He’s sick, I’m sick, and we’re both miserable. Howdy everyone. Welcome to day 6 of the #UltimateBlogChallenge. I am writing to you from the comfort of my bed, where I’ve been pretty much all day. I’ve been blessed, (AKA cursed), with the continuation of that same infection I mentioned in last night’s post, but it seems to have moved to my ears, which for me, is not fun.
Aside from that, Dodson, who had been having some poop problems for the past few days, had seemed to recover, deciding that being sick with me was better than being healthy. Yep, he’s sick again. So not only are we sick together, we both have medical stuff going on tomorrow to hopefully get ourselves sorted. In the meantime, he, ever the happy pup, is happy to inform you that he has a Nyla bone, whereas I, his human, have discovered my dislike for the ending of the movie Whiplash.
One of my biggest supports during this time has been my mom. I know I talk about her often, but sometimes having a stellar mom requires you to brag. She went to Petco to grab Dodson’s special food; she went to the pharmacy to get my meds a few weeks back… she’s been the ultimate multitasker that I am forever grateful for. She tries to defy the odds in the most sasstastic ways possible: with a spitfire attitude, a love for coffee, and a hard worker’s mindset.
Growing up, it’s sad to say that my mom and I fought, a lot. She was extremely overprotective, something I didn’t understand, sort of in-your-face about accessibility and advocacy, but most of all… she was raised in Mexico during a time where your children obeyed you 100 percent of the time, no questions asked. If you know me or my siblings, you know we asked a LOT of questions. My mom could be scary when her temper flared, but I was also an anxious shy kid who didn’t know any better. Still, she was my greatest support and I clung to her for dear life. Unless of course, I was off camping, rafting, or horseback riding.
My mom was overprotective in the sense that she had no idea what she was going to do with a blind child. She wanted to help me, but for the first few years of my life, a lot of it was guesswork. No one told her of the available resources to her. Hell, when she asked the government for assistance or resources, they told her no because of my dad’s earnings as a nurse. But of course, the government couldn’t point a worried parent to any available resources, riiight? It was only when I went to pre-K that she learned about IEPs, advocacy, tools to help me learn. With this info, my mom and the district of Los Angeles Unified became fast friends… or not.
My mom is an amazing advocate. One who doesn’t give one single damn if you disagree or don’t think her daughter needs this accommodation, you are going to give it to her and do, your, damn, job. She enforced that she didn’t care if the other kids didn’t need an in-class aide, she wouldn’t be leaving until I got one. Spoiler, I did.
A very vivid memory that I have that I still remember is my first IEP. I wasn’t required to be in the room while all the adults were making decisions on my educational goals going forward, but she had entrusted the teachers to watch me during recess. (Oh yeah man, she went to school every day with me for the first few years and still took care of my brothers. She’s that awesome.) When recess ended, all the kids filed back inside and my little four-year-old self, not knowing that the teacher had come and gone, wondered where everyone had gone off to. I remember wandering off the school property, only to come back and try to find the entrance. I had no mobility training, so I was relying on my wit and my poor vision at the time to figure out where I was.
When I eventually made it inside, I couldn’t figure out where in the heck the classroom was. It’s worth noting that the people in charge of the class didn’t notice the blind four-year-old missing, but hey who needs details, right? I wandered down the halls of that building, looking for any possible sign of where my mom could be. I was scared, lost, and no amount of times I called out did anyone answer. Plenty of adults saw me pass by, but no one bothered to stop the crying little kid to ask if they were lost or confused. The education system in the early 2000s was simply stellar, I tell you.
Eventually, I pressed my face up against the window of the door, sobbing because at this point, I had no idea where I was. I could see through the window that there were people in there, but I just wanted them to notice me and tell me where my mom was. It was by some miracle that my IEP meeting was happening in that room. (You go, four year old Nat), and my mom, having heard my crying, immediately flew out of the room and brought me in, hugging and positively raging at the sheer incompetence that occurred to allow her blind daughter to get lost. The adults at the table, no doubt furious at this woman for daring to say their administration was lacking, told her I didn’t need to be present and she let them know, under no circumstances, were they allowed to take me back with the other kids until this meeting was over. All I wanted was some one to tell me where I was, and they had ignored me. I sat in her lap and quietly stared at all the adults and even then, I knew, they had no clue who they were dealing with.
It was with this mentality that my mom followed me from school to school with. Where we lacked in communicating why we were upset with each other or why I did something the way I did, she made up in advocating for me. Without her, I wouldn’t have learned Braille, orientation and mobility, or even how to tie my shoes without her insistence. The school system is happy to let kids like me slip through the cracks because we require so much extra attention, but we deserve an equal education. And my mom, who came from a place where equality for people with disabilities isn’t common, did all that, for me.
The great thing about my mom is that she set aside her insecurities and overprotectiveness to allow me to take trips with Braille Institute of America and Junior Blind of America, (now known as Wayfinder Family Services.) She knew that I had to have these experiences, so she, under all motherly worries and pretenses, allowed me to go white water rafting, fishing, horseback riding, and snow and water skiing, just to name a few. With these two organizations, I found my love for nature and adventure, as well as tasting hints of freedom that, under other circumstances, I would never have. I camped for several weeks at a time during the summer, I stayed on a ranch for one weekend, I learned that rock climbing and I weren’t meant to be. But I wouldn’t have learned any of these things if my mom hadn’t been the one to push me to try it.
I write this all to say… that my mom is awesome. She’s funny, sassy, and can be overbearing, but she’s also loving, fierce, and strongly independent. I love her entirely. She taught me how to advocate for myself, how to push myself to be better, and through our little spats, she helped me discover who I am as a person. Don’t let kids with disabilities slip through the cracks just because a school district thinks it’s easier. Work with parents, give them resources, help them be a support system to their kids. School is not only there to teach your kid about geography and science, they exist to be a support for all the kids there. Just because your child might be blind or hard of hearing or otherwise disabled, doesn’t mean they don’t have a future. These kids deserve a fighting chance to succeed. Share resources, hold meetings, understand and validate fears and worries, but ultimately come out of those meetings with a game plan to help these children reach the potential they hold. Now is not forever and never is a load of crap.