Clouds, May 2010

Clouds, May 2010

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

paper bag

Last night was the first Board of Ed meeting of the new school year.

And last night was also the first time in my life that I practically fell to pieces, in one of the worst settings possible for that to happen (as far as I'm concerned).

As I already posted during the week that the students returned, we had a major curve ball thrown at us regarding an unexpected change in Hayden's one-on-one Aide (which I learned following a chance encounter, when I ran into someone at the grocery store who told me). I did not however hear this from the school district. No one ever communicated to us that the primary person who had been working with Hayden for six years, would not be paired with him for the 2014-2015 school year. Although she would still be there, she would not be working with Hayden (apparently she did not know this either). 

He has now been at this school for two-thirds of his life, & this particular person is one of a few who worked with him since Day One.

I also came to learn that a friend of ours who lives down the street, & has a daughter (with autism) in the same grade as Hayden, had an equally if not worse experience right around the same time. On the very first day of school, they found out that her little girl's Aide of four years was let go. In her situation it was a result of a contract termination with the agency, & affected a bunch of people including her. Someone however failed to communicate this to the people who should not have reported to work that day, so naturally they showed up at the school. Until they were pulled away from their respective positions, called to the front office, & you can imagine the rest.

So my friend sent an email to me & a bunch of other moms to encourage us to attend the BOE meeting together, to support one another & voice our concerns over the inexcusable lack of communication.

I said I would absolutely be there.

But the night before the meeting, when I called her to coordinate what each of us would say, she answered her cell from a bed in the Emergency Room.

Due to a possible reaction from a new medication, she was being held overnight for observation. But the following morning they would not discharge her because they needed to do some more testing.

Once I knew that she was ultimately going to be okay, I worked through what I would say for both of us. She said she would text me, but I knew it was incredibly unlikely that she would make it to the meeting.

That morning I put dinner in the slower cooker, in the afternoon I printed out two copies of my speech, & then exactly one hour & three minutes before the start of the BOE meeting, I got a single-word text from my friend:

As relieved as I was on the one hand that we would be there together, I was equally anxious as evening fell. So I took a few minutes for myself as my nerves started to creep up on me & I went in the bedroom, locked the door, & collected my thoughts.

I came out with my game-face on & ready to do this. I was already gathering my keys, purse, etc, when Dan had just finished helping Hayden with his bath. After he stepped out of the bathroom with his robe on & a towel draped over his head, about a minute later he threw up. I will spare you the details but basically my exit was delayed quite a bit & Hayden had to get back in the shower. 

Needless to say (probably), I arrived at the meeting with a little extra anxiety.

However, it turns out that Hayden's Special Ed teacher was there... and... Hayden's former Aide... and... her daughter, who used to be Hayden's sitter (she was taking notes for a class assignment).

I. Was. Not. Expecting. That.

Definitely one of those moments I wished to you-know-what that I would not actually know anyone in the "audience". Too late.

It's not that they were there to support me or anything... they did not know I was going to be there, either. I hadn't exactly told anyone. The new school year just started & everything happened so fast.

Anyway, before long there was a sort of difficult & borderline emotional tone in the room. One of the first few people to speak was the mom of an older student, concerned over the location of her daughter's bus stop being within a mile of a sex offender... & no one else being on that bus stop with her.

When the meeting reached the appropriate time for my friend & I to speak, she stood up first. I followed close behind in her support & also to get ready to speak next.

She was nicely put together & you would not have known how little sleep she was functioning on. She spoke in a controlled, clear tone but it wasn't until I was right near her that I noticed she was shaking. And I could see the fresh bruise on the back of her hand from the IV. And as she retold what happened on the first day of school & I thought about what that must have been like from her daughter's perspective, I knew my emotions were beginning to surface. My friend truly held her own with just a small stumble near the end of her address.

When it was my turn to speak I got as far as stating my name, where I live, & "One day over the summer when I was at the grocery store..."

And then I lost it. It was no use to even try & look at my well thought-out speech. I was too busy alternating between wiping underneath my eyes & pressing my knuckles against my lips, & trying to subtlety chew my gum hoping that the swallowing would slow my tears.

The craziest part of all this, is that the Board members were not only receptive to what we were saying, but at one point one of the members actually said he was embarrassed over the lack of communication. And another member said he would probably feel the same way, if it were his kid. And a couple of moms who are on the Board started tossing ideas out just off-the-cuff, & other Board members were asking timing questions, & what decisions are typically made when, & who should the appropriate contact be... & literally right before our eyes, there was this impromptu conversation beginning.

They could not have been any more in agreement with us. We were practically preaching to the choir & I can honestly say this was detail number two which I. Was. Not. Expecting.

And with every word that they agreed with, I felt less & less in control of my emotions, & I could only nod to thank them.

I was prepared to be persuasive. I was prepared for them to be on the defensive. But this complete & total validation of our concerns was somehow making me feel like an emotionally wounded young child finding sudden, unexpected, overwhelming hope.

When I was able to semi- pull myself together just enough to conclude, I added that I would love to be part of any appropriate conversations moving forward. And then I handed each individual Board member a copy of Hayden's little Student Profile brochure, & indicated that my contact information was on there as well.

Then I walked over to my friend, whispered that I would be right back, & without even glancing in the direction of Hayden's teacher (because I couldn't) I scurried out of the room, around the corner, into the bathroom, & hid in a stall. Within a couple of minutes I heard my friend trailing behind so I walked out towards the sinks to clean my face.

When I cry-- I mean really cry-- the whites of my eyes turn very red & their hazel centers turn very yellow. So basically I looked in the mirror & saw a dark-haired devil staring back at me.

I asked my friend if she could go back for my purse & jacket. I knew I did not want to step foot in that room again, at least not that evening. The only thing worse than being upset, as far as I'm concerned, is being upset in front of other people. 


Yes I am proud that we did what we did... we were the only two to speak out... & I think not speaking up is much worse because it's almost setting a precedent that these major decisions are all okay...

But I do wish that I had been able to keep my composure. And with Back to School night upon us, at this point in time I'm feeling like I want to arrive with something over my head.

The reality is I will go & I will do my best to keep my chin up... because if I ever saw Hayden struggling with his own confidence, that's exactly what I would want him to do.

It's not going to be easy but I have only two hands & I guess only two choices-- a paper bag in one fist or confidence in the other. And when I show up at next month's Board meeting, hopefully that will communicate my choice without having to say a word.


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