Exactly how much can I expect from her?

Chelsea doesn’t get A’s anymore.

She used to. She made gold honor roll for all 4 quarters of 6th grade, and for the first quarter of 7th.

She was our amazing girl in the wheelchair, always working hard, an A student who could be anything, and do anything she set her mind to.

An inspiration to everyone around her, fulfilling even the most demanding parents ambitions, hopes and dreams.

That she could achieve so much in the face of so many challenges was the icing on the cake and I started to allow myself to dream of her having a glittering future as an advocate and role model for other teenagers especially those with physical disabilities.

And then it stopped.

For most of 7th grade she didn’t even want to be in school. Hormones hit.  Cliques were formed, friendships faded away and her wheelchair always seemed to be in the way or was too difficult to accommodate and she quickly went from being accepted, to being condemned to the social Siberia. Happiness, motivation and inspiration left the building, taking grades and performance with them leaving me tearing my hair out for most of seventh grade trying to convince her that the future would be better and that it was worth investing in.

My assertions that school and education were her golden tickets to a life of happiness and opportunity and repeated assurances that things would be much better in high school, were tolerated but not believed, and her attendance at school became nothing more than a calculated strategy to avoid the endless conflict and a negotiation tool to get me off her back.

So this year the 8th grade is going much better. The exciting Make a Wish activities kick started the year and her paintings and plans for a fundraising exhibition have ensured that her interest and involvement in school has returned with a bang.

Just not the grades.

But she’s happy.

And by all accounts so should I be. And I am, of course I am.

So what if she has gone from straight As in accelerated math to failing and being asked to repeat pre algebra. If anything less than an A is an Asian F then I must be well on my way to a Tiger Mom crisis of epic proportions.

And then I am reminded of the 67 days she refused to go to school last year and that she is now back in school and that she is happy and enjoying her classes.  And I am glad just not totally happy. I can see her trying less and less, taking the easy way out, getting a B where she used to get A’s  and as a result expectations of her are being lowered.

It’s hard to get any child to do something they don’t want to do. With a child of disability whose every day requires such extraordinary commitment and effort and whose future is unknown, it is seemingly impossible.

At times it seems “cruel and unusual punishment” for me to expect more of her, for her to focus on what the long-term benefit of all this effort will be when neither of us can see what or if that future might be. But I know she will be better prepared if she is educated and have more opportunities if she is well-educated.

So I’ve explained and I’ve tried to inspire her. I’ve pushed and I’ve negotiated and I’ve grounded and I’ve shouted. I’ve used the carrot of rewards and treats, and the stick of losing the things she values. I’ve begged and I’ve cried and I’ve screamed (a lot) and I’ve given up (a lot).

and no doubt tomorrow I will do it all again.

She’s worth it.

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About Sandra F

Sandra Fairclough has more than 20 years international experience as a senior executive & vice president of a major Fortune 100 media company. She is a working mother who balances her life as a management consultant, speaker and coach with her other roles as a wife and mother to 3 amazing and extraordinary children, one of whom Chelsea is a C1/C2 tracheostomy ventilated quadriplegic.
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5 Responses to Exactly how much can I expect from her?

  1. sjmcclelland says:

    My son is 10 and while hiis challenges are different from your daughter’s, I recognized a lot of myself in your post. We desparately want our kids to succeed. It is hard when they don’t “meet their potential.” Even harder when they don’t even seem willing to try. I think all we can do is create the conditions for their success. Sounds to me like you do that every day.

    Mistheword12.wordpress.com

    • Sandra F says:

      Thank you – creating the conditions and opportunities for success and minimizing the risk factors is a daily battle that begins with her health and includes strengthening her mind to ensure she has everything she needs. All the best to you and your son X

  2. ThuyLinh Le ( daughter of Lan) says:

    My mother told me that she sometimes also feels the same way from time to time. But I think that this a natural issue that every child goes through in their childhood, but have the ability to realize that the faster they start grasping all of their oppurtunities and the faster they do, the easier life will be in the future.

    • Sandra F says:

      Hey ThuyLin – Gong Xi Fa Cai (not sure how they say it in Vietnam) you know your mom will always want the very best for you and that she knows that you have so much to contribute to our world. The role of all us moms is to believe when you doubt, push when you are tired, cheer when you win (and when you don’t) and to help equip you for every eventuality. Your gift to us is to let us do it. We miss you . Take care.

  3. I remember middle school as a mix of good and bad. As a young person with a disability (Polio) I was both supported and marginalized. Often, I just felt hopeless and crazy. I think middle school is challenging for young women, and for kids with disabilities, and their parents. Sounds to me you are doing a great job. I work as a mental health clinician and college educator, and have learned the power of reminding young people there is a life post middle school. (That may be difficult for them to believe.)

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