I’m still struggling with depression and despair, as are so many others right now. But so far, I keep rising back up. I’ll share one weird trick I use to get myself through the minutes, but there’s a story behind it, so bear with me.
When my son was in grade school, enduring many rounds of evaluations and tests to figure out exactly what was up with him and the system failing to mesh, I found it necessary to insist in writing that every report and evaluation had to include positive statements about him. If you’re a parent who has ever sat through an IEP or 504 meeting, you know what I’m talking about. It can feel as if your baby is on trial for his life with the most vicious prosecutor ever.
It’s not because the educators involved are bad people or have bad intentions (well…most of them aren’t and don’t.) The intention is good. There are problems and they have to be identified to be solved. And there are legal requirements about showing enough evidence that a student is failing to thrive in the classroom before the school can “provide accommodations.” So the teachers and staff are looking for anything they can include to help bolster the case that we should do more for this student.
But often, how it plays out is that the parent sits down and hears what sounds like a litany of crimes and deficiencies attributed to the little person they adore. The Multitiude of Ways Your Kid is Broken is not the documented list you want to take home with you. It about killed me sometimes. And I think this approach has an effect on other adults who work with the child, too. When they are only looking for problems, it limits their view and the relationship with the student can get pretty negative. Some things I saw as positive qualities ended up listed as evidence for the prosecution.
After crying in my car a couple of times, I came up with a plan. I put it in writing and I put my foot down that it had to be followed. I hope I was polite, but I was also dogged.
I made them count. Everyone who wrote a report or even said anything in a meeting about my son was required to count the number of negative observations or statements they made. Then they had to make at least the same number of positive statements about him, plus one. At least one more positive than negative. We all needed to remember this was a whole human being who was so much more than the sum of his flaws, and that he was someone worth making an effort for.
He’s graduated from high school now and I’m recalling my plus one system when it comes to dealing with today’s world. There are a lot of issues to be addressed currently, huge ones.
It’s easy to fall in to despair. One night I found myself sleepless at 3:00 thinking thoughts like “I hope the nukes fall directly on us while we’re all asleep so it’s over quickly and we don’t have to know.” Yeah. That level of despair.
What I insist on making myself do is to address whatever problems I feel I can in whatever way I feel I can. Then I make myself a list of good things about the world. At least as many good as bad, plus one. Reasons why it’s worth the effort. Things like the collected works of William Shakespeare and purple iris and a new clothes/shoe rack that has helped organize my bedroom and kittens and all of the beautiful instances where strangers help each other. Naturally, my amazing, wonderful children go into the positive column every time.