Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Letter of Apology

Dear parents of students from my teaching days,

I am writing this to apologize to you.  For what, you may ask?  Oh, so many things.

I know that I thought I did my best for you and your child.  I planned the lessons and adapted them to suit your child's unique needs.  I carried through with the activities and noted progress.  I recorded areas of need and goals for the future.  I wrote you notes and emails reporting about the day and gave you ideas and "homework" of things which still needed improvement.  Conferences, homevisits, and IEP meetings.

But then I went home.

I went home to a clean, tidy house to eat a calm quiet dinner, watch some TV, and head to the gym for "me time".  I went for long walks with my dog.  I went to sleep and slept allllll night long....8 whole hours, and then returned to school the next day to teach your child.  Refreshed and ready for the workday stretch but always ready to head back home by the end of the day.

I got to leave. I got Alone Time.  I had time to ponder all the issues your child had and how WE were going to work on them.  I had private time to think about new ways to involve YOU in the development of your child.  After all, parents NEED to be involved.

Boy, was I blind.

I was not a parent then.  I was not the guardian of a child with special needs. 
I was clueless.

I throw around terminology and hurtful words-  Like REGRESSION, and INDEPENDENTLY,  and WITHOUT PROMPTING....without a second thought.
I didn't realize how these words can cause worry and sadness.

Due to MY full plate,  I would forget to send a note home to tell about the day.  Or I would cancel a homevisit due to a busy schedule.  I didn't think about the fact of how important those things were to you.  How you looked at a note as a glimpse of possibility.  That the homevisit was a time you could relax and be "hand off" for a moment. to celebrate a little milestone, or to vent about your fears and concerns

I promised you assistive tech. and communication strategies and didn't follow through due to time constraints or limited resource or some other excuse.  I lectured about the importance of charting for potty training or behavior issue and sometimes helped you develop a plan. But mostly I just threw ideas at you to sort out, games and activities for you to fit in your already hectic day, and lists of things that needed work.

Sadly, I left feeling proud of myself.  Look at me, the-all-knowing-Oz of  Early Childhood development.  I had done MY job, now let's see if these parents follow through...
Yes, I judged.

I didn't know then what I know now.

Now, I am getting a cool lesson in reality.  I am a struggling mother caring for two little boys while my husband works.  I chauffeur to appointments and sit in waiting rooms.  I hurry home to get dinner on the table and laundry done while there is crying from the next room.  Crying for attention from a child who cannot help himself.
My dinners are spent with one child on my lap while spoon feeding the one who cannot feed himself.
I am sleep deprived because one child sleeps next to me for part of the night and the other wakes for hours on end.  My alone time is in the driver's seat of a car or when someone volunteers some respite. 
I receive the notes from school, doctors and therapists and try to soak up the positives while wincing from the negatives.  When those notes or emails or phonecalls do not come, I am anxious and wondering what I missed. 
I'm on the phone setting up appointments or interviewing PCA candidates.  I'm dealing with questionnaires, developmental inventories rating my son's life.  I sort through insurance and bills.

I read the goals and  plans that are set for my son.  I tear up when I hear the words regression or delay.  I look at those benchmarks and strive to do better.  To be a better mom.  To help my son meet those standards.  I swear I will work harder.

But then, I need to sleep, or take a shower( while someone cries in the bedroom next door)  I need to be a wife and friend.  A playmate and just a mom to my kids.

And so I feel like a failure.

 I feel probably like how you felt... back when I sat in that meeting and told you all the things your child couldn't do, or should do, or maybe, possibly.... someday... might be able to do.  Helpless and defeated.

So for that, I apologize to you, parents-of-past-students.  I did not walk in your shoes.  I did not feel your pain.

And now.  I know.


  1. wow. this was so moving. I used to be a case manager for kids with dev disabilities-before I was married or had kids. i thought i got it. i even cried sometimes after home visits b/c I could see how tough it was for some of my families. And now i too know. my first child has rett syndrome. cant do a single thing for herself and she is 6 and a half. so i get it. thank you for writing this.

  2. Jennifer, this was particularly beautiful. I'm the mother of a six-year old daughter with cp. I feel the sort of guilt that you describe here. It was sweet to see it through different eyes, which allowed me to feel some grace and compassion for the job we are doing, we really are doing the best we can. Thank you for that comfort tonight.


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