I am having a time-stands-still, remember-it-forever, validating parenting moment. Just now, when given the option to write or braille her homework, Madeline chose braille.
That means that right this second, I get to acknowledge that I chose right for my child. Too often parents don’t. In fact, we almost never do. We don’t know what would have happened had we chosen, taught, or encouraged differently. We just know that we’re doing the best we can, and somehow, against all odds, kids mostly turn out okay.
I fought for braille. And I’m not a born fighter. When it comes to fight or flight, I’m a flee-er.
So many special needs moms are bulldogs. They call, and fight, and advocate. They march into offices and make fusses. They say, “This is not acceptable. You must do better for my child. My child is a hero and an overcomer and he can do one hundred times more than you are presently imagining. He deserves more and better from this system.”
As much as these moms are my friends and my sisters, I often feel less-than when I’m around them. I find myself thinking, “I am not a bulldog. I am not a fighter. I don’t have what it takes.”
But I fought for braille.
I fought the system. When they said, “Maybe she would do better in a special needs classroom,” I said, “That is not even close to her least restrictive environment, so absolutely no.”
I fought the odds. When they said, “We can’t give her that many hours/that summer instruction/that specialist,” I said, “That is unacceptable. I will do it myself.”
I fought really well-meaning friends and family. They said, “You know, she can SEE the page. She doesn’t need braille. Technology! iPads! Magnifiers!” And I said, “Braille = literacy. She can choose when she’s 18. Until then, I choose.”
I took classes. We brailled grocery lists, and Christmas cards. In every school, at every meeting, at every pass I said, “More hours. More braille. Equal time, equal exposure.” I blindfolded her when she practiced. People wondered if I was forcing it.
People said, “She can read the words.” And I said, “But she won’t be able to read them in 2nd grade. And H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS if I’m going to wait until she’s 3 years behind to start teaching her the alphabet.
I fought for braille.
And tonight, when given the choice between print and braille, Madeline chose braille.
She chose it because it is easier for her to form letters with her fingers than it is for her to form them with a pen.
She chose it because she could. And she could because she learned. And she learned because I fought.
This is what she wrote:
And listen, I may have fought, but I only fought because of the amazing, passionate, dedicated educators that fought alongside of me for the good of my child. Educators that pulled me aside and said, “I can’t say this as a teacher, but as a parent…” And, “You didn’t hear this from me, but…”
If I fought, it’s because they equipped me to fight. They gave me the buzzwords, the loopholes. They gave me the courage; they EN-COURAGED, truly. They texted and called and emailed. They said, “Fight for Madeline. Keep fighting.”
Our teachers and vision teachers and braillists and specialists are our heroes, and this success is theirs, too.
I cried tonight. I cried because I got to see the fight pay off. It’s not theoretical anymore. It’s tonight, right now. My baby knows braille, and she likes it, and she chooses it, and I did a good thing.
As the great philosophers of The Fray said, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”