One toe in Normal

We’ve seesawed back and forth (or is it up and down?) over educational decisions for the kids. I can’t post a school-related picture anywhere without someone asking “wait, I thought you were homeschooling?” or “doesn’t she go to school with her brother?” I have a hard time choosing what to eat at a restaurant we’ve been to ten thousand times so ask me to choose the best path for my children’s entire educational future and I will go spiraling into a debate which ends with deep thoughts over baked potatoes or rice.

At some point I do decide on a side dish and we before or after that we thought it best to send Parker to school, keep Ashlyn in her post-high program and homeschool McKenna and Sawyer because that’s what they want and that’s what we want and that’s what’s working-ish for our family.

It’s strange to have a child in general ed. Years ago I was completely overwhelmed by the flip side. Special education terms and ten thousand meetings and requests for accommodations and modifications left me wishing all I had to do was fumble through a dinner menu. Now I drop Parker off at school and I pick him up and when McKenna’s anxiety isn’t through the roof and Ashlyn doesn’t need me for some something that she usually needs me for during the day, I help in his classroom. When I volunteer I’m always surprised by the normalcy. This is what you do? You just go here and then here and you don’t leave the room for half the day and you don’t need headphones to block the noise of this gym? How about a special diet? Dairy-free cupcake anyone?

For a minute I felt calmed by having one foot in “normal.” Watch out world, we might even play an instrument or participate in an after-school activity. A long string of disastrous drops offs and pick ups and a botched volunteer day put me back on my usual planet. Can we get a special pass for a general ed child with special needs siblings? Maybe an “I’m late because my sister’s anxiety spiraled out-of-control at 7:45″ or how about a “let me out of school early because that’s my mom out there trying to carry my sister who cries a lot but until we see her specialist again we don’t know why?” We’ll have one of each, or ten.

I’m a general ed impostor. It took having one child seated at desk 23 for me to understand this completely. Our life is so firmly planted in exceptions and special arrangements that normalcy is disorienting. I’ll make play dough for the class and turn in an age-appropriate book order and wear yoga pants with the best of them but once we’re home and Ashlyn has made her way in from the bus, I shut the door with an exhale of relief.

I’m proud of my little kindergartener and happy to have a glimpse of the general ed life but this peek at “normal” has reminded me of it’s overrated status. I like our quirky clan and almost 50% of the sounds that come with their return to each other every day. Where labels are shrugged off with backpacks and my biggest decision is fettuccine or angel hair.

one foot in normal



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  1. says

    I love this post. We’ve been operating under “normal” status in the public schools for a few years now, but that little pot that was on the back burner is now bubbling over. Our “normal” status is close to being revoked. Sometimes I get nervous about that, but this post reminds me that normal is overrated. And those quirky things make our kids the special little people that they are.

    Thank you for posting this.

  2. says

    I taught in a classroom with regular ed and special ed students together- all the kids were MY kids, they were also all the special ed teacher’s kids. Our school did full inclusion and there were no pull outs so it was everything, everywhere, all the time and the most beautiful thing was how all the kids got it (the most important part-acceptance) and it was their “normal.” I appreciate how you are differentiating schooling for your children based on their needs.
    Jean recently posted..Gingerbread Men at Halloween DIY WTF

    • says

      I think that is my favorite thing about my own kids too, that they just don’t see the differences in other people because they are so used to being around all kinds of kids. My favorite part of inclusion, by far, is exactly what happened in your classroom.

  3. says

    Sometimes you need a glimpse of the other side to understand it’s really not as great as it looks. And the answer is fettuccine IMO. =)

  4. says

    You know what? Every time I read something of yours you help me feel completely normal. Seriously. I am the same way with school. This school, that school. Home school, private school. This one in home school. Send these others out into the world. Every day I think something either works, YES. Or something could be better and should we make a change, CRAP. Here’s to finding our way day by day. xo.
    sarah reinhart recently posted..big announcement about our newest little

  5. says

    I feel pulled in two different worlds as well.

    There is B’s world of the IEPs, behavioral charts, meltdowns, and whatnot. By now I’m more accustomed for advocating and using my acronyms in conversations.

    Then there is Mayita’s world, which is full of typical girl wonderment. Full of babies, princesses, and Minnie Mouse. When I participate in her preschool things, I’m shocked at the normalcy of it. I still feel that at any moment the “typical” event will go off the rails, but it never does.

    Together, they are one dynamo team. And I’ll tell ya, it’s never dull in our household!
    Diane recently posted..My Dad’s Cancer Update.

  6. says

    I am right there with you, sort of. I have one in regular ed but with modifications for his dyslexia, one in special ed for his ADHD, but it’s in our district and it’s really just a class for “glitchy” kids. And then I have my Lizzy who is in a school for children with a broad array of special needs. I have to navigate the special ed/regular ed world on a daily basis. I have grown to like it. I think my time in one area helps me with the other. But I would be lying if I didn’t say some days it’s really exhausting!! Thanks for a great piece!
    Kathy Radigan recently’s Beginning to Sound a lot like Christmas

  7. says

    Wow, this was fabulous. It really resonated with me. My older daughter has a language-based learning disability, plus other add-ons. My middle daughter is awaiting an ADHD dx and is seriously introverted/easily overstimulated/anxious. My youngest is very happy in general ed.

    It is so, so weird to go to parent/teacher conferences and not have to advocate. (Of course, now we find out youngest is gifted, so I do have to advocate a bit, but it’s not the same) After a decade of scripting and rehearsing, general ed is unsettling.

    Also, I’m grateful you’re sharing your schooling experiences. Next year I will have a junior at the public high school and a freshman either at a private school or homeschooling through a virtual classroom. People don’t seem to understand the idea that you do what is best for each child. Best wishes for an easy-as-possible school year.
    Rachel recently posted..Only 3 more days until Halloween!

  8. says

    I love this! I can relate to so much of what you are saying. While normal isn’t all its cracked up to be, having special needs kiddos does have a few extra challenges. But it also has its joys. Yes, my son doesn’t know the months of the year. BUT he can assemble a puzzle with a speed and precision that baffles the normal peoples. :-) And every achievement is the most amazing thing. We aren’t normal. But I don’t want to be normal. I just want to be us.
    Bobbi Parish-Logie recently posted..Mental Illness IRL: Hello, Emotional Hair Trigger

    • says

      I couldn’t agree more, having special needs kids makes me appreciate the little things so much more. And I don’t think I would be so in awe of general ed if I had been there before :).

  9. says

    I rode in a car with several mothers to the pumpkin patch last week, and it felt wrong. Listening to them talk about normal things. After readings this, I realized I felt like an imposter. They hadn’t taken their kids to preview the bus, so they wouldn’t freak out on the day of the trip. And, their kids wouldn’t need the rest of the afternoon to recover from the overstimulation. Even though I have three kids in general ed, I still feel like I don’t belong there. But, I felt very connected to this post. Thank you.
    Sybil recently posted..Brighten Your Day

    • says

      I’m so glad you could relate, as I wrote it I wondered if I would be the only one who feels this way. It’s my first year with one in general ed and it’s been such a strange experience after so many years of only focusing on the autism side of things.