In episode 11 Jeannie Harris makes several profound quotes. I love these two.
“He just lives his life in the moment and that was contagious. The people who needed to be in his life, and help him, were drawn to him. It was out of our hands.”
“At every single stage there’s some letting go, and there’s some pain that goes with it. And you can’t always protect your kids. But I found out you don’t always need to, because there are other people who do.”
These quotes are related to certain stories in Tim’s journey, but they have a wider meaning to every parent. Parents of ANY child, with or without a disability, encounter the need to let go. The difference with parents of children who have significant disabilities is, in my humble opinion, trust. And fear.
Most of us have had trust broken either with the medical profession, our faith communities, our schools, or neighbors and communities. It makes us more protective. It definitely adds fear. It leads many to unintentional segregation. I know many families who started out fully including their children in school, only to stop including them when a significant trust issue appeared.
The key seems to be the ability to navigate the incident, or incidents to the point where parents, and the student, can compartmentalize it.
Go back to the podcast and listen to the way Jeannie talks about Tim being bullied. She says this, “Did he get bullied? Yeah. Did he get teased? Yeah. But he never told us.” She says this with pure sadness, and no bitterness. She, and Tim, know these life stories helped build up his strength. To the point that he incorporates the stories in his very popular speeches to this day. The profound point Jeannie makes is that Tim’s community, his classmates, helped protect him when needed. Natural inclusion and acceptance led to that point. Tim benefited. And the young people who stood up for him are now wonderful citizens, the kind this world desperately needs.
The fact that Jeannie and Tim recognize this, in my humble opinion, is just one of many reasons Tim is the famous and popular public speaker, and business owner he is today.
Back in third grade a beautiful, large, brand new Pre-K – 8 school opened in our neighborhood. We were thrilled. We walked to school. The third day the principal made it clear that parents had to leave their children at the door—there would be no walking in with them. I was stunned, and scared. The school was bigger than a Super WalMart. My daughter’s class was on the other side of the school. I felt sure my very tiny and young daughter, who has Down syndrome, would get lost.
I remember the principal telling me, and several other parents, that the kids would learn the layout of the new school much faster than he and the staff would. He assured us our kids would be fine. We trusted him and left.
He was right. I don’t think one student got lost that first week. I cannot say the same for myself, or the staff.
The fact that I had had several positive interactions with this principal by the time this happened led to the trust. This was the same man who had already said, “No significant learning happens without significant relationships.”
All throughout our children’s journeys parents have to let go. We have to let them dress themselves, wake themselves up , take care of their own schedules, make their own lunches, discover their own interests, find their careers, and let them go enough that they can thrive in those careers. Baby steps lead from letting your child go into the door of the huge new school to one day finding their own transportation to a career they love.
Parents of students without disabilities have trouble with this too. I know very professional people who still make their child’s schedule, call them to wake them up, talk to them umpteen times a day, and do far too much for their children when they are in college and beyond. That is why most, if not all, colleges have parents attend ‘helicopter parenting’ workshops the summer before their child starts college.
When our kids have significant disabilities, we naturally want to ‘helicopter’ around them longer. Jeannie reminds us, in her gentle way…we have to let go.
I dream of and advocate for a world where the majority of students with all kinds of disabilities are welcomed, included, and truly educated in all schools. As that organically happens, it will be easier for parents to trust and let go of fear, and their children.
Thank you for caring.
From my heart,
Thank you to Jeannie Harris for her time, wisdom, honesty and stories. She is a pioneer and a wonderful mother. Thank you also to Tim Harris for being so fabulous, approving each episode, and for allowing us to have this discussion.
If you have not heard episodes 1-11, you can go to the link at the bottom of this page and it will lead you to the episodes. Episodes 1-4 are with Steve and Laura Riggio, the parents of writer / self-advocate Melissa Riggio. Episodes 5-8 are with Sandra McElwee, the mother of actor / business owner Sean McElwee. Episodes 9-11 are the first of a five – part series with Jeannie Harris.
You can access all podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs, and self-advocate pages at www.bornfabulouspodcast.com. The podcast is also on iTunes, Alexa, or any podcast directory. I invite you to subscribe on those podcast directories. Born Fabulous also has Facebook, Instagram, Twitter , and Pinterest pages as well as a YouTube Channel. Next week Jeannie Harris continues with part 4.
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