Advocacy voice, an update

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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?

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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. :)


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About robyn

I stopped teaching Kindergarten in 2005 to become the mom of two crazy boys here in Brooklyn. At first I thought being a stay at home mom meant that I needed to pour all my time and energy directly into my sons, but I realized somewhere along the way that being a rockstar mom meant not only taking good care of my boys, but also taking good care of myself. And taking good care of myself means pursuing something creative...just about everyday. I started Made In Brooklyn to motivate myself in my creative goals as well as share my work with others and perhaps inspire them in their own creative journeys.
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6 Responses to Advocacy voice, an update

  1. Anne Hoang says:

    I love this post. It is so hard to be honest. I often find myself identifying my worth as a parent/person with Camille’s behavior, and it really helps to hear you talk about how to piece those two things apart. It may not be at all helpful for me to say this, so please ignore me if it’s not, but now that Cuong has started working as a school psychologist, I don’t see him ever thinking that the parents need to fix their children. If anything, the most supportive thing the parents do is to accept who their children are. But of course that’s not easy work. If you ever wanted to pick his brain about “the other side” and how to get what you need from the school psych or IEP team, I’m sure he’d be more than happy to talk with you. He’s new enough at it to see what could be better about his profession and still not be jaded.

    • Robyn says:

      Thanks Anne! I guess I know that they aren’t *really* expecting me to fix it. It’s more that I feel like I should. When I was a teacher, my students’ parents would say things like “I’ll speak to my child about this. It will NOT happen again.” And at the time I was all “oh! great! That would be ideal!” It felt really supportive to me as a teacher…though now, on this side of things…I feel like I can’t make those kinds of promises…and I’m not sure any parent can.

      I think you are right…the most supportive thing you can do, is accept who they are. It seems so simple…but it really isn’t. :)

  2. Stacey says:

    I’m so proud of you, Robyn! It takes a wise person to not react all the time and instead to sit and think it out. I’m constantly in awe of how awesome you are, as a mom and a person! You go, girl!!

  3. MamaV says:

    Great post.

    Go to Philly for Spring Break! You won’t regret it.

  4. Anne Hoang says:

    And next year, come to Portland!!!