public school

Spanking in Public & How to Parent Like a Total Boss

I'm pretty sure my kids' principal saw me spank my husband in the school parking lot. I know what you're thinking...
"nbd, we've all been there." Right? That IS what you were thinking wasn't it?

No? Just us with the spanking?

Alright, well... if you'd had our morning you, too, would have some celebratory victory-swatting going on in public. Because this particular spank was about 3 years in the making. 

It all started when our son (now 9 years old) was in first grade. He needed some extra support because we were seeing signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder, yet were not aware of what he was actually struggling with. Without a diagnosis, there is very little support, so we ended up pulling Harper out of school half way through first grade. We had a tutor come to our home for an hour a day just so he wouldn't fall behind, but academics were the least of our worries. We spent that time home doing a lot of - what we lovingly refer to as - baby-ducking. Baby-ducking is a part of the therapeutic approach we were taking, and it's a really fun little descriptor that essentially means that your child is following you around 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ya know, like a baby duck. I know it doesn't sound bad, but I assure you that it's pretty exhausting and much less adorable when baby duck (thinks he) hates your guts. 

By the time we enrolled him back in school for second grade we were working closely with an excellent therapist who specializes in disordered and insecure attachment. We had comprehensive testing done to ensure that Harper not only had a diagnosis, but all the tests and evaluations required to meet New York State's criteria to receive special education services. But here's the thing... we thought that was all we needed. We thought, "we don't have to be "those parents" who go in and demand all kinds of services, because our kid has a legit thing." And this "thing" is no longer an illusive, mysterious set of symptoms that make me look crazy. Finally, we had a well-documented, official DSM certified Severe Emotional Disturbance!! (You know you're in a rough patch when that last sentence is the good news.) Still, we thought we had everything we would need.

We were wrong.

Apparently, we needed to get to a point where I ALSO had a severe emotional disturbance.

Check, annnnnd check. (See post about the time I went B-A-N-A-N-A-S here.)

After the bananas, we knew that we had gotten to the point where we were willing to be "those parents" and we then requested another CSE meeting. So, on Thursday my husband, Tom, and I went in. He was a total boss. To be fair, he was the kind of boss who is so steady and relaxed, you wonder if he might be stoned... but he was a boss nonetheless. (*He was also not stoned, mom, so settle down.) He's just really calm and so nice by nature that he can't even be a boss in an unpleasant way. He (waaaaaay over-)prepared information from some intimidating group called something like The Justice League of Super Hero Lawyers for Moms About to Lose their Ever Lovin' Minds. And before the meeting, he even sent a semi-scary email, in which, he took a firm and serious tone.

It was pretty hot.

Riding Tom's over-prepared coattails, I closed in with an impassioned speech about why Harper truly does need to have an aide assigned to him - at least during unstructured times, like recess, lunch, etc. I didn't cry or start spontaneously swearing, which is how I usually imagine myself unraveling in these high-stress scenarios because I have been teetering precariously at the edge of insanity all school year. 

So here we are, at the end of third grade, and WE HAVE ARDENTLY AND SUCCESSFULLY ATTAINED AN IEP!!

Not only did we get that Individualized Education Plan in place, but we have secured a 1-to-1 aide for our guy during all unstructured times - which is when a child like ours really needs the extra support. I had been told repeatedly that getting an aide for him would be an impossibility. I mean, MULTIPLE times, I was told "It's never going to happen." 

So, forgive me if I walked out of that building with so much relief and empowerment that I spanked my husband while aggressively sports-yelling at the side of his face "We did it son!"

How was I to know that the school psychologist and principal would be right behind us? After our performance, one could only have assumed that all other meeting participants would still be in the conference room, doing slo-mo replays of our boss-like successes in parental advocacy. How was I to know that they would just leave the meeting after it was done? When such dope parenting had just taken place before their very impressed eyes, how could I conceive that they would have the wherewithal to move on to the parking lot?

Ah well, at least they didn't see all the chest-bumping and athletic growling that I forced Tom to participate in when we got home.

Actual photograph of us on Thursday morning...

And all Thursday night...

And well into Friday...

Wave after wave of glorious relief on Saturday...

Then Easter Sunday we took a break from all the fanfare, to celebrate a much greater victory... Jesus overcoming death and evil.

But this morning, I'm not gonna lie. The sense of triumph came back full force. 

Next year, this child of ours will go on to a bigger school, with more transitions, more kids, more freedom, less structure. This is good for a lot of kids, most kids in fact. For my child, however, this transition was like a train heading straight for us. We kept seeing it approach, the speed never changing and all we can do as parents is anticipate the damage that will be done on impact. So, we prayed and prayed and prayed. And Tom prepared and prepared and prepared. And I went just a titch ballistic. And we became "those parents" because the alternative was simply too dangerous for our kid. 

So... spanks all around. Because I know that this taste of relief is temporary. This rare and glorious optimism that maybe next year will be a little better and little easier than the last, is fleeting. We needed that victory spank. We needed a triumph. Because even though we really do believe in a God whose only son was sent to earth to triumph, once and for all, over death and evil... we know that life on this side of heaven, is still wrought with train after train, pain after pain. And though we have fought long and hard for our bizarre little children to feel a little safer, a little better, on the tracks... life always has another train ready to barrel over us. It sounds a little doomsday, I know, but pain and suffering are just a reality in the life of a human and I accept that a new obstacle, a new train, will be set in our son's path. But, we've worked really hard to learn our stuff, to drop the right names, to know his rights, so until we stare down that next train... we get to bask in the sweet relief of a temporary win on earth, and an eternal win beyond these earthly tracks.

And when you are in that place - a place of hope and favor and full, unrestrained joy... a place of amazement at God's faithfulness in this victory and the victory on the cross - you really must spank someone in the parking lot. Because these moments are all we have to sustain and energize us as we over-prepare for the next fight, like a total and complete boss. 


when you give a wolf your first-born... the others will surely follow

so i sent three quarters of my children out into the world today.  (insert dry heave.)

i remember planning my back-to school outfit when i was little.  my favorite year was fifth grade, when i rocked black jeans and a teal short-sleeved shirt with matching teal earrings.  my mom always said the jeans were "brushed denim" which in my mind was as good as cashmere.  even if they were "brushed," they couldn't have been that classy because i definitely wore them with all-black reebok hightops.  which was great, because i definitely planned on dunking on all my friends that year.

all that to say, my kids were that excited last night.  i know they slept fitfully, if at all.  especially harper, since it was his first day of school ever.  he was 100% certain that he was going to have the best time of his life. when i picked him up he said "i tried to remember everything you told me, but i forgot to be a good friend to everybody."

oh boy.  that is just what a mother wants to hear on day one.  upon further clarification, i was less concerned because what happened was that he forgot to introduce himself to the kid who couldn't stop sobbing for his mother.  we had encouraged him to say kids that seemed shy or nervous, "hi my name is harper, what is your name?"  and follow up with "do you want to play?"  but, due to all the hysterics, harper forgot to network with that particular child.  sooo... he felt he was not a good friend to everybody, technically.

still, i think he did have a great time.  i am basing this on our trip to the drug store after school, where he literally told every single passerby that he was in preschool.  you would be shocked how many people seemed genuinely proud of this little stranger-boy with zero social boundaries.  i was quite proud myself.

i can't wait for annalee and marlie to get home to see if their first day went as well as harper's.  I pulled each of them aside this morning to remind them of who they are, and how great they will do, and what we expect from them at school.  then i let them each borrow a pair of my earrings.  it was adorable how special this seemed to make them feel.  they acted like this was a major privilege.  i mean, they were my regular cheap-o earrings... it's not like they were made of brushed denim!  still, it seemed to give them the little boost every gal needs before walking in to school on the first day.

i always go back and forth about school.  do i send them to public school, or to "the wolves" as my father-in-law calls it?  do i homeschool, and risk having them lose out on so many of the great experiences i had when i was in school?  do i send them to private school and file for bankruptcy?  i think most parents lament over these same questions... so, i don't claim to be going through something unique.  and i certainly don't claim to have any answers.  i know enough about life to admit that i know so little... that i cannot possibly pretend to know what is going to be the best decision for my own kids, let alone anybody else's.  i think we all have to work out all parenting decisions, with the insights, tools and convictions God has uniquely given us.  and that includes schooling decisions.  it is senseless to think that there is one educational model or scenario that suits all children.  (at least in my opinion it is.)

so, we have resolved to make a new decision, for each kid, for each year.  and as hard as it is to send them out into the world... this year happens to be that the 3 older kids are all in public school.  and i feel really good about that decision, for this year.  london, on the other hand, is going to a local community college this fall.  which is a little unsettling, so we will re-evaluate at the semester.