Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Crying Mom

There are people who are cry publicly and people who don't. For most of my adult life, I've been in the group of people who don't cry. Working in Human Resources, I've had many tough conversations with people and pulled out the Kleenex box plenty of times for all those criers. There may have been a few times I barricaded myself in my office or had tears streaming down my face in my car as I drove out of the parking lot, but I was never the one to cry at work.

Quite simply, I took great pride in my ability to mask my emotions. Then along came Teddy. And that little bugger has ripped of that mask covering my emotions more times than I can count, including at his IEP this week. (An IEP is an annual meeting to review progress and determine goals and supports needed for the upcoming school year.)

We knew his IEP would determine where Teddy is placed for 4K next year. The options within our school district include traditional 4K classrooms, an integrated 4K classroom or an intentional 4K classroom. We also knew that a traditional 4K classroom is downright laughable for Teddy. The integrated class is co-taught by AJ and Teddy's teachers, with Teddy's teacher there to help modify the curriculum for those students who needed that support. The intentional 4K is the class for students who need such a high level of support, although they may integrate into a traditional class for brief periods as their abilities (and IEP goals) allow.

We knew Teddy's teacher would be able to make the best recommendation for Teddy to be successful because she's familiar with Teddy and how he does in a small setting as well as how the integrated classroom functions. We also knew that realistically the recommendation would be for the intentional 4K. I braced myself for this, having sobbed after hearing the options on the phone one day because I knew in my heart where Teddy would be placed. I psyched myself up on my run the morning of Teddy's IEP and felt comfortable with what his placement would be.

Yet, when the recommendation was made, I couldn't stop myself from crying. I thought I had almost managed to cover it up, wiping away a single tear nonchalantly, but then those tears kept coming. One of the therapists pulled my old move by quietly handing the box of Kleenex to me without judgement. I tried to joke saying, "I wasn't going to be that mom, but I guess I was anyways."

I could pretend that I was really disappointed because I wanted Teddy to remain at the same school with the same teacher (and AJ's teacher as well, who is great with him!) and most likely the same therapy team.

The reality is that, for me at least, it's really hard to hear that your child is so affected by his disability that he needs the most specialized instruction available. It's the same as when Teddy's teacher said it's so amazing to see Teddy walk and try to run across the gym chasing his peers. She said it's so cute that they wait for him to touch the wall before they run back across the gym, sharing it as a cute example of Teddy interacting with his peers. What I heard was that our son is so disabled that even all the other kids with disabilities accommodate our son.

And the fact is that none of this changes a damn thing about Teddy. He's the same adorable child who can disarm just about anyone with his megawatt smile and deep dimples. He's the one who amazes me when I realize the "mamama" that sounds like AJ said it came from Teddy's mouth. He's the one who still makes me do doubletakes when I see him walking with such relative ease and speed. He's an incredibly determined little boy who works so much harder than anyone else I personally know to do what he does with a remarkably cheerful attitude (unless we're short on sleep and refusing naps, which I'm not even going to touch today).

Seriously. That smile. Those dimples.

Nothing his teacher or support team said change any of this. And nothing they said was bad, mean or untrue about Teddy. It's just that hearing someone else point out reality, even in the kindest words, sometimes hits you hard ... because you live that reality and it's so familiar to you.

There is absolutely nothing bad about Teddy being in the intentional 4K. I know it's the best setting for him where he'll be able to make the most progress.

I guess I just need to find some superglue to keep him from ripping off my mask for my emotions time and time again.

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