Wednesday, June 08, 2011

One of the concerns I have always struggled with has been making sure Emily gets what she needs educationally...and making sure she feels "normal".

It was less of a concern when she was younger as kids didn't seem to segregate difference as stringently as they do in 5th grade and beyond.

I don't know if any of you recall what it is like to be a freshly hatched teenager, or maybe you are still too enraptured with Baby and Toddlerhood to want to think about it but Holy Crap. They notice Everything. They comment on Everything. Most importantly they HEAR everything. Everything said by Everybody.

It doesn't have to be heard or even experienced first hand to be considered newsworthy enough to repeat. In fact, it doesn't even have to have happened to become the "TRUTH". For example, Em and another little girl were playing two years ago. They started verbally disagreeing and the other girl and Em got a little physical. Emily Pushed the girl and touched her throat. This girl now shares with others the story of how Emily tried to strangle her and she had to go to the hospital.

Yes. I swear to you. My daughter came home in tears a few days ago because this girl had taken it upon herself to tell some of Emily's friends in her new class how Em had Attempted to Strangle her. The friends then came back to Emily and asked her Why she had tried to Strangle this girl? Because she had to go to the Hospital and everything?

(Note - we live a block away from this family. We see them nearly daily. I have no doubt that if my kid tried to actually strangle their daughter and she had to go to the hospital that we would have had a parent gang fight in the street long before now.)

Since she is now 13, she also is getting terribly self conscious. I am afraid that I do remember that part.  You gain weight, you lose weight. You get tall, you stay short. Your breasts hurt and stretch marks show up.  Your skin breaks out.Your body goes into full blown mutiny.  It sucks in so many ways that it can be painful to remember feeling like that.

After Emily had heard she was accepted to the school that - in the words of her Teacher "Is harder to get into than McGill" - and we had all rejoiced,  Emily began telling her peers.

One girl looked at Emily and said "Isn't that where murderers go?".

My daughter, who has endlessly more patience than I, explained that No, murderers don't attend this school, but it is a school for kids with learning difficulties.  At which this other girl sneered and scoffed.  Which is ironic since this particular girl would be lucky to get into such a school given what I know about her own learning difficulties.

When Emily told me, I laughed. "Next time you see her, tell her that it is a school for Assassins and you will be issued your curved blade upon your first day. The Assassins Academy - like for the Jack of all Trades in the Graveyard Book."

If there is one thing I know, it is how to delight my daughters imagination.  She immediately latched on to this idea and we began to talk about what classes she may take in her upcoming Assassin training.

What I really wanted to do was punch this little wench in the face.  After which I give her a good shake and remind her own  lisping, non spelling and writing ass that she is the LAST person who should be making other people feel bad about their school choice.

A few days later, Terrance told me that he had been asked by our neighbor where Emily was going to high school.  When he told her she said "Isn't that for kids with, you know, Problems?"

Terrance was taken aback. He said it was the tone with which she said it which bothered him. "She implied "retarded" didn't she, in the very 1970's sense of the word.", I said.

"Yeah, she did", Terrance answered.

My anger has been simmering since. My anger on behalf of my daughter who has done amazing things in her effort to continue to enjoy learning.  My anger for every child who didn't go to the school they should have gone to, or never got the assessment and help because of fear of being labeled as "stupid". My anger because I know how even I struggled, knowing everything I know, with the decision to send Emily to a specialized high school in which her educational needs are paramount at the possible expense of External Negative Judgement. My anger because it has taken me 13 YEARS to get Terrance comfortable with Emily as a learner within her own style and needs so that he will consider her going to a school like the one we have found without fighting me tooth and nail the entire way.

Instead, Emily and I laugh and plan out ways in which she will become an Assassin.

Of Prejudice, judgement, disdain and ignorance.

1 Baleful Regards:

Anonymous said...

My 13 y/old daughter has had a 2.5 inch scar on her cheek for years (cat scratch.) She's been asked about it, made fun of for it--you name it.

I told her to tell the kids at school she got cut in a knife fight. Somewhere along the line, someone bought it, and it's part of school lore.

Now my truly gentle, loving, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly, skinny-mini girl has the reputation of a bad-ass you don't fuck with. Works for me.

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