I remember the day I found out she was not sitting on The Story Mat.
Inhaling deeply and channeling patience, concentrating on not pounding the floor as I marched to confront an inflexible kindergarten teacher.
The “classroom rule” stated that you could only sit on The Story Mat “if you were able to put on and remove your shoes independently.” Having completed kindergarten myself at one point, I recognized the clever attempt at teaching independence, how to tie and untie, or how to just give up and wear velcro.
I did not, however, recognize the lack of understanding towards my daughter, who would never make it to The Story Mat under these pretenses.
I tried to help this teacher understand that not every child will fit into the neat little box she had created for her kindergarteners.
And I’m not sure I did it.
Because sometimes you can’t change people and their thoughts on what must be earned.
A Bachelor’s or a Master’s or a Ph.D may not come with the understanding that we could spend hours a day putting on and taking off shoes and the skill would not be acquired that year and maybe not the next or the year after that either.
Degree or not, someone who does not see the whole picture may think I am looking for special treatment or to bend the rules.
And maybe I am.
Because she deserves it.
She deserves to be treated with fairness and respect.
And if that fairness and respect involves accepting differences and changing rules then I am all for it.
Because what it took for you to learn to tie your shoes is what it took for her to learn to hold a spoon.
The effort you put into running a mile is the effort she puts into walking down a crowded high school highway.
The years of practice and games you sweat through equals the determination it takes for her to advocate for herself, remember her gym shoes each day and look at you when you are speaking.
So she has earned her stripes, her circle on the mat, her spot in a team photo and her place in the world…
a place where she continues to grow to be the most kind, accepting and forgiving person many of us could ever hope to be.
A place where she would give up every last stripe, just to be included.
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