In the history books the revolutions seem so organized. It seems like every leader has their assignment which they execute flawlessly without complication and the gears turn perfectly and the world is changed forever.
While I hunt for the car keys.
When I read history, I think, that person accomplished that because they were predestined! They were superiorly qualified! Of course that person could do that. (I have related feelings about the auction moms at school.) Surely if I were able to change society, wouldn’t I have received my official badge in the mail by now?
I watched a miniseries about John Adams. There’s a scene from before he’s president, pretty much still a lawyer guy, when one night he hears a commotion. He assumes it’s a fire and runs outside to pump water into buckets. Then he slowly realizes it’s not a housefire. It’s gunshots, it’s a crowd, it soldiers firing into the crowd. The textbooks would later neatly summarize this as the Boston Massacre of 1770. But at the time, one of our famed revolutionaries stood in the street, lost and bewildered, trying to figure out his next move.
History can be a luxury. You don’t have to wonder what’s going to happen because you can pinpoint each moment. Important moments. The Capitol Crawl of 1990 which sealed the passage of the ADA. On March 1, 2000, Fairview Training Center—founded as the Oregon State Institution for the Feeble-Minded—is finally closed. We need these milestones because they were right and changed people’s lives. And we need these milestones to remind us that people and parents, just as jumbled as us, made them happen.
As the parent of a child who experiences disability, sometimes I’m standing bewildered in the street with a useless bucket. The thoughts are running amok:
-USA Today writes a headline about a new court case: how good of an education do students with disabilities “deserve”? (my quotes)
-I check my email before bed. (Don’t check your email before bed.) My daughter had to “chat” with the principal. She won’t get off the swings. I stay awake most of the night.
-I meet a woman who doesn’t think her middle schooler “is a good fit” for outdoor school.
-I hear about a son whose class went on a field trip while he was left at school, without the parents’ knowledge.
-I talk to a woman who’d volunteered to be the room parent for her child’s segregated classroom, and was told that class, unlike every other class in the school, did not need a room parent.
-I email the owners of a Portland business called Short Bus. They know some people think it’s a joke but they stand by their name. We exchange thoughts.
These things are hard to hear, hard to take. One day I will have thick skin and the pain will slide off. But right now, it hurts. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe the world is, can, and will continue to change. Or that I will contribute to this change. Because history tells me, guarantees, that a parent before me fought. And won.
History looks neat on the timelines. It doesn’t feel like living history when you’re just trying to get your kid to preschool by nine so the teacher doesn’t think you’re a slacker. It doesn’t feel like a revolution when you’re searching the house for your teen’s overdue library books, the fines accruing by the minute. Parenting, of any child, is hard work.
Tonight my daughter and I sat down to look at her math homework. She futzed around for a few minutes and then something clicked. “Okay,” she said. “Let’s do this.”
And I thought, you sing it, sister. We’re doing this. And then we’re doing laundry. Because tomorrow is pajama day and her only clean pajamas are too short and I don’t want the school to think we can’t afford new pajamas so I’ll stay up late to get them in the dryer.
So the laundry will be the laundry part. And the pajama day will be the part where my daughter is included in the mainstream classroom. An inclusive education that, step after step, parents before me made possible.
And the next parent will stand on my shoulders. So after the laundry, I need to get my shoulders ready. Because the revolution is being tired and still doing what has to be done. Today is the day.
We’re doing this.