About a month ago I got a lengthy comment on an old blog post called Crunchy VS Soggy. The reader was responding to the part of the article where I talk about the decision to have our infant sons circumcised. Her response was cordial but she was obviously opposed to circumcision. At the end of her comment she wrote
” We can’t go back but we can make changes for the future, sometimes it’s good to break traditions when they are unethical, or permanently alter someone else’s body without their consent”
I responded to the comment with an equally lengthy and equally cordial reply in which I mentioned
“Parenting is full of so many hard choices that we have to make on our children’s behalf day after day.”
I can’t think of anything more awkward to start off this blog post than a circumcision debate but I promise I am going somewhere with this.
Some people let their children drink Koolaid and eat Lunchables and they are judged. The other end of the spectrum is judged for not vaccinating their children. Some moms swear by homeschooling, others condemn it. From breastfeeding to working outside of the home, the mommy wars go on and on. However, I think for some of us moms, the real war is within ourselves.
The external voices are loud, but as a mother of 4 in my mid 30’s I no longer have the time to care diddly-squat about what other people say about my parenting. That doesn’t mean I feel like I know what I’m doing though. Like I said- parenting is full of so many hard choices that we make on our children’s’ behalf day after day.
Sometimes it’s cut and dry, like when you’re one year old wants to pick up a cigarette butt off the ground and see what it taste like. That’s a clear N-O. What about when your one year old wants to sleep in your bed? That might be clear for some people but there are a lot of different opinions out there about which choice is the “right” way. We have to assess, and pray, and consult, and research, and discuss and in the end we go for it. We make decisions for our kids because they are relying on us to raise them and we love them but dang it, sometimes it is draining.
Our deaf daughter has been all across the map when it comes to developmental delays. Cognitively she is fine. She has no other health issues, but because she hasn’t been hearing as long as other kids she is automatically delayed in speech and for that reason she has bounced around in terms of what grade level she is on. I was always on the edge of my seat waiting for her teachers to suggest that she should repeat a grade. The deaf school that she attended was Montessori style so grade level didn’t really matter, but eventually she would be mainstreamed. At the end of last school year as we prepared for her to mainstream into the 3rd grade my husband was extremely reluctant and proposed that she should be retained. I pushed back.
Would she be made fun of for being the oldest? Would she hate us later? Am I keeping her from reaching her full potential? The questions went on and as her parents, we had a lot of heated discussions.
I wanted to hear what the experts (the teachers and therapists at her school) thought. One day I missed the school bus and had to drive my daughter to school. While I was there I walked up to the receptionist desk with my super messy bun, unbrushed teeth and gross old flannel and leggings. I figured since I was there already I might as well make an appointment. It turned out the people I needed to see were available to meet right then! I wasn’t really prepared for a meeting but this was my chance. I sat my butt down, gave some paper and pens to my two little kids that were with me and set my phone to record the conversation so that my husband could hear all the details later. They showed me assessments and shared what some of the other families were doing. As they went on I realized they actually agreed with my husband. They were all for retaining her. There were several reasons for this and as they explained their thoughts it made total sense to me and I was completely at peace with the decision, relieved even.
A few weeks later we had another meeting. This one was with the public school that she would be going to and my husband was with me. Thank goodness I didn’t look like such a hot mess this time as all these different specialists and professionals filed into the room for our daughter’s IEP meeting. As we discussed all the details someone mentioned 3rd grade registration and I froze. I interrupted to explain that actually she would be repeating 2nd grade. There was some confusion among the team and not everyone in the meeting was comfortable with that idea. I understand why. In a lot of cases there are so many options to help a child get caught up rather than hold them back. This situation is unique though because she is going from a very small school with acoustically sound walls and often times 2 to 1 student-teacher ratio and will be transitioning to a large school with a cafeteria and a gymnasium and lots of noise and distractions. She was already stuck on a first grade level with some of her school work so to suggest that she would adapt to her new school environment socially and get caught up academically was risky. Everyone agreed the jump to 3rd grade is a huge one, even for typical students.
As the discussion continued I suddenly wasn’t so sure I was making the right choice! I wanted to do whatever was best for my daughter. My mind flashed back to 6 years before. She was two years old and taking the ABR test to determine whether or not she could hear. She had to be completely still for hours. At two years old this meant that she needed to be ASLEEP! She had just recently been potty trained and weaned from the pacifier. Part of me wanted to go back to diapers and a pacifier to ensure she wouldn’t get restless. However, there was something inside of me that determined then and there that I would NOT baby her. If she had a disability we would face it head on and teach her to push through obstacles and not allow anything to stand in her way.
As I looked around me in that moment I was humbled to be surrounded by these caring professionals that all took this time to meet together for the sake of one little girl. I knew they wanted to do what was best for her too. I told them that I didn’t want to do anything that would make her feel like she was failing or incapable. I was embarrassed about the tears streaming down my face.
In the end, after further discussion and deliberation, we made the difficult choice to retain her. This gives her the entire year to get caught up academically and to adjust to the dramatic changes that come with leaving behind the school that she has known her whole life. She will go from only being around students who are deaf to being the only one who is. She will experience recess on a big outdoor playground. She will hold a lunch tray for the first time. She’ll begin reading chapter books and walking the same halls as her brothers and hearing announcements on an intercom. She’ll learn to use an FM system so that she can hear her teacher. She’ll learn to adapt and be an advocate for herself.
This week is her first day of 2nd grade at her new school. I am nervous, but I know she’s ready and I feel good about the choice we made. I know that God has her in his hands. These life-altering decisions are not easy. I always tell my children if they are trying their best that’s enough. I guess it’s true for parents too.