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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jill, continued...

As soon as I walked into the classroom, my heart sank. The kids desks were all together in rows in the middle of the room, but Teale's was off to the right alone. It was pushed against the wall on the right and both adults were blocking Teale on her left from the rest of the classroom. My eyes welled up, they had my daughter segregated from her peers. Did they really think this was ok? There were four adults in this room on a regular bases and Teale had many therapists who came in to work with her. How could something so blatantly wrong slip through the cracks with so many adults who were supposed to be looking out for my daughter? I waffled between exploding and crying, but forced myself to stay strong. As soon as her one on one aid and special education teacher were out of my way, I had Teale stand up and shoved her desk to the end of the row of desks. I was not quiet about it or very subtle, I was angry and let them know my daughter was not to be separated like she was an oddity. Even as I write this, my heartbeat picks up again, as it did that day. I didn't yell or even say much, my actions were my voice and they were strong! How long had my daughter been separated like this, what did the kids, who were supposed to be learning compassion and acceptance think of this? How could this have happened, were all the adults working with Teale really that dumb and thoughtless? This set the tone for me and Teale, I'm sure, felt my anger. I was hot and would be out for blood as soon as my volunteering was over. For now though, I was trying to hold it all together for Teale's sake. The tie dying of classroom team shirts was about to start, which seemed ironic to me, as the point was to build camaraderie among the classroom. The shirts would be worn on certain days as a symbol of unity. I was asked to go outside with the first group of kids and to my surprise, that did not include Teale. I knew this was a bad move on their part. My leaving would upset Teale, but I struggled with not wanting to ask for special treatment for my special daughter, so I went, hoping they would be able to keep her together. Soon after I was outside, someone came for me, Teale had fallen apart, thinking I had left her. I went in and tried to calm her, but it was too late, the damage had been done and getting her back was not happening. After much trying to calm her, jumping through hoops and many accusing stares from all around me, I knew it was a lost cause. I picked up my eighty pound daughter and walked down two flights of stairs out the front door of the school, her in a rage, as I passed the parents helping the kids tie dye. Not one parent turned, all avoiding eye contact, as I struggled with a child, much too large for me to carry and her raging at me. She was angry, but by then, even she didn't know why. I was just a target as she hit me, kicked, pulled out my hair and tried to bite. I somehow got out in front of the school and then talked her into going to the van with me, all the while being stared at by many people. The tears had not come yet, I knew they would, not hers, but mine. I somehow called Mark at his job, ironically he was an one on one aid for a boy who sometimes raged also. Mark was back in college at night, as we had decided our working in home daycare together was not working for Teale anymore. We had done in home day care for about fifteen years together, really enjoying it, but the chaos was too much for Teale. We were working on our next career moves. The teacher Mark worked with had been Teale's summer teacher, so he knew her well. Mark was right in our own school district, only minutes away from Teale's school. As soon as I heard his voice I broke and he was quickly excused to come help me. I got Teale to the car before Mark got to me, she was calming at the thought of going home with me and her Daddy coming, but I was a mess. My nice little volunteering in Teale's classroom had brought up many feelings. I had realized I didn't know enough about how she was being treated. I realized I couldn't trust those I thought I could. I realized Mark and I were truly the only two people who cared and understood our daughter and her needs. It was a turning point for me and after the tears, my anger surfaced! I was grieving much, grief for Teale comes in waves, this brought out a grief that was going to change me. I had discovered that Teale's hook for her backpack and coat was also isolated away from the other kids. The teachers had their reasons for all this, but I was not going to let them off the hook easily. I was going to talk to supervisors, the principal or whoever it took until I was heard. I would consult our social worker to help me take out some of the emotion I felt, so I would not appear as the blubbering Mom. I walked a fine line in advocation for Teale, somehow strong Mom's are just thought of as bitches and I worked hard to not get that word attached to my name. That night I needed a break from the pain I was feeling. Usually, I would vote to stay home with the kids as opposed to grocery shopping, but this night I needed some time alone. I was sad, no heartbroken and full of venom, walking our grocery store alone seemed like a good escape. No one would know the pain I was in and I would just pretend to be just like any other Mom, grocery shopping. As I hit the check out a woman approached me, good lord, I knew her face, what was her name? "Jill" she said, "I heard you had a rough day." This was the Mom I thought didn't care about me at the skating party. She could have easily walked by, but she didn't, she purposely stopped and showed care. It didn't take much, I blurted out the whole story, crying along the way and looking at this woman I never thought cared about me, as she cried just as hard as me. We stood outside in the parking lot as my ice cream melted and we bonded. Jill became one of my strongest supporters and closest friends, right there in that parking lot. To this day we often have "dates" at the same grocery store, sharing food and a drink together for hours, as we laugh and cry about our lives. Jill has been there for me in more ways than I could ever name. She was the gift God gave me on that dreadful day, a gift I am often not sure I deserve but am so thankful for!

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