My child is not perfect, but he’s my child and I love him. There’s no secret about that. You all know that by now. No child is perfect, really. None of us are. He has good days and bad days and truly horrible days. And yes, he quite frequently shows his butt at school, figuratively speaking (well, for the most part). But he has Autism and ADHD and has a difficult time with both impulse-control and self-regulation of emotions, not to mention his problems with sensory-integration and social skills.
But today I had an IEP meeting with a child whose parent happens to be a teacher, and she was a very well-behaved child. I commented on how mature she seemed (this was my first time meeting the student), and they all talked about how good she was. And the parent said that “she’d better be” because she’s a teacher’s child. That her son prides himself on always having green days at school. And that she could deal with it if that grades dipped down some, but there’s nothing worse than a teacher’s child with bad behavior. A cringed a little internally at the comment, smile plastered on my face. The comment wasn’t meant to hurt me.
How could she know that my son frequently had yellows and oranges and sometimes even reds? Yes, he has lots of green days, too, but it’s hard for him. He’s on medication to help control his behavior, but he metabolizes it so quickly that we are often changing things up, and medication isn’t the end-all, be-all. We have to figure out what he’ll work for and come up with behavior charts and reward systems and when those stop working, we have to come up with new things. He’s ever-evolving. Always changing. He throws shoes, bites himself, spits, screams, and sometimes takes his clothes off.
And yes, he’s a teacher’s child. Before we knew that he had special needs. When he, as far as we knew, was developing normally and listened to us still and did as he was told, I used to say the same thing. “My child better never…” I would say. Oh no. Not my child. Because I’m a teacher, and I will not have him embarrass me like that. Right?
Well, guess what? It’s not that simple, is it? My child is not misbehaving because he wasn’t taught any better or because we never disciplined him. Before he started this behavior regression around 18 months, time-outs worked and he did everything we told him to do. Things were easy (deceptively so). It stings still to hear people say words that I feel are judgmental about children in general. It stings because it’s just so damned hard some days to make myself see that I’m being too hard on him or asking him to do something that’s just not going to happen. It’s hard to see that I’ve had to change my expectations so drastically, fight so hard for us to climb such a short ladder, and then still deal with people who don’t get it.
So yes, he’s a teacher’s child. And no, he does not always behave like typically developing children do. And it hurts still to hear those words. The words that I used to say. Because I guess, in a way, I’m still mourning the loss of what I expected for my child. It’s only been two years since the diagnosis. Some days I feel like I’m okay with all of this, but other days it hits me like a ton of bricks. Today was one of those days. I guess it’s just part of the process.
Sidenote: For the record, my son’s special ed teachers always get gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week because, at least so far, they go above and beyond for him and us. We’re a lot of work. Teacher Appreciate week is THIS WEEK by the way!