Tis’ the season, once again, to face my daughter’s annual IEP. It is one of those meetings you silently dread, while all the time knowing you have to show up and be your best and bring your best game. I rarely have done that. My normal IEP day follows a sleepless night trying to think through what the next year will bring for my little girl, and leaves me showing up tired and emotionally drained and really only concentrating on trying not to tear up in front of a table full of people.
I remember my first “meeting” like it was yesterday, when in reality my daughter was a year old and I was starting the dance of Early Intervention. I had the meeting at my house, which I stressed over cleaning to an inch of it’s life. I laid out pastries and fresh coffee, and tried to make it seem like a lovely ladies high tea. I had my Mom there with me for support and extra ears – and we sat down to talk about my daughter. It started, as I now know they all start, with everyone going around the table and saying glowing, lovely things about my baby. My guard down, we then went around the table and each woman gave her degree of gap between what my child should be doing and what she wasn’t doing yet. The gaps. They got a bit wider with every meeting, with every IEP. What she should be doing, what she now needed to do as far as therapy and intervention. It always left me drained. Sad, tired, and not empowered at all.
Now ten years later I am a seasoned veteran of the IEP. War weary, still tired, but steeled with a determination to make it all work and find all the hidden answers. I still sit down with the feeling that I am a four year old surrounded by adults – and feel very alone and vulnerable and as if all eyes are on me. But the faces now are familiar after being part of the school for many years and knowing all the players.
The thing that always throws me though is how contradictory it all feels. Right down to its very core, the process feels wrong as a Mom. My nature is to defend my daughter. “She can do this or that at home, I see her do it all the time.” “She is capable of doing everything every other child does in fifth grade, you may just not be seeing it in class.” I want to stand up for her and preach to the heavens about how awesome she is and all she CAN do. She is amazing, and I want every one of them to see just how much she shines. But then this voice on my shoulder tells me to hide her light under a bushel, or however that saying goes. If I tell them how great she is, they may cut services and supports to her. She can do all of it, but I want her to have the safety net of services. I want her to get every single minute of services and intervention she can. I want to stock pile it and have it in my back pocket for her.
So I down play how great she is. Or I sound like an idiot. Contradicting every fiber of my Mom-ness to get her what she needs and deserves, when I want to scream how awesome she truly is.
And all the while I am really using most of my strength not to cry in public, again!