posted Thursday November 21st, 2013
This morning I spoke on the phone with yet another special education professional about another school we might send Sophie to.
This woman gave her school the pretty hard sell — unusual since so many others have dissuaded me from considering theirs, including a special teacher at the school Annabelle attends. But I wasn’t so surprised; the school principal had already sent me a really awesome note last week which said, in part:
We, of course, think every student is special, and we want to give each student the support they need. Some need more than others, such is life. Sophie would fit right in, though you and she definitely should come and see if it seems like a good fit for you and her. Middle school is such an important time for kids, and it can be even harder for mom. Most of our families are very involved, as best as their schedules and life circumstances allow. That is a great thing. I have a feeling you would do the same. Another reason why it would seem to be a good fit.
Goosebumps, right? I wrote back and told him I was going to frame his email. We scheduled a tour for next week. “Tell Sophie we said hello,” he wrote as we signed off.
Of course I should have known it wouldn’t be that simple. First, this is a charter school, with no guarantee of winning the lottery (though the special ed director reminded me several times that no one will know of Sophie’s situation during the lottery process, so many times I had to tell her to stop). But more troubling was the fact that the deeper we got into the conversation, the more worried I got that even if Sophie does get in, this really won’t be the right fit.
This woman (I was directed to her when I started asking detailed questions about special ed) was entirely polite and appropriate, but reminded me in so many words that as kids with Down syndrome get older, they stop developing. They fall farther behind. This is a rigorous school academically; it might be too much for Sophie.
And then in the next breath she assured me that all laws would be followed and Sophie would get whatever assistance she needed to thrive like all the other kids — and that in fact, there are kids at this school who may have even more involved needs than Sophie.
I was beginning to feel like I was watching a tennis match, so I lobbed one at her.
She was in the middle of telling me that she’d definitely send her kids to this school if they were still young enough, that she was anti charter for her entire career til coming to this school (and so on) when I interrupted:
“So what would you do if Sophie was your kid?”
There was a long pause, followed by some nervous laughter. “Now that’s a great question!” she said, hesitating then careful to let me know she was now speaking as “a friend” rather than a professional.
She’s not so sure, she said. I felt my throat close up. She asked why I don’t want to send Sophie to our home school. I explained that our home school is now an international baccalaureate program Sophie can’t attend — and the new feeder school is a classic junior high, with all that comes along that. “I can’t send her someplace big, where she might get bullied,” I said, voice rising, feeling awkward for getting upset in front of someone I’ve never even met.
“Yeah,” she said gently.
The woman gave me a long speech about how if she were me she’d look at all the available schools, tour them, think about them. “And then I’d pray,” she said.
That’s when I knew I had to hang up or risk bursting into tears. How can I tell this stranger that that’s a nice idea but I stopped believing in God when I was in the first grade and we were doing a Simchat Torah craft at temple religious school and I looked around the room and suddenly thought, “Hey, wait a second, we’re doing all this because of this God character? Well, that’s ridiculous.”
How could I tell her that I wish desperately that I believed in something I could pray to — but I have to make do with good luck charms, knocking on wood, and taking care not to make big decisions while Mercury is in retrograde?
It was a moot point, because by then I couldn’t speak at all. She jumped in and offered to be there when Sophie and I tour the school next week. She promised to help me find Sophie the right school, whether or not it’s hers.
So maybe I don’t have anyone to pray to. But I might have found a guardian angel.