What I Didn't Know As A Twenty Something

by Eileen Shaklee
Originally Published: 

Dear parents I worked with before I was a mother; I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that when I sat on your side of the IEP table as a job coach and a prevocational teacher I didn’t know what it really meant to have kids. Yeah, I consider my students my kids, even still, it’s not the same.

I’m sorry I didn’t realize that by the time you got to me you were already worn out from autism. My twenty something, fresh from college, ready to set the world on fire attitude either annoyed you or possibly made you laugh and gave you some hope. I’m hoping it was the latter. Now that my kid has had a few teachers that I would card if they ordered a drink, I can see why I was looked at with both doubt and sometimes frustration that I just didn’t get.

I’m sorry I came to work some days and just didn’t have it in me to give hundred percent. That I was distracted by things outside a classroom. Maybe I was annoyed by a coworker (but more likely a boss). Maybe I stayed out too late the night before and was sleepy. Maybe I was shaking off a cold or just having some job burnout and thought “OK today. I’m phoning it in.” I did a great disservice to your child. My job was people, not things. There’s no phoning it in when your job is about people.

I’m sorry that I ever rolled my eyes at my student roster that day and thought “Oh man. Them?” They had a name. They were their own personalities. They weren’t just a problem or a challenge I had that day. They deserved the same amount of respect that I wanted them to give me.

I’m sorry that I didn’t stay in touch with some of you. Boy, I could sure use your advice now.

I’m sorry if I ever said anything about being tired because autism tired is a whole other level of tired. I had no clue.

I’m sorry about every time I was excited for sudden snow days or vacations. I get why those reek havoc in your routine now.

I’m sorry if I ever gave you a look of pretentious pity. You needed empathy not my sympathy. To pity would be to imply your child was just a situation one wants to disappear or go away.

Just know that I still think about you and I think about the things I wish I had done differently.

I’m sorry.

Related post: I Thought We Had More Time

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