We’ve all heard the term “mama bear”. It’s a phrase meant to conjure up the image of a snarling mother fiercely protecting her young at any cost, striking fear into the heart of the one who DARES to threaten the cub on any level. I’ve definitely had my own “mama bear” moments where my children are concerned. Although, to be honest, I look less like a bear and more like a chicken with my disjointed head swivel going on, a finger waving in the air and a pointed “Mmmm hmmm!” at the end of the tirade. I’m sure I’m not very threatening. But, I do my best at fiercely protecting my babies. Which is why every time I’ve found myself in a meeting with our local county school system regarding my son, Drew, I’ve felt like I’ve had to have my guard up and fight for him. (If you don’t know Drew’s back story and have a couple of hours, start
here: “My Drew- Part One… (AKA: “With a mother like me, he’s GOT to be special.).) He’s had an IEP since he was 3 and with the help of some angels on Earth, he’s been doing better and better and is to the point now where he can handle himself in almost any situation and his IEP reflected that. There were no more modifications and the one remaining thing left to work on was his speech. I never thought his IEP would be so minimal.
And then the time for the annual review came yesterday. These used to be scary meetings with vice-principals, counselors, teachers and many, many forms to fill out and sign. I would go into them with my jaw set, a list of demands at the ready in my head. When I walked in yesterday, it was a smaller group, a smaller stack of papers and the first thing the speech therapist said was that she was recommending that Drew be exited out of speech. He had reached all of his goals, he’s speaking without mistakes 95% of the time, and there is no need to pull him out of class anymore. Part of me expected this and I agreed. There were other kids who needed her help much more than Drew. I signed the paperwork and the shortest IEP meeting ever was over in about 10 minutes. Drew’s IEP was closed. The end.
When I got to my car in the parking lot I called my husband who had unfortunately not been able to attend the meeting. When I told him the result, he asked me how I felt about it and I burst into tears. Some mama bear I am! But this has been such a long road. And although it’s by no means done (we still have Drew seeing a private therapist once a week- and I don’t mean for speech. See the explanation here: I See Fat People (AKA: “Shit OCD makes you say.”).) I felt a strange sense of sadness at the closure of this part of our journey. I exhaled with the sort of weariness of someone at the end of an extended battle. And suddenly, a part of me was scared that since we no longer had an IEP, we no longer had any recourse to get Drew any help in case he needed it. I forgot (temporarily) that I had been fighting for over 7 years for him and could again if necessary. I dried my tears and remembered something I had read a few days ago…
For Labor Day, we went to visit my in-laws in the NC mountains. While there we got on the subject of family history and tracing my husband’s family’s lineage. My father-in-law let us know there were boxes full of research his father had done and all kinds of papers and pictures going back more than 100 years. It was a treasure trove of familial goodness. He offered all of it to us since he had no interest in pursing it or storing it any longer, so into the car it all went and in my living room it sits. We’ve taken a few days here and there to look through some of it and it is fascinating. This past weekend we came across a letter written by one of his relatives in 1877. The cursive is beautiful and the script flows gorgeously, but it is a bit hard to read. Here is what I could decipher of its awesomeness:
“Charles says you call our boy a “runt“. He was born in Missouri but he is no “runt“. (My note: I surmised this slam on Missourians is because this side of the family originated in Canada and to them, someone born into American citizenship was a blemish on the family tree. Read further for proof of their clear superiority despite being from Missouri…) Our boy is a fine specimen of the sex- Canada today holds not his equal. Cast in the mold of beauty, he is perfection of form and personification of grace. He is energy incarnate, spunk typified and his ordinary howl makes the scream of a locomotive engine seem like silence. He weighs twenty pounds, stands flat-footed and alone, four months and three days old and he is no “runt”. Mark that down where you won’t forget it. (My note: That right there is what we nowadays call a bitch slap.) Hoping you may in future find it not inconvenient to be elegant as well as terse in your use of the mother tongue in speaking of our “King Ben”.”
That is the best letter from 1877 I’ve ever read! We parents have a way of defending our children. That is for sure. And any time I doubt that, I will think about this spirited correspondence. In the meantime, I will appreciate and celebrate where Drew is today – a mainstreamed student with good grades, lots of friends, the affection of his teachers and an IEP that has been rightly closed. Maybe mama bear can hibernate for a while. But rest assured that if need be, she will wake and she will be fierce! Mark THAT down where you won’t forget it, universe!