Before becoming a parent, I was a teacher and administrator for many years. During that time I taught everything from kindergarten to fifth grade. I worked with various socioeconomic levels and students of various needs, abilities and disabilities. I taught students already diagnosed with ADHD and students that probably would have benefited from the support they could receive if they were diagnosed with ADHD. I led parent conferences where I was able to share the good news that the child was thriving in class and I led parent conferences where I had to communicate struggle. Along with other school team members, I was a key player in meetings where a recommendation was made to have a child evaluated by a medical doctor or pediatric neurologist to explore why that child was not living up to his or her potential.
Most of the time these meetings, even ones where difficult news needed to be discussed, were well received. We worked as a team, everyone together wanting what was best for the child. We all left these meetings hugging each other feeling that we were making decisions that would help the child long term.
Sometimes, however, these meetings were much more difficult. Some parents did not want to hear that their child may benefit from extra support or that additional testing and evaluation might help discover how to best help the child. As a teacher or administrator I would leave these meetings feeling that these parents were in denial. I worried that they were burying their head in the sand thinking that the problems would disappear if they pretended they didn’t exist. And I would be so frustrated.
Why won’t these parents get it? If they get their child help, and the sooner the better, then they could see their child be more likely to blossom and thrive. It may not be an easy road but at least they would finally be starting down the right road. I wanted to grab them by the shoulders, and yell “Wake up! What are you thinking? Love the child you have- not the child you want to pretend that you have!”
And then I became a parent of a boy with special needs.
And now I understand. Now I understand how it feels to walk into a room full of people who are there to help but still feel incredibly intimidated by them. Now I understand how much a parent craves to hear (even just once!), “Your child is doing great – no further interventions are needed right now.” Now, when my son comes home from kindergarten and has 45 minutes (in kindergarten!) of homework from various teachers and specialists, sometimes, just sometimes, I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that all of this will just go away with time, not increased blood, sweat and tears. Sometimes I want to pretend that my child isn’t the one who is going to have to climb mountains just to survive in school. Because sometimes it really is easier to pretend. Or at least it is nice to pretend for a little while.
I usually wake up pretty quickly from my fantasies by some chaos in the house. I know I can’t stay in la-la land for long. I don’t want to be one of those parents whose teachers want to shake me for not being realistic about my son’s challenges. But a girl can dream. And maybe someday I will have one of those parent meetings where a teacher tells me that he is doing really, really well. And it will be for real.