Yesterday I had an ah-ha! moment. I realized that I had found my advocacy voice. Just like that!
So, let me explain a little.
A few years ago I was in a position where I had to advocate for Andrew in a way that made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I felt a confusing mix of “I’m a doormat” and “I’m too pushy.” I wasn’t sure how to get done what I needed to get done and I was so disappointed in myself for what I had to bring to the table. I knew I needed to work this out and find a voice that suited me and was effective, but I wasn’t sure how to do that.
And yesterday, as I was thinking about Andrew’s IEP meeting and sorting out a troubling behavior incident that Isaac had this week, I realized that I was using an advocacy voice that I had been developing over the past few years. Only it didn’t feel like “my advocacy voice”, it just felt like “my voice”. It didn’t feel like I had finally found the right role to play or “way to be”…it just felt like I had practiced this enough that I knew what to do and say when something needed to be done and said. I wasn’t acting a part. I was using my resources. Weird!
Here’s what I’ve learned about advocacy:
1. Be honest. The troubling incident with Isaac? He hit a girl in the head with a ball and laughed. And upon hearing this my first course of action was to sit with the facts. Isaac did that. I didn’t make excuses for it like “oh he must have been overwhelmed/tired/upset/etc.” I just sat with the truth. This happened. Period. Being honest about Isaac’s role in the story is crucial to helping him. That part is VERY hard, but manageable.
2. Be honest. The next thing I needed to do was remind myself that the fact that he did that is not a reflection of me and my parenting. I certainly do not take time to teach Isaac how to hit people in the head with balls. I don’t teach him to laugh when he hurts others. The more I can untangle any shame I feel about his behavior, the better I am able to address it. This thing he did? It wasn’t my fault. I can help. But it wasn’t my fault.
3. Be honest. I realized, after attempting to work with him about this, that I didn’t know what to do. I think there is this unrealistic expectation that parents need to always know what to do at the exact time that action is called for. How can that be possible? I think it’s much more effective when I sit back and realize when I DON’T know what to do. Following up on behavior problems is tricky with Isaac because he can’t/won’t talk about things that happened in the past. So I feel baffled about how to handle this kind of thing with him after-the-fact. I want to do something, but I don’t know what to do that can honestly be effective. So after hearing this latest report, I tried a few things at home that led to a power struggle that didn’t feel like “yes! this is how I want to handle these things moving forward!” So, I asked for help. I got in touch with someone for advice on how to talk to Isaac about things that happened in the past. HOW do I address this? HOW do I support him?
4. Use my resources. Isaac has “counseling” as part of his IEP. The “counseling” is all about play skills and social interaction. So I asked his teacher to loop in his counselor that this happened and see if something could be added to his IEP that will help him learn how….ummm…NOT to do those kinds of things.
It’s still not easy. When the teachers have troubling reports I often feel like they want me to fix it. I feel a pressure to do something about the behavior and ensure that it will never happen again…and sometimes there isn’t a whole lot I CAN do. It was embarrassing reaching out for advice on how do to talk to my own kid and I had to sit with that embarrassment a little. But, it was worth it. I got good feedback and I feel like I have a better, bigger pool of ideas to draw from next time.
And…that’s where I’m at with advocacy. It’s definitely not where I thought I’d be when I realized I needed to work on advocacy. I thought developing an advocacy voice meant I would be more brave in standing up for my kids and not worry so much about what people thought. Though, I guess, in a way, that IS exactly where I’ve come. It’s VERY brave to see my kids’ errors and ask for help. And I do need to suspend my “what will they think?!” fears when I do it. ha! who knew?
Dave and I are already talking about our Spring Break plans for this year. He and I have different ideas about what we should do. I would like to replay last year’s Spring Break (pictured here in this scrapbook page), but in a different city. I’m not sure what he wants to do, but I know he doesn’t want do that. Little does Dave know that I now have a well honed advocacy voice and I am better able than EVER to get what I want! Just kidding. That’s not quite how it works. But I am hoping to win this one and have a rockin’ Spring Break. Last year’s really was so fun. :)