Friday, December 4, 2015

In Which an Old Post Reminds Me of Some Eternal Truths

Today Facebook took me back to this day in history in 2009. That was the day when Sky's private preschool sent home a note telling us that he couldn't go on the school field trip to choose a Christmas tree unless I, his mother, accompanied him. The school, which was closely tied to the college where I was teaching, knew that I worked full time. They also knew that Sky's dad was our stay-at-home parent. Surely, no one was stupid enough to put something so sexist and potentially racist in writing, I thought. This was the question I asked my FB friends in the post that popped up on my wall today.

To try to understand what the note could possibly mean, I scheduled an appointment to talk with the head of the school. Surprisingly, she actually WAS being both sexist and racist. She didn't realize it, of course. But when she said, "Sky might just respond better to you on the trip than he does to his dad" and "Sometimes we feel like we can't communicate as clearly with Ren as we can with you," I tried to imagine a situation in which she would send a note to a family telling them their child couldn't go unless his dad would take the day off accompany him or a situation in which she would tell any other family in the school that communication was difficult. I couldn't imagine it, though. We were being triply marginalized--for having a difficult child, for being a non-stay-at-home-mom family, and for (some of us) not speaking English as well as a native speaker--and it broke my heart.

Sky was my first kid, so it took me a little longer than it should have to realize that private school was not the place for him. I really wanted it to work and felt more upset about taking him out of the chaotic, child-driven, project-oriented school than I ever should have. This was pre-diagnosis, though, so I try to cut myself some slack. Learning how to parent any child takes time, and it takes just a little longer if your kid is on the autism spectrum.

Facebook's time hop reminded me to tell you this: It will be okay. Go with your gut. If a place doesn't seem right for your child, it probably isn't, no matter how good it looks on paper. The road is long, and it can seem daunting at times; just take things one step at a time, and eventually you'll find yourself some place pretty darn good.

Today, six years later, Sky is thriving in a public school a few miles from our house. His teachers and IEP support team are Ah-Mazing. Not only is he mainstreamed in honors classes, but he loves going to school. Most importantly, though, he has friends and a true sense that his quirkiness is A-OK because there are people around (usually hiding so far back into the wings that he can't even see them) who understand where he's coming from and accept him just as he is.

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