When you become a mom, there are a lot of firsts. I don’t just mean the first diaper change or the first steps. I’m talking about the firsts that completely blindside you, the things you swore you would never do when your childless self secretly judged your friends with kids: the first time you used a baby wipe to take your makeup off because you’re too tired for your skin care regimen, the first time breakfast consisted of carrying the box of Fruit Loops to the car with you and letting your kids stick their hands in on the way to school, the first time you yelled from the bathroom, “NO, you can’t ride the dog! What would possess you to think that’s a good idea?”
When you have a child with special needs, there are other firsts. Some of them are just as funny in hindsight, like the first time your name gets put on a watch list after you threaten a surly insurance agent, and others are a little wistful, like the first time you cry in the pantry because some little hurt hits you out of nowhere.
I had a first today.
My daughter is 15, and severely autistic. She goes to a small rural high school, and actually has a pretty decent school — no scratch that — I have to admit that my daughter has a pretty sweet deal. Her teachers are really great, she has a para-pro with her all day, and she’s even involved in some school activities, as much as she can be. Honestly, she really seems happy there.
But today I had to write a letter to the administration, giving them permission to hurt her.
You see, she goes to school in a country where sensible gun laws don’t exist. And with all the recent attention on school shootings and access to guns and politicians who’ve sold their souls to the NRA, it hit me one morning: if there’s a shooter at her school, what will they do with her?
Obviously, every kid in that building deserves safety and an environment free from fear. I mean, literally. What will they literally do to keep her quiet and calm while a deranged individual stalks his prey, armed with enough firepower to take down an entire school?
So I spoke to the teacher. And to the assistant principal. And even the principal himself. They all said the same thing: “We would do everything in our power…”
But here’s the problem. Actually restraining my daughter, keeping her quiet, keeping her from stimming and running back and forth, there is no power that can do that. Trust me, I’ve been her mom for fifteen years. I know.
So my first today was to write a letter to the school, telling them to physically restrain her if it was necessary. I literally put the words on paper, giving them permission to pin her down, cover her mouth, frighten her with words that I strung together so they would make the most horrible impact in her brain. I literally wrote, “You have my permission, even if it means hurting her. I understand that restraining her could result in bruises or other injuries, and I agree not to hold the school responsible.”
I put it in writing for the first time in my entire life, granting someone permission to hurt my baby, begging them to hurt her if it would keep her from being ripped in half by high-velocity ammo, all because we won’t put a stop to an epidemic of corruption, selfishness, and greed.
Hurt my child, so someone else doesn’t do it. I have to say, that certainly is a first.