Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The livest wire in the room

My son's 14th birthday went off just fine on Sunday, and I did indeed stick to the limited guest list. That made for a smaller-scale bash, and a much quieter one, too, as his classmates this year are notably more subdued than the kids he's been with before. Maybe I should be concerned because these kids seem to be, in some ways, "lower functioning," at least in terms of ability to speak spontaneously and at an audible level. But I think it's the perfect class for him, for two reasons: With no other live wires to spark off, he's much more able to control his behavior; and with no one else rambunctious in the room, his teachers are happy to have one kid with spirit and humor. A room full of them, you don't necessarily want. One, though, keeps things lively in a good way.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Have a happy, guilt-drenched birthday

I think I'm breaking the Mommy Code, and worse than that, the Special Needs Mommy Code. The subject of my offense is my son's birthday party next Sunday. He has been quite firm that he only wants to invite his current self-contained classmates, and no children from the other classes. Because the various classes mix and mingle from one year to another, I've often invited all the children in a couple of classes to make sure we get all of his friends there. It's the code, you know? Most years, he's eager that I do get everyone included. This year? Just the six kids in his class, period, end of list.

Which is fine, from a cost perspective, and from a "manage a bunch of special-needs teens at a bowling alley" perspective. But there's a glitch: A girl who was in his class last year but is in a different class now, invited him to her birthday party this year. And it looks like we're not inviting her back. Which is not done, right? You have to reciprocate? Especially if it could be perceived as rejection by a child who maybe gets enough rejection from non-special-ed kids, whose thoughtless ways we sniff at?

I should either override my son's wishes and invite this girl, in which case I really have to invite all the kids in that class lest they wonder why we like her and not them; or I have to stick with my guy's plan and let the ego chips fall where they may. Knowing me, I'll probably limit the invitations but carry a crushing load of guilt around, plus the dread of one day being called on my code violation by an angry mother. What do you think; am I overreacting? Or am I a bad, bad birthday mom?

Monday, March 05, 2007

The voice of bad experience

I was in a meeting the other day for a school parent committee when one of the participants used that voice. That "I am a trained professional and you are an emotional parent" voice. That voice I've heard at countless IEP meetings where I want information and explanation and innovation and the professionals want to maintain the status quo at all costs. That voice that responds to every passionate question with the same dispassionate answer. I hate that voice. The speaker in question was in the meeting as a parent but is an educator by trade, and I don't know if she even knew she was using it. It must become second nature, when confronted by someone who is disputing the facts, to flip into it. And she wasn't wrong; she did have the facts on her side in the conversation. But man -- that voice. That voice is a loaded weapon, and ought not to be aimed casually. I found myself springing to the defense of those on the other side of the argument, just because the presence of that voice in the room seemed so wrong. Just as educators fall back on that voice without even realizing it, special-ed parents fall into defensiveness and righteous indignation just as surely.