The problem with being a parent advocate is always feeling like you’re behind the 8 ball. For every two steps forward there is at least one step back, when in reality it may be three. For every win there is an equal if not greater loss. For every mile you believe that you gain on this road, the reality is it may only be inches.
I call this path a journey. A friend recently said to me that it’s a journey through hell. I responded with, “Ah, yes, but I never said where exactly the journey was taking me.”
I’ve been reading Cheri Rae’s DyslexiaLand and find the idea of the book to be very compelling. There’s a map and the map has a dark side and a light (my word choices), but as she points out, many dyslexics never find their way out of the darkness into the light.
In case you haven’t figured it out I’m a very tenacious person. I hate the word “NO” and I’ve spent my life turning no’s into yes’s both in my career and my personal life, but to use a little more of Cheri Rae’s imagery, my son unexpectedly took me by the hand and brought me into a land I don’t know how to navigate. This is a place where I don’t know how to flip the no’s into yes’s quite so easily and where I struggle daily with the path in front of us.
It doesn’t help that I’m constantly bombarded by people looking down their nose at me. This initially took the form of teachers throwing words at me like “automaticity” and “phonemes” and other such words. I recall the first time my son’s first grade teacher said automaticity. I responded with “auto ma what?” She got snide and prideful and repeated, “automaticity.” I challenged her and said that can’t possibly be a word and almost asked for a dictionary. In her 22-year-old “I’m perfect” pride she took the opportunity to attempt to shame me further for my ignorance on “common reading terminology.”
My pride, however, couldn’t let her get away with it. I quickly threw out that I may not have an education degree, but I do have an English degree and a Masters in Business and that I wasn’t about to be lectured or shamed by a 22-year-old child who insisted on treating me like I’m an idiot.
However, it didn’t end there.
More than half the time I speak to someone about either my son or dyslexia as a whole, they feel the need to try to make me feel inferior, to shame me for some lack of knowledge, or for something, in their opinion, I’m not doing correctly. Sadly it’s even happened this week.
I’m confounded by the need by some to act superior to a parent who is trying to do nothing more than assist their children. I am also confounded that these people who feel the need to shame are in roles where you think they’d want to help because they’re teachers, diagnosticians, administrators, tutors and / or in these roles may possess letters behind their name.
To this latter set I kind of want to shout, “Hey! I can put letters behind my name too, but I don’t because I think it’s prideful and boastful and you’re need to shame me definitely isn’t helping!!”
I’m also evil enough that when people want to go toe to toe with me and treat me that way all it does is fuel my ire. My sentiments go something like, “Well, fine. I’ll show you! I’ll just go ahead and get a M. Ed then a PhD, do all of the training in evidence-based programs, then slap your smug face with enlightenment!”
But, I work full-time, run this blog (where I don’t write as much as I’d like), run Dyslexic Houston and The Dyslexia Initiative. But, before all of that I first have full time commitments as a wife, a mother and a parent advocate for the light of my universe, my compass, my son.
These people who are smug, who look down their noses at me for my lack of education degrees and training, who despise me because “I’m just an uneducated parent,” I’d like to ask them why they feel the need to treat me thus, to judge me thus? WHY IS YOUR INSTINCT TO DERIDE ME INSTEAD OF TO HELP ME?????
If you truly care about dyslexia, why are you not fighting for my child? Why are you not trying to help in my own education as a parent advocate? Why are you not pushing for better laws, better interventions within your district and the state? And, if you’re smug because you’re burned out, why are you still doing this?
We need passionate people on this journey through hell. We need cheerleaders! We need guides! We need companions and champions! We need #DynamicDiscussion with #ActiveListening and we all need to #LeanIn to make it happen!
Before I sign off though I also have to say that I’ve met amazing people on this journey too. I’ve been so blessed to meet people who don’t judge me for “just being a parent” but who want to celebrate that I’m a parent fighting for my child. Even this week I met a group of beautiful souls who thought that our efforts on The Dyslexia Initiative were breathtaking, who loved my page Dyslexic Houston and who loved my blog.
To those souls who are inspired to do and be better, to be the guides, the cheerleaders, who understand the path of a non-education degreed parent advocate, and who want to serve and teach, who want to help lead the way; on behalf of myself and all the other parent advocates out here, thank you! Thank you for being you! Thank you for the books you write, the classes you teach, the introductions you make, the encouragement you offer, the discussions you’re willing to have, the questions you’re willing to answer and the shoulder you’re willing to be when we parent advocates just want to beat our heads bloody against the wall we’ve run into.
You are the reason why we’re able to traverse this path.
This is dedicated to certain people in my life. I think they know who they are, but just in case they need reminding and using first names only:
Chuck, Becky, Mary, Tammy, Faith, Kyle, Aisha, Julie, Chontae, and my new friends Sarah and Georgia