“…I don’t want to be THAT mother:” Addressing a Common Fear for Parents

It’s the fear that lurks in the minds and hearts of almost every parent of a child with special needs…

“I want my child to get the right support, but I don’t think the school /church/doctor understands what to do. I’ve tried to communicate about it, but I’m not having much success. I disagree with how things are going, and I know I need to say something, but…I don’t want to be THAT mother.”

I hear this phrase uttered on an almost-weekly basis. Parents of children with special needs harbor so many layers of anxiety…worries about finding and securing the right treatments, helping the child make progress, hoping the student will make a friend, praying for inclusion and acceptance. In the process of dealing with all of these worries, and trying to find solutions, parents also fear being labeled as the “THAT” parent…

…the one who is never happy.
                The one that teachers talk about in the staff lounge.
                            The one who is paid lip service…
                                       {and avoided at all costs.}

No one wants to be THAT mother, of course. Instead, parents tell me, they want to be positive, capable, and helpful…but they don’t want to be “pushovers” either. I choose to call this style the Collaborative Mother. (We’re using “mother” for simplicity’s sake, but please don’t feel excluded, dads…this is for you, too!)

So, how do we avoid becoming THAT Mother? We can start by examining our style of communication, and defining what we don’t want to do, and what we hope to accomplish. To do this, let’s compare THAT Mother to the Collaborative Mother:

THAT Mother thinks she always knows better than the school/church; The Collaborative Mother tells the school/church what works at home with her child and considers the input of others.

THAT Mother requires that the school/church change the entire program structure to fit her child’s unique needs (and expresses frustration at any resistance); the Collaborative Mother discusses ways that her child’s needs can be met in the least restrictive environment.

THAT Mother makes demands; the Collaborative Mother makes requests positively and assertively.

THAT Mother has an attitude of entitlement; the Collaborative Mother has an attitude of humility and gratitude.

THAT Mother explodes when mistakes are made; the Collaborative Mother extends grace, and offers to be part of fixing the problem.

THAT Mother assumes that the school/church knows nothing, and is condescending; the Collaborative Mother says, “You may already know this…” or “How can I help you to understand my child better?”

THAT Mother gossips about teachers and volunteers; The Collaborative Mother addresses concerns directly, honestly and kindly. She follows the “chain of command” when seeking to resolve disputes.

THAT Mother says, “You people are going to get this right.” The Collaborative Mother says, “I don’t want to be “THAT Mother.”

THAT Mother doesn’t think she’s “THAT Mother.” The Collaborative mother knows that once in a while, she will be THAT Mother,  because she’s human, and because she makes mistakes, and because her emotions sometimes run high when it comes to her child…

THAT Mother is “never wrong.” Ever. The Collaborative Mother is humble, and willing to say, “I’m sorry.”

THAT Mother loves her child, and she is hurting. The Collaborative Mother loves her child, and she is hurting…but she doesn’t want to hurt others in the process.

THAT Mother is a Child of God. THe Collaborative Mother is a Child of God…and she knows that the teachers and volunteers are, too.

Collaborating with you…

Weekly Wrap + Five Facts for Friday {3-2-12}

The weather report indicates that March will, indeed, come in like a lion in many parts of the country. The weather, though, is not the only “roaring” in the ears of our community…it’s been a hard week. As you know, there was a shooting in a nearby school district, which resulted in death, injury, and so much grief. In addition, a family in another nearby community lost a daughter in an accident just last night.

My human noggin just can’t understand the reason for all of this suffering. Please pray for these families. Chardon Superintendent Joe Bergant told parents this week, “Hug your kids,” and then said, “Kids, hug your parents.”
That sounds like a really good plan to me.

In other news, our Key team has been really busy…we’re doing some curriculum modifications for a publisher, working on presentations for several conferences, and consulting with churches across the US as they seek to include kids and families affected by disabilities. This week, we worked with churches in Texas, Kentucky, Ohio and Florida! I’m looking forward to sharing some news about a great site visit I had to a career center today; there are some great applications for churches and communities. More on that next week!

And, finally, our traditional Friday fun:

Five Facts for Friday

1. Heard in our house during the Oscars…Annie: “You’re going to be on this show some day, Bill. And you’re going to WIN.”
2. I tried some of the Cirque De Soleil moves that they did on the Academy Awards. It didn’t end well, and I don’t want to discuss it.
3. Classic TV: Davy Jones’ appearance on the Brady Bunch.
4. Chardon students’ response to this week’s tragedy shows remarkable solidarity and resilience.
5. Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! Favorite story: The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Yours?

Have a great weekend~

Weekly Wrap & Five Facts for Friday {2/24/12}

It’s been a little quiet here on the blog this week, because I’ve been enjoying a little getaway with my favorite guy (and husband!) Tom. We’ve had a great week of

r    e    l   a    x    a   t    i    o    n ~

and I’m so grateful.

While I’ve been away, though, lots of exciting things have been happening at Key Ministry, and I’ll tell you all about that SOON! In the meantime, you won’t want to miss Steve’s blog series with Steph Hubach.

This weekend, I’m excited to spend some quality time helping these folks get ready for Winter Formal:

And, I’m looking forward to seeing this member of the family, who will probably be crowned Winter Formal Queen…. She is very popular….

And now…

5 Facts for Friday:
1.I do not care for cutesy spellings of businesses, such as “Kountry Korner.” It’s not wise to build a company on the foundation of illiteracy.
2. Who determines which oils are the “essential oils?” Some of the oils might feel left out.
3. When I’m at the airport, I like knowing that every person there belongs to somebody.
4. While swimming this week, I lapped the guy in the lane next to me. I felt great about this until I realized he was about 147 years old with a strong resemblance to Abe Vigoda. And, with all due respect, I hope that I’m still swimming at that age, too.
5. Favorite part of going to the beach: hunting for shells and listening to the waves. Yours?

Happy Weekend, one and all!