Handling Conflict with Special Education Personnel
“Other parents with autistic children manage to do this all the time, so why can’t you?”
The above statement, made by a person in charge of my daughter’s special education plan, made me so angry my hands shook. The words reached into the raw, battered, insecure place inside my mommy-of-an-autistic-child heart and ripped wide gashes. I couldn’t think in straight lines. I couldn’t answer the inquiries that the person fired at me, nor could I believe the continued comparison to how much better other parents with autistic children managed. Tears burned my eyes, and I could barely steer my car into a parking lot. I’m sure the person who said these things didn’t wake up and decide to obliterate someone’s day, and I’m certain that my inner insecurities colored my perception of that person’s actual message, but …
I’m angry — raw and angry. I want to scream at that person, and I want God to punish them (I use a general pronoun here on purpose). I want to blame that person for my hurt feelings, and I want to tell the world what a terrible human being they are. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like disappointing people. I don’t like being imperfect. And I don’t like when people use negative statements that lack compassion to deal with others.
I struggle to let go of my anger. I want to clutch it like a child with a lollipop. Even though it’s sticky and will rot my insides if I keep feeding on it, I want to keep it and want to hold onto it until I see this other person make a mistake so that I can feel superior. My angry thoughts and insecurities circle me like vultures: “How could they say that? As if I don’t already feel inadequate about my parenting on every level.” “If I were a better parent, Rachel would have made more progress.” “If I were a better parent, Rachel would have a better vocabulary.” “If I were a better mother, my other daughter wouldn’t have her issues.” If, if, if …
I resist praying about the issue because I know I will have to give it away, to give up the anger. I read in the Psalms and commiserate with David in his pain and feelings of abandonment. I tell God I know my anger is leading me to sin, but I really want Him to make this other person feel terrible about what they said. And I want Him to give them a spiritual spanking. Please.
But … a friend just spoke to me about a parenting issue she’d been having and said that she got up this morning and told God, “Hey, I’ve been trying to help you with my problem, but it’s pretty obvious you don’t need my help since everything I’m doing is accomplishing nothing. So, I’m just going to quit worrying about it and let you handle it.”
Hmm. Perhaps that was a message just for me. So, I have a choice to make: Give up my anger; go on with life. Do I forgive and allow that person to be a human being who makes mistakes, or do I let my anger poison me until it takes over my thinking and robs me of joy in other areas? When I put it that way… I guess I have some work to do.
I wrote this in the midst of a difficult time and shared my authentic feelings while they were fresh. Sometimes we have to experience pain to understand the freedom on the other side of it. Anyway, I thought this was finished, but an interesting thing happened the day after I wrote this. I released my anger. I cannot describe exactly what happened, but I took my friend’s advice to heart. Just a few minutes later, our pediatrician called to say they had a note for us to take to the school. And just after that, I received another call about getting a child advocate to help us through this. Interesting what happens when I let God take control and stop trying to carry everything by myself.
The Gift of Max
Life can change in a moment. Emily Colson, joined by her father Chuck Colson, talks about the birth of her beautiful son, Max. Reeling from a difficult divorce and fearing what might underlie Max’s difficulties, Emily persevered in seeking help for her son, who was eventually diagnosed with autism.
It’s not adversity that defines you, but how you handle it that matters. Chuck Colson and his daughter, Emily, talk about the beautiful things Max, Emily’s autistic son, has taught them about life and love.