Monday, January 4, 2016


Nice and strong.

I was reading through an old draft that I never posted, and it got me thinking about the relationship between being nice and being strong.  In our culture being nice is often equated with being weak.  Being mean is strong.  People are told they need to be more assertive, more aggressive, not so nice.

The first special-needs nanny I got to take care of Middle when he came to live with me said that I was "too nice."  My Beloved Wife has said that about me a few times.

I find that for me, I need to be nice in order to be strong.  If I come out of the gate aggressively I usually end up backing down.  It doesn't fit my personality--I become very anxious and have a hard time following through.  But if I am nice and persistent and insistent, I usually get what I want.

I've seen it mostly clearly with the school system.  As the parent of two children with special needs, I've had lots of opportunities for conflict.  When Oldest Son was in sixth grade he had a very difficult year.  Bad enough that the district did not want to put him in general education for 7th grade.

We looked at multiple programs in both the district and private schools.  I remember talking with someone from the UW autism center.  She asked if I thought the district was going to listen to us or just do what they wanted.  

In the end, the district asked what we wanted to do and then did it.  I remember that MomC was surprised that they agreed to pay for private school.  I wasn't.  I had invested a lot of time going to the school, talking to the teachers and principal.  They new that I was aware, involved, and knew my rights. I had been pretty sure we'd get what we wanted and we did.

I saw it again a couple of years later with Middle Son.  He had been working with the district's sign language teacher.  I had rearranged my work schedule so that I could be there and get mini lessons of my own.

The following year about a month after school started I still hadn't heard when the sign teacher would be coming.  So I asked.  I was told that the district had set up some new programs in specific schools.  The sign teacher was only going to those schools.

I sent the principle and the assistant superintendent for special ed a very polite email asking why Middle was not receiving a service he had received the previous year.  (For those not familiar with Special Education Law, that's the sort of question that could lead to a lawsuit if answered incorrectly.)  Their response was that the schedule was being "reviewed."  A few days latter I got an email that she would be coming to work with Middle.  The principal said the sign teacher was excited to come work with him because I was so supportive and was using sign with him at home.

I later heard through the grapevine that eight elementary schools had requested that she come work with their students.  The other seven were told "no."

So it is possible to be nice and strong.

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