There’s a singular moment in time when each child is handed to it’s mother for the first time. In this moment all time stops. It is the most beautiful, indescribable, transcendent moment a mother experiences.
For my husband it was right after our son was born (via cesarean section) and they had showed him to us, but they moved him to his own section of the OR to check his vitals, clean him up, diaper him, etc. Our son wailed as soon as he was forcibly evicted from my body against his will and would not stop. While lying on that table my husband reached out his hand and our son grabbed my husband’s finger with his whole fist and wouldn’t let go. That was the moment for my husband. That’s when it all became real and his beautiful, transcendent experience happened. So you see, dads have it too.
In that moment, we each speak our promises to that child. Those promises are ones of endless love and fierce protection. We will love them more than life itself. We will protect them from all harm. We will give them everything we possibly can to shape them into the amazing person they are destined to be. They are perfect, blessed, human, ours, loved.
I used to stare at his perfect unblemished skin and marvel at it. I remember when he developed his first scar and I was sad for him that he lost that perfect skin, but we all do. (His first scar was under his bottom lip because he sucked on his lip when he didn’t have a pacifier and he bit into it and left some baby teeth scars.)
I remember rocking my baby in his room, in the dark, and dreaming of his future, of his schooling, or all the things he could potentially do with his life, and I was in awe of the endless possibilities. These are the moments every parent engages in. We see the beautiful child, even if we have more than one, and we are amazed at their perfection and possibilities. They are our joy, our heart, an extension of our own selves, our little piece of immortality. They will grow and become their own person and we will bear witness.
A parent’s duty is sacred. Our vows to our children will guide and teach us. We will learn that we can’t protect them from the world, but we are willing to die trying to do so.
The thing is, each parent does this. Each parent utters their vows to their newborn, and each parent is willing to die for their child in order to protect them. As parents we have empathy for each other, we mourn each other’s losses, even when we don’t know each other, even when you’re a story being shared by a friend, on a social media board, or on the evening news. We ask the same questions like, “Who could hurt a child so willingly? How could someone be so evil? How will the parent survive?” We are driven and bound together by that unity as parents.
To be the parent of a child with a learning challenge means that we see our child devalued by the very system that is supposed to value and educate them. We see them dismissed as unworthy of their education. We see their dreams shattered as they are not taught to read, write, spell, or access the curriculum in meaningful ways.
This child we held and made vows to, is, at far too young of an age, thrown to the wolves, and they don’t understand why. They are so young they don’t have the emotional development or vocabulary to engage in the adult discussions about their worthlessness. They cannot defend themselves. They are voiceless, powerless, and they shatter. They’ve gone from their realm where they were so very loved and protected, into the place they idolized and dreamed about because school, well, that’s where the big kids grow and think of all the things they will learn. I mean, wow. But they found they weren’t like their friends. They weren’t achieving what their friends were. Maybe the teacher was nice, maybe they weren’t, but regardless they find they are not understood. With each year the gap grows, the misunderstanding turns to shame as they are taunted, bullied by both friends and teachers.
“Why can’t you try harder?!?”
“Stop being so lazy!!”
They come home to the people who love them more than their own lives and they cry, beg for help, and so we charge into the fray, asking what’s wrong and why. This is our child. I mean, you’re a parent too, right? Don’t you understand their pain? Our pain? You do, right? You held your child too and made the same vows we did, right? You swore to protect them too, right? In that sacred moment, starring at that innocent, blessed child in your arms, in that one moment in your life where the world melted away and you starred into the eyes of that beautiful creature, that one perfect moment, you made the same vows, so you get my fear and frustration, right?
No? Really? You say you do but your actions say otherwise. Why is that? We are adults and we know words are meaningless, actions are where the value lies. Why is my child struggling to read make him less than worthy of the same education as his peers?
Oh, it’s too hard? Really? But look at all these examples…. Oh, those aren’t relevant? Why? My child will just do better if he tries harder? If I read to him more? How is reading instruction achieved through my reading to him? The philosophy changed? Really. You’re saying the philosophy improved? Some “great thought leaders” got together and decided we needed to teach differently? Why would they do that? Who declared them “great thought leaders?” Last I checked we were all literate, critical thinkers who achieved our dreams, so what was so wrong with how we were taught? It was boring? Really? I don’t recall being bored. It didn’t engender a love of reading? I’m an avid reader and so are all the friends I grew up with, so is my whole family. I really don’t understand. How much did I read to them growing up? Oh, so it’s my fault? YES?!? You seriously just said it’s MY FAULT?!? Isn’t it the role of school to teach a child to read? No? Then what is the role of school?
And so we fight. Each of us as parents fight for that child we know is worthy. We vowed we would and so we do. We must. We learn, we throw ourselves into the fray, we fearlessly charge forth. We find the others like us, who have children like ours, we make connections, we seek alignment, we work together for change.
The ones we swore we would protect, that’s what draws each of us together. These children are the ties that bind, inspire, and will create an army of parents who create real change. In that perfect moment where we swore we would do all we could for them, some of us swore to more than we realized yet we willingly accept the responsibility, not knowing what the future would and still will hold, so here we stand. The one I made those sacred vows to drives me to change the world. What does your precious one drive you to do?