she had a “dance party” or “peed in the pond”. (Proud moment) A prouder moment was when she retained the memory and told everyone in the therapy waiting room. Today’s report was similar:
Except the report of a “happy” was not what we were experiencing at home. Bridget was alternating between crying, hitting her head and just simply weeping. At a loss I messaged her teacher explaining that Bridget seemed miserable, did anything happen at school/camp or was she just upset because there was no swimming today? Luckily her teacher is awesome and called me within 5 minutes of receiving the message.
Contrary to the report, Bridget did not have a good day. She expected to go swimming and it wasn’t a swim day. Instead of a dance party with lots of movement, there was a camp-produced magic show where she had to sit quietly (she did not) and pay attention. It was hot and humid. The camp activities were a bit above her level. Gaga pit, physically she did not possess the ability combined with the level of activity was above her comfort zone. The teacher gave her first impressions on why today might have been so difficult.
But that is for another post.
This is a post to let those who care for our children to know we, the parents, can take it. We can take hearing our child was a pest, non-compliant or just did not have a good day. Do we need to hear that our child is a pip every day? Heck no, we need the sunshine and optimism but it needs to be balanced with acknowledgement that sometimes our child is not the most pleasant one on the planet. If there is one person on this Earth has a great day every day of their lives I not only want to meet them I want a sip of their magic elixir.
Trust me, I understand. I extol Bridget’s accomplishments and her ability to hug away any bad day. I also know it is important to show the tantrums and the sometimes ugly moments of our life.
I need her teachers to do that, too. A parent who’s child has special needs know their child isn’t perfect, that no child is really is but with ours there is no hiding the fact. We need you to stand with us and provide tools to make the tantrums less and the up-to-no-good smiles more enjoyable.
Like Tom Cruise said, we can handle the truth. We deserve the truth. I promise it might bend us but will not break us. The truth only reinforces that we are working together to make our child the best they can be.