Monday, March 31, 2003

Oh, good grief

Yesterday, I attended a "Special Needs Resource Fair" presented to mark the opening of a special needs resource library at our local Jewish Community Center. There were to be tables with information on services for children with special needs, and a keynote address which, according to the handout I got from my kids' school, was to be on "Words, Strategies and Wisdom to Help Parents Deal with the Challenges of Raising Special Needs Children." And can't we all use a few of those every now and then?

Turns out, though, that the speaker only had one strategy: acknowledgement of the crushing, unresolvable grief that all parents of children with special needs live with. Excuse me? Her theory was that all the problems between parents and professionals arise because parents are acting out their grief in some way -- through denial, maybe, or projection -- and professionals are reluctant to acknowledge the poor parents' enormous sadness, and just assume they're trying to be a pain in the behind. She scoffed at pediatricians who say parents should find a way to accept their child's condition and resolve their grief, because the grief is UNRESOLVABLE. She gave examples of parents demanding some silly right or other from the school system, and advised therapists or principals to reach out to the parent and say, "You must be feeling very sad about your child." In her world, the parent would melt, feel understood, and immediately back down. In my world, the professional would get smacked upside the head.

I don't know, maybe she's right about the grief -- for some parents. For myself, I don't think I'm in denial when I say that grief is not the dominant mode of my existence with my challenged children. I may cry when they have a setback or when a Child Study Team member makes a big deal about how far behind they are, but in no way is unresolvable grief the driving force of my life. Maybe that's because I deliberately adopted children with special needs, and so had a head-start in the acceptance game. That doesn't mean I had any idea going in how completely those special needs would take over my life, and how involved I would get in behavior management and doctor management and special education management and reading every book about neurological problems, learning problems, behavior problems, language problems I could get my hands on. But I didn't start from a place of expecting normalcy. So perhaps people who do -- who give birth or adopt dreaming of a normal child and normal development and normal lives -- do indeed feel grief as a constant weighty presence. But is that ALL they feel? Is there no joy, no pride in hard-fought accomplisments, no righteous indignation at insensitive professionals, no heartfelt advocacy for the legal rights of our special children? Is it all just the acting out of grief?

The speaker seemed to feel it was, and when the program went on into a movie in which parents talked about how sad they were, I used the cover of darkness to get the heck out of there. And run back home to my kids, who always find a way to cheer me up.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Tidying is torture

Now here's a headline I love to see: Spring Cleaning Has its Dangers. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons warns, according to a HealthScout News report, that "a number of those chores can be dangerous or deadly if you don't take the proper precautions." The Academy goes ahead and offers such precautions, but really -- if we followed them all, we'd never need an Orthopaedic Surgeon, so what's the incentive for them to really make cleaning strain-free? Surely they've left off some important warnings here and there, just waiting for the cases of dusting elbow or sweeping shoulder to come rolling in. No, thanks, I say -- keep your precautions, I'm keeping my house messy. I'm taking no chances with my aging bones, thank you very much.

Personally, I've learned to just overlook all manner of clutter and uncleanliness, so sitting out spring cleaning's no trial for me; if your standards are higher, but you don't wish to risk your own personal skeleton in the pursuit of good housekeeping, the Club Mom Web site is offering a contest in which you can win thousands of dollars of cleaning and home improvement services. Of course, you might be risking carpal tunnel syndrome typing in your information, if you haven't left enough dust on your desk to cushion your wrists.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Pushy mom

I made my daughter cry today. Or rather, I allowed a situation to progress to a point where she could no longer hold back her tears.

We were on her fifth-grade field-trip, I as class-mom chaperone, to a science museum that has among its exhibits a "touch tunnel." My daughter gamely got into the 40-minute-wait line for the exhibit along with her classmates, but as discussion of what the tunnel was like went on during the wait, she began to be convinced that it was altogether too scary. She questioned a friend's mom who had been through it before, and heard about it being pitch dark, and having different steps and drops, and keeping your hand against a wall to keep from getting lost, and knew she couldn't possibly do it. She'd say "I don't want to go," and the friend's mom and I would try to talk her into it, and this went on until we got to the final curve near the entry, at which point she began to cry. I thought I could still talk her through -- but then her instructional aide, who hovered throughout the day in a most infuriating way, came up and assured her she didn't have to go, and that got the attention of the museum employees who assured her she didn't have to go, and at that point I just cut my losses and pulled her out of line. Considering I had already checked in my glasses in anticipation of tunnel entry and could barely see, that was a fairly scary feat in and of itself.

And really, it wasn't such a big deal for her to miss the tunnel. There were other exhibits. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about groping my way through the dark myself. Maybe I should have let her quit at the first sign of anxiety. I pride myself on picking battles, after all. I'd resolved to insist that she go to the IMAX movie, which also had her spooked. Maybe I should have been quicker to let the touch tunnel slide. I often try to persuade educators that her tears are no big deal and she shouldn't be babied on account of them; but I hate to see her cry, too.

... and then again, I hate to see her babied. Her friend's mom told me later that she thought my daughter would have persevered through her tears if the aide hadn't swooped over and given her permission to back out. I really would have liked her to fight through her fear. I really would have liked her to not be the only kid in the fifth grade to wimp out of the tunnel, and have her teacher and aide and all the folks I try so hard to persuade that she's tougher than she looks see her looking entirely un-tough. In recent weeks, I've had to force her to do a couple of important things that she was really afraid of and begged me to get her out of -- the All-City Band, for one, and the swimming lessons her class at school gets bused to -- and she found both to be much less terrifying and much more fun than she ever suspected. Ditto the IMAX theater; during the show she whispered to me several times, with smile bright enough to see even in a darkened room, "I'm not afraid!" Perhaps the one I most have to convince that she's tougher than she looks is the girl herself. The learning curve's pretty steep.

The thing that's most amazing to me about all of this is that my daughter has undeniably gone through scarier experiences in her life than most of her peers have even dreamed of. Compared to leaving an orphanage at age 4.5 and going off with strangers who don't speak your language, riding in vehicles you've never even seen like cars and trains and planes, going to a new country with new customs and fitting into an entirely new entity called a family -- compared to that, a touch tunnel is unbelievably tame stuff. Yet she did the former with aplomb, and the latter leaves her quaking. Perhaps she used up her entire supply of tolerance for the unpredictable before the age of 5, and will now forever cling to the safe and sure. She can surely cling to me. But if I can possibly manage it, she'll be crawling through the dark with me, too.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

The Red Cross wants you to get ready

If you're feeling insufficiently prepared for a terrorist attack, or insufficiently panicked, the American Red Cross is here to help. The agency's Web site offers detailed downloadable publications on how individuals, families, neighborhoods, schools and businesses should stock up and steel themselves for each level of the Homeland Security Advisory System. There are special sections on "Children & Disasters," "Special Needs," "Animal Safety," and the intriguingly named "Personal Workplace Disaster Supplies Kit." My own personal workplace disasters usually involve computer meltdowns, and are best prepared for with a good supply of comforting junk food, but I guess that's not what they're talking about.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

New on Mothers with Attitude

We loaded up on goodies right before our Cool Site of the Day Sunday, but never announced them here. So hop over to Mothers with Attitude and check out ... April Cain's moving Thinking It Over column on the effect that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has had on her family ... Julie Donner Andersen's Therapeutic Laughing column on the effect that an additional child has had on the decibel level in her home ... the addition of Wrightslaw special education books to our Parenting Special Needs bookstore ... new features on our news page, including expanded headlines, quotes of the day, word of the day and This Day in History links ... a word game of the day from the folks at Merriam-Webster on our fun and games page ... and Just Managing, a new e-mail support list for parents handling their children's challenging behavior through behavior management instead of meds (unless my husband and I are the only parents in America who are doing this, which, judging from the fact that the huge influx of visitors to the site on Sunday yielded nary a list member, may indeed be true. But it's not much fun to e-mail myself.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Kids get real

Reality television continues its relentless creep into every corner of the TV schedule with the news that NBC and the Discovery Kids cable channel will be hosting a kiddie version of the home-decorating duel "Trading Spaces." The original program, a hit on TLC, features grown-ups decorating rooms in one another's homes and then behaving like children if they don't like the results, so perhaps the leap to actual little ones isn't all that big. Yet the idea that reality TV, with all its manipulations and orchestrations and creative editing and bad behavior, is now not just for immature adults anymore saddens me, as does the thought of kids fussing with designers over how to mess up the bedrooms of their peers. Shouldn't a kid's room be the ultimate statement of his or her own taste, or lack thereof? Or, at the very least, of their parents' taste or lack thereof? Can't we at least keep the bad taste in the family? Maybe I'm overreacting; maybe it'll be fun. But on that inevitable day when "Survivor Jr.," "Minor Mole," "Big Brother: The Next Generation," "Fifth-Grade Fear Factor" and "Bachelor's Prom Date" fill the airwaves, let's remember that it all started with decorating.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Routine, sweet routine

I'm always carefully aware of the fact that my son needs his routine, and will react negatively if it's departed from. But this is one of those weeks that's made me realize I need the dependability of events and schedules just as badly. A succession of deviations from the norm -- as small as an extra project that took up time I usually use for something else, and as major as 20-some grieving relatives descending on our house for a post-wake supper -- have left me frazzled and frantic, to the point that today I was as out of control as my son gets on a bad fire-drill/assembly/Christmas-program-rehearsal messed-up day at school. A lot of what had me so hysterical was the effort to make things more comfortable for him, and maybe that's why he weathered the unpredictable week a lot better than I did. But boy, I sure do need to get back to the same old boring routine. And maybe take a time out.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Awards on board

So it's finally Oscar Night, barring any last-minute war-related pre-emptions, and my overwhelming favorite to win buckets of awards is "Chicago." Of course, it's not Hollywood savvy or advanced critical skills that lead me to make that pick; it's just that it's the only film of all the many many nominees that I've actually seen. My kids haven't even made me see any of the animated contenders; I'm a complete Oscar nincompoop, except for "Chicago," and I wouldn't have even seen that if my friend hadn't taken a day off from work and dragged me out to play. I will say, it's the perfect film for a frazzled mom who only gets to sit in the dark with her very own bucket of popcorn once a year or so -- pure entertainment, tuneful and fun, not entirely frivolous but not so sad or thought-provoking that you can't go right back to obsessing over your kids once it's done. So, you go, "Chicago"! If I've only got one horse in the race, it'd better be a winner.

With the Academy's red carpet rolled up this year, and Joan Rivers and Barbara Walters effectively benched, those looking for some Oscar warm-up fun can turn to the Web. Check out the Family Oscar Quiz on; there are also quizzes and a crossword on, though specifically what they have to do with teaching I can't guess. And if you haven't yet had your fill of award features, photos and trivia, Entertainment Weekly has more than you can possibly stand, including Oscar odds. "Chicago" is lookin' good.

Speaking of awards... Mothers with Attitude, the parent site of "Parenting Isn't Pretty," is today's Cool Site of the Day. If you found this blog after checking us out as a cool site, well, welcome! And if you didn't, please surf over to Cool Site of the Day, click on the "Today's Site" button, and vote for us in the voting frame. Of course, the idea that anything I have anything to do with could get the designation "cool" would amaze and amuse my daughter, now less than a month short of teendom. "Embarrassing Site of the Day," she might vote for. Anybody know where I go to sign up for that?

Saturday, March 22, 2003

War abroad and on the home front

I'll admit I haven't talked to my kids much about the war in Iraq, partially because there didn't seem much that two elementary schoolers could do besides worry themselves sick over it, and partially because I couldn't quite imagine how to explain what we're doing there in terms that would be comprehensible to the learning disabled (and frankly, in this particular area, a whole lot of us seem to be learning disabled.) But my daughter got a phone call from a friend Tuesday night that spilled the beans, and she came running up to me after with that same look she gets on her face during a thunderstorm and said, "Barbara says we're going to war! Have you heard anything about that?" I admitted I had. She asked if this meant we had to personally travel somewhere and fight with people, or if people were going to come to our house and personally fight with us. I tried to reassure her on both counts, although living as close as we do to the site of the former World Trade Center, it's hard to be really sure about that second point. I tried to give her a little explanation of why we were at war, and it was either simple enough to satisfy her or so confusing that she didn't care anymore, because she hasn't mentioned it since. If your kids aren't as easily comforted or contented, Connect for Kids has a wealth of resources for helping kids cope with trauma, terrorism, disaster, violence and the nightly news. The site promises more of the same on its home page on March 24.

If, on the other hand, the battles you're most concerned with right now have more to do with special ed than special ops, the always excellent Wrightslaw site has oodles of info on the latest in the reauthorizaton of IDEA. But it's way too traumatic for children.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Adoption in the news

Well, look here: "Medical issues in adoption" made the KidsHealth News this morning. It's always nice to see an adoption-related topic pop up among my Yahoo! Headlines, and although this particular article doesn't contain anything blazingly new or revelatory, if it keeps any prospective adoptive parents from believing that everything will be rosy just because they wish it so, it will be worth its pixels. I'll admit to wincing a bit, though, at the advice that parents adopting internationally should make an extra trip just to check the kid out before committing -- I know seeing the child before making a commitment is becoming something like conventional wisdom, but all I can think about is how very different our daughter was when we first met her at the Russian orphanage from the way she's been in our family, and how very differently things might have turned out if we hadn't traveled there 100% determined to bring her home with us.

I think the idea that you can make an informed choice on whether or not to adopt when meeting a child under such stressful and artificial circumstances is an illusion -- both because positive traits sometimes don't show up, and because negative ones sometimes don't either. I'm a believer in making a leap of faith and resolving to deal with whatever comes. But then, I'm a Mama Bear to two kids with special needs and get my back up when people talk about trying to rule out things like FAS/E before adopting, so I'm probably not one to judge by. At any rate, I was happy to see that the article starts out with "Being an adoptive parent can be extremely rewarding," rather than the sort of "Being an adoptive parent opens you up to a world of heartache" lead that so many adoption-related news stories have. Finding rewards in situations in which others might see only heartache is the real trick.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The show must go on ... sort of

In these troubled times, as our nation moves toward war, as some of our young men and women put themselves in peril overseas and others put themselves on picket lines at home, as our leaders put aside diplomacy and push for battle and the world waits for the fallout, I know the question most of us are asking is: How will all this war stuff affect the Academy Awards? Thankfully, answers are starting to emerge from show producer Gil Cates, who has announced that in keeping with the somber times, the show that celebrates entertainment will try hard to be a little less entertaining.

That means no red-carpet entrances with pre-show hosts babbling ineptly at celebrities. No paparazzi snapping up all the ostentatious, ugly, and ostentatiously ugly gowns being flagrantly displayed. No fans in the bleachers screaming out the names of their favorite stars. No guarantee that ABC won't cut away from the proceedings for war coverage, or cancel the show altogether. Stars are toning down their wardrobes and the show's script writers are toning down their jokes and activist actors are toning down their unscripted comments for the cause. And we, as good Americans, should tone down our expectations for an evening of fun picking apart the rich and famous, criticizing their taste and their speechmaking abilities and their voting choices. These are desperate times, ladies and gentlemen. No singing along to "All That Jazz."

And I guess it's a good time to be serious. Never mind that it's the one night a year I make my husband put the kids to bed so that I can devote myself solely to watching a TV show. Never mind that my friends are coming over to watch the show after surviving two children's birthday parties in as many days, and will need something to smile about. Never mind that giving awards to people who work in show business has an inherent frivolity that no amount of modest black gowns and thoughtful film montages can erase. We all, every one of us, must, if we cannot avoid being self-serving, at least avoid the appearance of being so. And if nothing else, we will have this one tiny triumph to celebrate: We may not be able to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but we can get rid of Joan Rivers.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Breakfast with Emeril and the dust-dinosaurs

Would breakfast in bed served by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse be your idea of Mother's Day nirvana? I've been thinking about this since I saw a pitch for Good Morning America's "Emeril's Breakfast in Bed Contest," and I'm not so sure this is going to be as good a deal for the winning mom as it is for "Good Morning America." I mean, sure, it means you get a decent meal on your special day, something of which I have not always been assured (my husband's still living down the year he forgot to make reservations at my favorite restaurant and we wound up at some two-bit diner off the highway, not that he cares). And since the prize will be awarded based on an essay detailing why you're deserving of such a special repast, it means you'll actually get some recognition for your motherly wonderfulness, instead of merely prying a "Happy Mother's Day" out of your nearest and dearest. It would certainly be exciting to have a film crew in one's house and a famous chef in one's kitchen -- especially to my son, who's a devoted viewer of "Emeril Live" and would be fairly thrilled to have Emeril live in his own abode (not to mention the cars and trucks that would probably accompany him and the film crew, and the keys he might be able to beg a look at).

It would be thrilling, sure... if the prize included the complete and thorough cleaning and organizing of my home, including the replacement of my crotchety oven and redecorating of my messy bedroom. Without that -- well, I could start cleaning up the desk area of my bedroom now and it wouldn't be done by Mother's Day 2004. Do I want all of America to see my fingerprinted kitchen cabinets and sticky kitchen floor and kitchen walls pockmarked by food flung from the jittery fingers of a nine-year-old boy who still eats with his hands? Do I want all of America to see the dust-dinosaurs under my bedroom furniture and the kid videos stacked to precarious heights and the shoes that I never quite manage to stick back in my closet? Good night, America, no way. I'll keep my Mother's Day celebration in the family, thank you very much -- although if my kids wanted to bring me breakfast in bed, that would be just fine with me.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Wounded in action

One of the seldom-discussed dangers of parenting a small boy with big impulse control problems is that sometimes one of his impulsive, unpredictable movements connects forcefully with an unsuspecting part of your body. When my son was little, it was usually a matter of his head whipping back when he was sitting on my lap and catching me square on the nose. Last night, it was my left eye that got walloped by that very hard head. I was crawling into a playtent at his insistence, and he decided to lunge forward quickly as I was creeping forward slowly, and the tent not providing a lot of leeway for sudden movement, eye and head met with painful force. I saw stars then, and lots of floaters and flashes this morning, and so spent most of the afternoon in the waiting room of the opthalmologist, watching soap operas and listening to senior citizens complain about the wait. I can now tell you, if you've never had the experience and might at some future time think to try, that the things the doctor does to check for a detached retina are way more uncomfortable than anything you might have done to detach it in the first place. At least the doctor got a good laugh when he asked me what I got hit in the eye with, and I had to confess that it was a small boy's head. "Watch out for small boys," he said. And, oh man, I'm tryin'.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Public service messages

My daughter had another one of those anti-drug programs at school last week, the kind where law-enforcement officials stop by and hand out pencils and bumper stickers and book covers urging kids to Just Say No. And as noble an idea as that is, I wonder if there isn't at least some squidgy feeling of inconsistency in delivering those unequivocal anti-drug pep talks in your modern classroom where an appreciable percentage of the student body is already on drugs, albeit the school-friendly anti-ADHD kind. Seems the message should really be, Just Say No to Drugs, Unless the Drugs Will Help You Sit Still for Lectures Like This, In Which Case, the Nurse's Office Is Open! But I guess that won't fit on a pencil.

A little further down the road of good intentions, the Century Council is offering an interactive CD-ROM, Alcohol 101, full of bells and whistles designed to convince college students that drinking and driving, drinking and studying, drinking and fraternizing, and drinking and playing sports are all very, very bad things. There's a personalized reading of how little alcohol will have a negative effect, and an animated trip through the brain so kids can see directly what their brain looks like on Daiquiris. It all sounds like it might appeal more to the kind of kid who stays in the dorm playing computer games than the kind of kid who goes out partying, but parents of the college-aged may want to just go ahead and order their free copy anyway.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Getting guys to read

What does it take to make boys better readers? Maybe a little less "Little Women" and a little more "Captain Underpants." That's the assumption behind Guys Read, a Web site and literacy program developed by "The Stinky Cheese Man" author Jon Scieszka "to help boys become better readers, better students, better guys." On the theory that lads lag in literacy at least in part because female teachers are picking the reading material and it's just not gross enough, "Guys Read" offers lists of good guy reads and a discussion group for boy-book banter.

Now in my house, the girl's the one who doesn't like reading; at least until this year, when my daughter's feeling for reading went from "hate" to "sorta like sometimes," my son was always way more willing to sit down with a book than his sister. But there may be something to this book selection thing: When I mentioned to my husband that I really wanted to read "Sarah, Plain and Tall" with my boy, his dad gave me that look -- the look I usually get when I suggest, say, watching a movie starring Hugh Grant -- and said, "Why would he want to read THAT?" I'll have to point out to him that "Guys Read" strongly suggests that fathers make the time to read with their sons. Perhaps they can bond over "The Stupids Die" by Henry Allard, one of the site's recommended reads. Sounds like about as much fun as watching the Three Stooges.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Your Internet shopper

Searching the Web to bring you things you never knew where to find, or never knew you needed in the first place ... If you've got a kid who's mature enough not to want to wear a diaper but physically in need of one nonetheless, Drymids offers four undergarment designs that look like regular undies (there's even a sporty pair of boxer shorts) but contain a hidden absorbant pad. The kids in the photos on the site sure look happy about it. ... If you love someone with autism, you can show it with products from The Autism Online Store, which declare, well, "I Love Someone with Autism," on everything from coffee mugs to boxer shorts. ... If you've got an IEP meeting coming up (my son's is mid-April), the Mothers with Attitude Store now offers a bunch of products with its popular totebag slogan, "My child has an IEP* *Involved, educated parent." You can find it on t-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers, but sadly not on boxer shorts, because, um, we hope you're not showing THOSE to the Child Study Team. ... If your kid's in need of some midday support (no, not the kind provided by Drymids), Messages for Kids has just the thing: cute little greeting-card-like missives for Mom to tuck in the lunchbox. Too bad my kids get hot lunch. ... If your kid has proprioceptive sensory integration issues and likes things like weighted vests, you can get him or her a weighted quilt from Quiet Quilt. Designed by a mom who loves someone with autism and custom-made, the quilts aren't cheap ($170 for a full-size, $87 for a mini version and $27 for lap size), but you can register at the site to win a lap quilt in a monthly contest. Or you can do what we do, and bury your squiggly kid under the heaviest afghan in the house.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Have a Coke and a smile

It's like McDonald's funding studies on obesity, or La-Z-Boy underwriting research on the value of exercise: Coca Cola has donated a million bucks to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry to be used for research, and will also help the academy develop educational programs on good oral health. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is already crying foul, declaring that no organization that promotes tooth decay should have any traffic with those dedicated to stopping it. They see dark intentions by the soda giant to undermine our national oral hygeine, but maybe they should be worrying less about Coke's motives and more about the dentists': After all, though they may advise against sugary snacks and drinks, there's no denying that cavities equal money in a dentist's pocket. Maybe the academy will stay on the up-and-up and not use its Coke cash to soft-pedal the dangers of tooth decay. But if you start seeing soda machines in dentists' waiting rooms and cola-spiked fluoride treatments, you'll know the fix is in.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Sinking to our level

Is your child's carseat installed correctly? A recent study suggests that 80 percent of the kid-saving devices aren't put in properly. And why is that? Is it because hooking the dang things up is ridiculously complicated? Is it because car manufacturers make doing anything creative with a seatbelt a contortionist's dream? Is it because kids hate the things so much they sabotage them? Or maybe because the instructions appear to have been written by people who learned English from the back of a cereal box?

No, indeed, on that last one: The problem, researchers surmised, is just the opposite. Instructions are often written at a 10th-grade reading level, and a large percentage of parents just don't measure up to that degree of erudition. More than half of U.S. adults, apparently, can only comprehend text written at an eighth-grade level or below, with half again of those maxing out at fifth-grade level. The solution suggested is to dumb down the instructions, and that's not a bad idea regardless of whether you buy the low-reading-level theory; really, when we're talking about instructions, if you can make it simpler, why not? I mean, we need something more than those instructions that try to communicate a whole bunch of steps with one simple picture, but something less complicated than a high-school textbook. If my daughter's social studies textbook is any indication, even a fifth-grade reading level might be needlessly confusing.

I should probably feel unsettled, reading this study, to find that a quarter of American adults are reading at a level of fifth-grade or less. But it's actually pretty hopeful news to me, because I just got a report saying that my 12-year-old fifth-grader is reading at a third-grade level, and now I don't feel so bad about it. Hey, if she only makes two years worth of progress over the next six years, she'll fit in with a quarter of the adult population. As long as she never needs to install a carseat, she'll be fine.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Out of the loop again

I've been having another of what I'm going to start calling "inclusion mom experiences" these last few days. These happen when those of us with our brains so deeply in the machinations of special education and advocacy find ourselves completely clueless about the commonplace events of mainstream education. Last week, it was the care and construction of dioramas. This week, it's the All City Band. Turns out our city has one. A press release touts it as featuring "the finest fifth-grade instrumentalists" in our school district. And my daughter's been invited to join.

The first I heard about any of this was when my daughter's classmate, in the car on the way to the bowling alley, told me that my daughter made All City but he didn't. He revealed that his big sister hadn't made it either, and his parents really thought he might have a chance to make it, but no. Apparently families plan for this, anticipate this. And here I am so busy fighting inclusion battles and plotting IEP strategies that I never even got a chance to worry about it in advance. My daughter didn't really know what it was all about, and now that she does -- the bus trips to rehearsals, the performance at the high school -- she's in a panic about doing something out of her nice safe routine. But if she's not excited enough, and I'm not sure how excited I'm supposed to be, we've got plenty of people ready to be our excitement advisors. My daughter's trombone teacher e-mailed me to make sure our fine instrumentalist was okay, because she didn't give much of a reaction when she got the news; and her classroom teacher actually telephoned tonight to let us know that this was really a big deal. I'm getting the idea now.

And all I can think about is how my mother would have lived for this. She would have known years in advance that there was such a thing as All City, and she would have followed my every note in breathless hope for it, and she would have had to lie in a dark room with her stomach in knots on the day the letters were to be handed out, and she would have been heartbroken if I didn't bring one home. She'd probably have called the music teacher to plead for my reconsideration. It was wonderful to have such a passionate advocate, and somewhat daunting, too, to have such nervous tension borne on one's behalf. So perhaps this is a good thing about being an inclusion mom, and being out of the loop when it comes to regular-ed contests and laurels: It's nice when one of them comes up right, but you don't have to obsess about the honors missed. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.