When people are pregnant they take birthing classes of some sort and to adopt domestically you take adoption classes. This is all to prepare you as much as possible for your upcoming role. I get it that no class can teach everything there is to know about the upcoming journey in either of these situations. But you get a little more prepared, you find out how to get more information later if you need it, you hide under your covers at home and hyperventilate about what you learned in class and wonder why everyone else seems so freakin calm.
What they need to offer people who have a child with a disability (or special need, or challenge or whatever you politically/philosophically wish to call it) are mediation classes. We need to learn how to become expert negotiators – how to be firm but calm, clear in our expectations but finding a way to make the people sitting across the table from think the whole thing is THEIR idea. We need to be skilled negotiators, special education lawyers, poker players, skilled salespeople. We need to be able to get the other party to “yes”, all the while maintaining our dignity and the relationship – without the relationship with the other party(ies) we have very little hope (I’m stubborn, I will never say NO hope)
What no one tells is that even though it is our child we are discussing and everyone goes into meetings knowing that it is natural for us to be emotional and sensitive during these talks, the truth is we have to live up to an almost impossible expectation. Other people will be allowed to deliver their criticisms of us and our child, they will be allowed to give their opinion loud and clear, they will be allowed to get defensive and perhaps even mess up and be offensive. However. Us parents?? Don’t even think about it.
Try not to cry – they will take it as a sign of weakness and dismiss you
Do not yell – they will stop listening to anything you say EVER
Do not personally attack – they will be affronted and everyone around them will close ranks and hold it against you
Do not state your opinions too strongly – they will all go on the defensive and that wall will be up faster than you can shut your mouth closed.
Apparently no one has told them not to do this to us, the parents. Apparently it is a free for all and if you complain you run the risk of just getting labelled as a trouble maker.
You hold yourself accountable, follow all the “rules”, you remain calm in every instance and put your heart and soul into trying to make a very difficult situation work and still . . . .
They decide that you don’t know what you are talking about, they dismiss you as “impossible to make happy” and they stoop to levels that are mindboggling.
But you hold your tongue and you calmly tell them that you are taken aback and deeply offended. You force them to finish having a civilized conversation while the person you brought to the meeting for emotional support writes everything down and yet they still keep saying reprehensible things. You don’t just sit back and take it – you respond and ask questions but you do it in an eerily calm way. You leave the meeting shaking but in a way relieved they have showed their hand so clearly. You are thankful that even though they made the tactical error of taking off their gloves and fighting dirty that you had the presence of mind to keep yours on. You battled gallantly (and their blows certainly hurt) and hopefully one day they will look back and feel ashamed of themselves.
You know that you did what was necessary, that stooping to their level would not have helped. It would have done irreparable harm and would have taken years, if ever, to build back up to just the levels you were at before the meeting. Retaliation is not the answer. You did the right thing.
But man it sucks.
It is tiring being the only one in a room that has to hold themselves to such a high standard. Having to share and expose your family to “professional” after “professional” and most not even of your own choosing. It is horrible to know what your child needs but to be at the mercy of others to make it happen. It is horrible to know that you must strategize relentlessly about your child’s life. I said a long time ago I don’t want to fight.
Why can’t we do things just because they are the right thing to do?????