This post is inspired by a viral post titled, “Dear Parent: About THAT Kid” by an educator in Calgary, Alberta. It’s a powerful post, and I encourage you to read it. While I was reading the post, I thought about how easy it is to assume instead of be curious. I thought about the label “that” and how we become fearful of this – we don’t want to be known as “that” parent so we stay quiet. I think it’s time to be more curious about “that.” This post is dedicated to all the parents out there who are “that” parent.
I am that parent.
Dear professionals: You know me. I am the one who asks questions. The one who seems like she’s always asking for information. The one who makes suggestions on the IEP or seems to go on and on and on about the concerns she has about her son. The one who will turn a 15-minute scheduled meeting into 45 minutes. The one who doesn’t hesitate to let you know when things are not going well for her child. The one who can get emotional and (unintentionally) make everyone feel yucky. The one who requests documentation and wants to look at her child’s file. The one who says she wants goals to be more specific. The one who just doesn’t seem to go away and leave you alone to do your job. The one who keeps her own file.
Dear other parents: You know me. I am the one who always looks a bit off in the morning. The one who is pleading with her child to enter the school. The one who stands off to the side and appears to be waiting for something to happen. The one who doesn’t get her child to apologize right away when he’s done something wrong. The one who picks her child up early from school and doesn’t seem to get involved in anything. The one who can’t seem to get her child to behave like all the other kids. The one who doesn’t parent her child the way you do.
I would love to tell you — I wasn’t always that parent.
I would love to tell you about how when our child first started school I trusted and believed he would be OK, even though we knew he was just a little bit different than the other kids.
I would love to tell you how many times we were told to just leave things up to the school staff and our son would be fine.
I would love to tell you about the time when I became concerned about things that were happening for our son, concerned enough to book an appointment with a pediatrician. I would love to tell you that he saw us for 15 minutes, made a snap diagnosis and told me to put our son on medication.
I would love to tell you about the time we saw a counsellor for one hour, who told us our son had a different diagnosis and we needed to find him a special school.
I would love to tell you about the looks of confusion, pity and sometimes even derision that have been cast my way on the playground. I would love to tell you about the times I stood alone outside the school waiting for my son, with no one approaching me.
I would love to tell you about the time I had to console my son because he finally realized everyone else in his class was getting invited to birthday parties, except for him.
I would love to tell you that when my son doesn’t apologize right away, it’s because he can’t. I would love to tell you that the way his brain works takes longer than others’, and if I were to force him to apologize, it wouldn’t go well. I would love to tell you to be patient and to just allow him some time to figure it out. I would love to tell you that if you do this, he will apologize in the most sincere way.
I would love to tell you about the time I provided a teacher with a letter that highlighted my son’s strengths, challenges and how to best approach these, only to be told “I prefer to find things out for myself.”
I would love to tell you about the time my son sat in the hallway all day because he refused to complete a writing assignment at the beginning of the day, even though his IEP clearly stated he was to be presented with a distracting activity when he gets stuck.
I would love to tell you about the notes that would come home in my son’s planner detailing the negative events of the day or about the time I sat in a parent/teacher interview and was told “all” the other parents in the class have said my son is a bully.
I would love to tell you about trying to figure out what services might be available to support our child and our family. I would love to tell you about finding out about a certain resource and feeling hopeful, only to placed on a wait list for at least six months.
I would love to tell you about how I became detached from any and all school activity because it didn’t matter what I said or did; it impacted my son and likely gave me an ulcer. I didn’t want to become known as that parent.
I would love to tell you about the time a psychiatrist saw us for 15 minutes and determined our son should no longer qualify for a public assessment and then followed up with a letter saying we had provided non-specific information to support our concerns because apparently ten pages of documented observations are considered non-specific.
I would love to tell you about the time my son was in desperate need of connection to a medical professional. I would love to tell you about the ways we were handed off from one service system to another, no one wanting to provide the recommended support.
I would love to tell you about the time we were trying to get some support and were told to call a ministry agency we clearly didn’t meet the mandate for. And yet, we were still required to do this.
I would love to tell you about sitting in meetings and hearing about all the bad things our son was doing. I would love to tell you about all the times we’ve been made to feel that our parenting was the reason our son was the way he was. I would love to tell you about the time I was a fly on the wall and overheard some brutal comments about my child.
I would love to tell you about all the times we were told our son simply couldn’t handle a full day of school and that we needed to pick him up early. I would love to tell you that this meant I needed to give up my employment because I was unable to fulfill my obligations. I would love to tell you that even though we did this, we didn’t receive any support from any organization for the time our son should have been in school.
I would love to tell you about how year after year, we have to explain our son to new people because it seems like the information doesn’t go forward to the next grade in a timely way.
I would love to tell you about all the services and supports we’ve tried to access for our child over the years, how much we’ve paid for these and what we’ve found to be most useful.
I would love to tell you about how some mornings when I’m walking my dog, I reflect on all of this and realize how easy it is to isolate myself from this world that sometimes does not understand.
But most of all…
I would love to tell you that I’m proud of my son and his courage in facing each day.
I would love to tell you how I am proud of myself for becoming more knowledgeable about the challenges my child faces, learning about the systems we access for support, learning the jargon so I don’t feel dumb sitting at the meeting table when an acronym is used.
I would love to tell you about the people who have come into our lives on our journey who have believed in us and given us hope. I would love to tell you about the one time we were asked the question “Where would you like to see your child when he is an adult, and what can we do to help get him there?” I would love to tell you about the time I broke down in tears in a meeting because my child’s grade-six teacher said she loved having him in her class, that he was polite and respectful. I would love to tell you that was the first time anyone had ever said that to us in a meeting.
I would love to tell you that I don’t want to be that parent, but then I would not be telling you the truth. I am thankful I am that parent. I would love to tell you how thankful I am to have discovered my voice, that I have become aware of my rights as a parent in these systems, and that I am not afraid to let this be known. I would love to tell you that despite all the challenges we’ve experienced, I continue to have faith and hope for my family; I believe we will be OK. I would love to tell you that I would much rather be that parent than stay silent and let things happen as they may.
I would love to tell you all this.
But you rarely ask.
If you happen to decide you would like to, I would love to tell you our story.
This post originally appeared on Champions for Community Mental Wellness.