In the Arena

In the Arena
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately. This introspection began with a rather caustic conversation at a dyslexia event here in my home town with a Licensed Dyslexia Therapist. This particular LDT didn’t have a single kind word to say to me. Her message was entirely the following:
  • That it’s pointless for me to fight for my son’s rights because she used to be a teacher in that district and she knows better than I do.
  • That I’ve not addressed his needs well enough in his paperwork because I’ve failed him by classifying him as SpEd because 504 was good enough and my reasons of wanting to ensure program fidelity and a seat at the table were selfish, ridiculous and erroneous.
  • That the private tutoring we are doing via the Neuhaus program is extremely insufficient because we don’t do four days a week, we only do three.
  • That my justification for only doing three were all extremely selfish and stupid, since those reasons are that I want him to be allowed to be a kid and play sports and play with his friends.
  • And, that at the end of all of this, because I’m such an absolutely horrific parent, my son will only ever read at a 3rd grade level and I can rest assured for the rest of my life that I am the only person to ever blame for his inability to a) read and b) succeed at anything.
I was trying to be gracious to her while she was speaking, but nothing I said mattered. This woman, this “dyslexia expert,” didn’t want to talk to me and didn’t have a single kind word for me. In my gut I was devastated, but at the same time my inner thoughts were that she couldn’t be more wrong.
This isn’t the only caustic run in I’ve had.
A few months into this journey I joined up with one particular dyslexia group. Those who know me know EXACTLY what group I’m referring to. Things were all fine and dandy for a long time. It felt good, heartwarming really, to be contributing to a cause so worthy, with what I felt were great people who just wanted to help our community of dyslexic children.
Unfortunately, one day I found that I had significantly underestimated the so called “leaders” of that group and what their actual intentions were. The pervasiveness of unsubstantiated allegations, lies and bullying that occurs to people who just want to contribute to helping our dyslexic children was overwhelming.
While I had a lot of anger in my soul that I prayed to God to help me shed, I was so glad to purge these toxic people from my life.
Now I find myself struggling through another separation, one that causes me a lot of pain because yet again, I’ve underestimated the people involved and the vitriol being spit at me is unconscionable.
In both cases, I’ve banned multiple profiles so they can’t see what I post under my name and I can’t see anything they post under their name. It’s extremely liberating.
Yet, none of these sins end there, and that’s a reality I must cope with. I pray for grace and understanding when things happen that boggle the mind, but at the end of the day, the things that happen are their issue, their ego run amok, their rampant insecurity and fear, and none of that is my problem nor is it within my control.
These are just the latest examples that have been the catalyst for my introspection, but what my introspection has taught me is that few people have all the answers, and maybe none do.
Before anyone in my circle leaps at my throat for that statement, hold on a second and hear me out.
There are experts in language (OG and SWI) as well as parenting, psychotherapy, diagnostics, educational theories, medicine, their particular job at the school, etc. There is no one person who is a master of more than one thing and if you think you are remember the saying, “jack of all trades, and master of none.”
But here’s the rub.  My degrees may not be in Teaching and I may not be a M.Ed., CALT, PhD, LSSP, LDT, etc., but I do have a doctorate in my child, and within the rights and privileges granted to me in my doctorate in my child, I have the best pulse on what he needs and what will make him happy.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly….”
For my child, I am the one in the arena. I am the one covered in dust and sweat and blood. I am the one who cries at night. I am the one who keeps fighting. I am the one:
“who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….”
Me; not the LDT who mom shamed me; not the “dyslexia group” who deemed my heart and commitment unworthy (read: threatening); nor the other group, and I’ll leave that one right there; not, what I am sure will be, the plethora of people who will come and go in my life who will continue to tell me that I am not capable, not worthy, that I am failing, that my son will pay the ultimate price for my inability to succeed. Me, I am the one in the arena.
And you, my brothers and sisters, you are in the arena too. We are here together.
Let that resonate with you, WE ARE IN THE ARENA TOGETHER!
I ask that you ponder that, because even though we are a community, we are not kind to each other. We assume superiority, we assume knowledge, we ridicule parents for the choices they make vs. the choices we think they should make. Remember that each person is at a different emotional stage with their struggle advocating for their child. Remember that each person is doing the best they can with the knowledge they have. Be kind. Assist. Be a friend. Empower someone’s journey. That’s our job, each and every one of us.
Lift up your brothers and sisters. Do not shame! Your fight in the arena is hard enough, but remember this too, you fight because you have to, because you’re compelled to for that piece of your heart that walks the earth and calls you mom and dad, and that because you do this, because you know that you and the rest of us in this arena with you, that each of us:
“…spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
So be kind, to yourself, to others, and be of service. The arena is bloody enough.

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