I’ve been thinking about you for a long time now, but these last few years I’ve thought about you more often. I really hope my indifference to you and your child didn’t cause you too much heartache. And if it did I hope you were quick to find forgiveness. I know what it’s like to carry pain around and I’ve only recently truly understood the importance of forgiveness. My kids helped me figure that out.
Sometimes when I need to talk to someone about what I’m going through I talk to you in my head. My family that I live with doesn’t need to hear it. They know all about it because they are living it, too. Others who I know love me can’t really understand because they aren’t living it and I really don’t want to talk about it all the time, but I do need to let it out. I imagine that you felt the same way. I wonder if you still do? I wonder how you and your grown child are doing now? It’s painful and it’s isolating when your kids are neglected by the school system. My circle has become very small. As is the case with any crisis, I am learning painful lessons about the people who I thought were my friends. It’s times like these when you learn who you can count on. It’s hard to stand up by yourself, but that’s what I do.
I’m sorry I didn’t realize how hard it was when I knew you, but I just didn’t understand. I wasn’t a mother yet and I’ve come to realize that people without kids like ours have no way of truly understanding. Sometimes they even blame us. I don’t understand why life is that way, but it is. It’s always up to us to stand up for ourselves. Our kids deserve the highest respect and so do we.
Twenty years ago I became a lawyer because I was born to stand up for what was right and I chose civil rights work. I thought that being a lawyer was the only way to do this work. I was mistaken, but I didn’t have any experience standing up for myself because I was born into a life of privilege. Much of my time has been spent practicing in the area of special education or navigating that system myself. Your case for your child was my very first. Regrettably, I don’t actually recall anything about your case or your child. I only remember you. That’s because my focus was off. I was focused on doing my job rather than focusing on your child. That was my mistake. What I remember about you was that you were a force and I also assumed you were crazy. I’m sorry for that. After I had my own kids I realized that you weren’t crazy and that you were just a mom like me. I’ve carried that with me every day and I want you to know that I bring it up every time I teach others about special education law.
I know now firsthand what the education system can do to mothers like us. I have been told sometimes that I am too emotional. That’s just another word for crazy mother and it is offensive. I have three children who are all incredible human beings. They were all on track educationally until all of a sudden they weren’t. My children have all been harmed by the inequity and the dysfunction of our education system. I’ve concluded that the system is simply not focused on children at all. All three of my kids are identified in the educational world as twice exceptional. That means that they are highly gifted and that they also have disabilities. Trying to get my kids educated in our public school system has taken over every part of my life. I am a frequent flyer now. That’s what we lawyers in the school system call parents like us who continue to stand up for our kids.
What I want you to know is that I am grateful for you. We parents all stand on the shoulders of giants and you had giant shoulders. You are a leader in every sense of the word. Thank you for leading the way with your determination and your passion. I am sure you never gave up. It made me a better lawyer, a better advocate, and most importantly a better mother. I am proud of myself in all of those aspects of my life.
My best to you always,