IEP/504 Meetings of Days Gone By

What’s the opposite of nostalgia? I’m pretty sure I experienced it yesterday when I came across some 10-year-old old paperwork pertaining to school evaluations for my son. My brilliant, sweet boy, who was ten years old at the time.

I have embarked on a project to purge and organized the piles of paperwork that have been accumulating around my house for, oh, ten years. It’s slow going because I keep stopping to read things. For instance a file full of print-outs I made of email communications with school personnel.

For context, my son, M, has auditory processing difficulties. His brain doesn’t filter sounds very well. We started the evaluation process thinking he would have an IEP (individualized education plan), but he didn’t actually need changes in the curriculum, only changes to ensure him equal access to the curriculum. So we ended up with what’s called a 504 plan under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I had almost managed to forget the constant vigilance and stress involved in having a child in school under these circumstances. Many teachers and school staff were wonderful and amazing. But many others were not. I experienced a fair amount of lip service, some head patting, some gaslighting, and whole lot of hoop jumping on my part. I’m glad that experience is behind me.

The following is one of the emails I re-discovered, and typical of the kinds of things I found myself writing a lot in those days.

Hi Ms. K & Ms. L,

As always, thanks for all of your time and effort on behalf of M. I want to address two things:

1. Regarding the parent input statement I wrote to be included with all evaluation reports: I will make multiple copies for each of you so it can be attached to every printed copy of the report, rather than only in a computer somewhere. I understand the school district’s budget is extremely tight, but it is a part of the report that should be available with every copy. I will supply the paper and ink for that to happen. (I had been told that, of course I could supply a parent input statement to be added to teacher observations and everything else in the reports. But when I showed up for the first meeting, the statement I had emailed was not included and everyone seemed to think it was eccentric of me to believe it would be added to the actual report, which was already using so much paper. I was assured the email had been saved and that my painstakingly created contribution was “in the computer.”)

2. I am also attaching here a copy of more observations I have made including my classroom observations from last May. I sent these once, but was told they couldn’t be included in the report at that time because they happened after the date of the evaluation meeting. I’m sorry I did not bring this to yesterday’s meeting, but did not realize they could now be included until I read through the report and saw mention of staff observations that had occurred from the same time period. Now that I know the door is open again, I’m sending them. (If this isn’t obvious, someone lied to me about why they *couldn’t* put my classroom observations into the report. And I caught them in the lie.) This document should also be attached to all copies of M’s evaluation reports. In addition to attaching it here, I will supply multiple paper copies as a donation to keep district expenses low. 

Best regards,

**

If any parents currently going through the process happen to read this, please know you are not alone. You are allowed to have your voice heard. Don’t let them gaslight you or shut you up. Keep speaking the truth for your child. You will find advocates and allies within the system, though it can sometimes take a little while to figure out who they are. Work on building relationships with those folks. My son’s grade school speech therapist and his junior high counselor, in particular, were real angels who had his back.

That said, I look back on this and wonder about families who don’t have the resources I did. We’ve never been wealthy, but I could at least afford paper and toner. And this was before I started my sandwich generation gig, so I could carve out the time. How many kids fall into the cracks because their parents don’t have the resources or time or knowledge to stay on top of things?

I’m happy to say my son made it through and is now a brilliant, sweet 20-year-old who does what he can to make the world a better place. He made it through with his kindness and compassion intact, which is what I most wanted for him.

 

I’m Going to Need the World to Stop Changing So Much

Hey there. I’m trying to teach my son how to adult. So I’m going to need the world the stop changing how things are done, please.

In recent weeks it’s come to my attention that I don’t really know how the world works any more. I went to a walk-in hair cutting place and they asked me if I’d checked in yet. Uh no, I just got here. It’s a walk-in establishment, right? Apparently you are now expected to get in line online before walking through the door. Which, to me, cancels out the walk-in aspect.

Then my son forgot the PIN for his debit card. He seldom uses it in a way that requires a PIN, but got stymied trying to put gas in the car. Getting his PIN reset required going to the bank in person, something he found daunting. I offered to go with him as he learned how to navigate a face-to-face banking matters. It turns out I don’t know either.

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I’m not sure how I’ll deposit the contents of my loose change jar now. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve used the same bank for 20 years. But since the last time I walked inside, they’ve changed everything. We went through the doors and I was shocked into a dead stop. It didn’t look like a bank at all. There were no teller stations. No other customers. No table with deposit and withdrawal slips and those pens on chains. In fact, there was not much of anything or anyone at all. Maybe four employees were visible at various places, doing indecipherable tasks. Nobody who looked like they were there for customer service. I felt like a new immigrant to my own life — one who hasn’t yet learned the local customs.

Finally, a woman came out from behind a desk and asked whom we needed to speak with. Though polite, she did it with the manner of someone who was making an extra effort and going outside their usual job role. A different employee eventually helped my son get his card straightened out. But I saw no other customer the entire time we were there. I guess going into the bank isn’t done any more?

It looks as if I need to be the student and not the teacher in this matter of 21st century adulting. I find myself bewildered at many turns. I have considered telling my kids not to ask me anything any more. They’re probably better off figuring it all out on their own.

But last night, kid one, who has moved away, messaged me asking if I could offer some mom advice. I braced myself, not knowing what to expect as I answered that I would try. The next message I got was a photo of this avocado, with the question, “Is this okay to eat, even though it has spots?” Avocado

Finally! A question I’m equipped to answer. I would eat that, I replied.

At the very least, world, don’t go changing the avocado rules on me now. I still have one area of competence.

 

 

The Two-Job Tradition Lives On

Is it a sign of the economic times or family history or family background or family tradition? For several years when our kids were young, I was mostly raising them while working very limited part-time hours. Meanwhile my husband worked one full-time job and a part-time side gig doing database development.

His side gig eventually went away, but then I picked up more hours at work. Now that our kids are grown and one of them flown, I’ve picked up a second job for a few hours a week to try to fulfill some long-time needs and goals of ours.

And following in our footsteps, the newly launched 23-year-old has graduated from one job to two. The retail job they’ve working was offering 20-30 hours per week. But starting this week, my “kid” is at a full-time office job, while keeping one shift a week at the retail place. This is the same person I had to drag out of bed to get to school back in the teen years. The same one who couldn’t manage to bring a dirty dish downstairs from the bedroom while living with us, but is now the designated dishwasher in their own household.

Funny how that happens for so many of us.

 

 

Favorite Children’s Books, or My Family’s Holy Texts

Recently, my kids and I found ourselves in a waiting situation without much to do. Uncharacteristically, we didn’t even have books with us. To pass the time, I used my phone to look up some conversation starter questions online.

One question carried us for several minutes. What’s your favorite book from childhood. I have never felt more success as a mother than when they both assured me I knew the answers without asking. And I did!

Continue reading “Favorite Children’s Books, or My Family’s Holy Texts”

My Baby Off to the Jury

Sniff. Yesterday was my baby’s first day of jury duty and I didn’t even manage to get pictures.

I guess I have to admit my child really is grown up when they get summoned to sit on a trial. And I don’t get to go along to offer moral support or take pictures of how cute they look sitting with the group in the courtroom.

This was federal court, too, so not even in our city. They had to drive to the state capital, thirty-five miles away, where the U.S. District Court is located. During rush hour. On the morning when a lot of out-of-town visitors were leaving after eclipse viewing.

As it turns out, after half a day of vetting, my kid was not selected and got to come home. I have received jury summonses approximately every three years going back to the dawn of time, yet never actually had to report to a courthouse. I’ve only had to make the phone calls to find out whether to go. So I was full of questions.

Thing 1 (nickname for my firstborn) reported that the case was “Some old super rich guys suing each other because no amount of money is enough for them.” It was a property dispute of some sort. Apparently many high-paid attorneys were involved on both sides. Thing 1 was dismissed when the judge asked if anyone in the jury pool felt uncomfortable with the amount of money being sought – $80 million dollars.

So, there we go. Another milestone achieved. I need to remember where I put the baby book, so I can write it down.

 

Memorial Day As Mom of Draft-Age Kids

Just a short post here. My children are 22 and 19 years old, respectively. Prime age to be drafted if we ended up in a war with a draft.

It’s fully hitting me for the first time that most of the soldiers we’re honoring and remembering on Memorial Day were just kids, basically. The majority of the troops who have been killed in battle throughout all the years of our country – around the ages my kids are now. Pretty sobering.

This song seems fitting for today. Particularly these lines:

And I just turned twenty-two
I was wonderin’ what to do
And the closer they got,
The more those feelings grew

 

A Cat and Her Boy

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This critter staring at you from the screen is named Luna. Feel free to extend her birthday greetings, as she is fifteen years old this month. She’s been a member of our household from the age of eight weeks, coming to us about the time my youngest kid was turning four. The two of them bonded immediately. She’s supposed to be my cat, but I’m the only one who signed that contract; she never agreed to the terms and conditions. As far as Luna is concerned, she has one human — the boy she helped raise.

Both of my children are good with animals, and even at such a young age, my son showed a remarkable gentleness with our tiny kitten. The two of them spent many hours playing and snuggling. It wasn’t uncommon for my son to fall asleep with the cat wrapped in his arms.

For a few months last year, Luna’s boy moved away, and I could tell she was looking for him, going to his room repeatedly. Since he returned home in late December, she’s been dogging his footsteps, so to speak. Sometimes I wonder about cat brains and what they remember. Does she know the big, gangly human she loves now is the same person as the little guy who used to drive his Hot Wheels cars around her? I think she must. But I’m sure neither of them remembers a time before the other.

The boy is considering moving away again in the fall. I hope it doesn’t break either of their hearts too much.

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She still likes to sleep in his bed. 

 

Full House Again

Everything old is new again. So much for the empty nest. A couple of months after the first kid boomeranged, the second one came back.

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We brought the 18-year-old home from college for Christmas break and he decided to stay. He had an unfortunate first semester as a freshman, with all sorts of problems, from the college bookstore messing up his textbook order to a bicycle accident that resulted in a fractured wrist. And he discovered he really didn’t like dorm life.

I went with him yesterday to sign up for classes at the local community college. He plans to get a few gen ed credits there this semester and possibly transfer somewhere else in the fall. He and some friends are talking about getting an apartment together. They held a discussion session at our house the other evening. It was interesting listening to 18 & 19-year-old young men discuss the virtues of slow cookers. We shall see what actually happens.

For now it’s back to a heaping cart full of groceries every week. Back to tracking four different schedules and parceling out car use — who has to be where when and what family member might have to give another one a ride. Back to more dishes to wash, to negotiating who has the most pressing need to get their laundry done and thus dibs on the washer, who is showering when. Back to sending shushing text messages to my kids in the middle of the night if they’re being too loud, and nagging about chores. But also back to enjoying their company a lot of the time and the comfort of being an eye-witness to food consumption, so I don’t worry about them starving.

I confess to mixed feelings. I liked having more time and freedom the few weeks they both were gone and I was getting a rhythm to what I thought was going to be my life now. But it’s also comforting seeing them a lot and feeling needed.

My firstborn is working at a small retail store and has already been promoted to assistant manager. This is a pleasing turn of events, after a long period of, uh, I guess I could phrase it as floundering or way finding or struggle or waiting for some brain synapses to do their thing with maturity.

Now I can focus on helping the younger sibling with his…way finding.

 

Emotional Whiplash

I’ve been afraid of changin’
Cause I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older, too
(From the Stevie Nicks song, “Landslide”)

Two weeks ago, we had a plan, or so I thought. My 21-year-old (who prefers the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them”) would continue to live with us for at least several weeks, while continuing college. Their significant other would move into the house as well, temporarily, from the small town where they can’t find work. The S.O. would seek employment here and the two of them would eventually get an apartment in our city, maybe in two to three months.

Eight days ago, I was helping my college junior collect bugs for an entomology lab. The next day — one week ago tonight — the offspring announced that friends in Colorado had a room open and said both of them could move in there. In fact, it would happen over the coming weekend. Both of them would look for jobs once they got to the new place. Friday, my kid withdrew from college and started packing. Sunday night the abductors new roommates arrived and slept at our house, while I spent a sleepless night stalking them on-line. Early Monday morning, they packed what they could fit into a Mazda hatchback and drove off to collect my child’s S.O. before continuing to Colorado.

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Sigh.

This is what young adults will do to their parents. Their life plans change so suddenly and drastically, they leave us with emotional whiplash. I said, “I brought you a stink bug from the garden and this is the thanks I get?”

I had a vision in my mind of getting to know their partner better, helping the young couple furnish their first apartment together, being close enough to have them over for dinner once a week. Calling up occasionally and saying, “Hey, let’s go to a movie, my treat.” Something gradual. Something that would give me time to prepare mentally and emotionally. A bachelor’s degree was in the vision somewhere, too.

I cried real tears. A lot of them, to be honest. My husband even had a little weeping the morning they left. But I suppose the joy of being twenty-one years old lies in being old enough to make your own decisions, but young enough not to be bogged down with worries of everything that could go wrong. The world is out there waiting for you to discover it. $700 in the bank, no car and no job lined up? Eh, it’ll work out.

I spent so many years immersed in the lives and needs of my two children and my mother. Adding in the job I do for a paycheck, I had little time for anything else. Now I suddenly find myself with only my husband and a houseful of pets. In a short period of time, my mom passed away and both kids moved out. At least the 18-year-old will be home for holidays, school breaks and some weekends. He’s doing it the correct way, in other words.

Since I often cope with anxiety and sadness through the use of humor, I gave my firstborn about ten minutes after pulling out of our driveway (roommate driving) then sent a text saying “We rented your room.” A few hours later, I followed up with “I sold the rest of your stuff on Ebay.” I suppose it’s not exactly like sending your kid off on a ship to America from the Irish shore in the 19th century, expecting never to see them again and not even to know for several months whether they arrived safely.

When this child was six, they promised to live with me forever. Liar. Or maybe they simply meant in my heart and mind. I admit, the former feels as if it has a big hole in the middle right now and the latter is still spinning.

 

 

 

 

We All Need Help Sometimes

If you’ve been on social media at all the past couple of weeks, I’m sure you’ve seen this photo by now:

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The sign posted in a private boys’ school in Arkansas. I don’t remember the name. Bootstrap High or something.

Let me tell a story on myself. One day last week, I was checking out at the store with more than $100 worth of groceries when I realized I didn’t have my wallet. Everything had been rung up and bagged already. Thinking back through my day I had a pretty good idea where my wallet might be. I called my 21-year-old, who was home at the time, and asked them to find it and bring it to me. My offspring came through immediately and without complaint, saving my bacon. I suppose they could have said, “Well, Mom, this is really your problem to solve…”

The best part of the story is that the store employees didn’t try to shame me in any way. (I had that one covered all on my own, thanks, apologizing to them approximately five times.) The clerk even offered to put my food in a cooler while I waited if I thought it might take a while.

Have I ever taken anything to my kids at school after they forgot it? You bet. Have there been times they forgot something and I didn’t take it to them? Of course. A couple of times, one of them went off without a piece of homework or a book and I was at work, so I couldn’t bring it. Similarly, I wouldn’t have called my kid out of a college class to bail me out of my situation.

We all need help sometimes. We’re all human and fallible. Can’t we cut each other a little slack? I’m a person who has a hard time asking for assistance from anyone, ever, for anything. It’s a great failing of mine that I work hard to overcome. I didn’t want to raise my kids to be that way. Yes, sometimes I felt hassled and frustrated, but last week I received a payment in kind.

I understand some parents feel their kids get into a bad habit of taking advantage and they need to say no to requests like this. That’s cool, too. Because the parent involved knows their child and family situation the best.

What’s not so cool is the public shaming of parents and their kids so a school principal can feel smug. Maybe this shows me to be a terrible person, but my immediate reaction on reading the sign was a fervent hope that the principal would lock his/her keys in the car by accident and that all the parents, students and school staff in the vicinity would refuse to assist in any way.

How about we let parents and kids figure out for themselves how they want to handle these situations? How about we not hold children to higher standards than we hold ourselves? How about we offer each other more encouragement and support than scorn and ridicule?