Would you consider me privileged?

Would you consider me privileged?

I want to share with you my recent experiences around privilege. The definition of privilege is “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”. You may be privileged, or lack privilege, because of your race, gender, ability, wealth, or class. 

Recently I’ve come to realize I’ve been privileged all along. How so? Keep reading…

Let’s start at the foundation of where privilege can possibly come from, that being, the family you are born into. Let’s face it, you can be blessed with the family you are born into or you can not be. Being blessed means you never have to wonder if there will be food on the table. You never have to question being loved. Then there is the flip side of things. There are many children born into a family in which they are neglected and/or around traumatizing situations. I truly believe this ONE distinguishing factor directly influences MANY avenues of an individual's life. 

For me, I was lucky and fell into the blessed category. Growing up I had parents who worked hard to provide the best opportunities they could. Although divorced, they both were actively involved in my daily life and I always knew I was loved. I was able to go to a Catholic high school, attend college, and find employment with great benefits directly after college. As I grew up, I never thought of these things as special or unique. I thought that this was just how life was supposed to be and was for others. Ironically, now, I can say I was privileged. The fact is, if I didn’t have my parents' support, both financially and emotionally,  I never would have ended up where I did. I know that for a fact. 

The past few weeks we’ve been at the Napa Center in Boston getting therapies for my youngest daughter, Lyssie. This center was not well known in my circle and I had to do a lot of research on my own to even find out about it. There was a lot of correspondence with therapists, insurance, billing, etc. to get things in motion. Had I not been educated enough to navigate these different systems we wouldn’t be here. This got me thinking about privilege and what that looks like for me and my family and that my privileges now were directly influencing my children. They are privileged for the opportunities/experiences that they are given from us as their parents and the rest of our family. 

Privilege doesn’t need to be seen as a bad thing. Everyone wants privileges. Everyone wants  access and opportunity. The problem is not privileges. The problem is that not everyone is given privileges. For example, the intensive center that we are at now, these types of high-level therapeutic supports for a child that qualifies as needing so, should be available to all.  It makes me sad to think this is not a basic level of care that is provided to people. It makes me disappointed to know there are other children like Lyssie, that don’t know about centers like this and all of the other opportunities out there. 

These advanced centers are something that I feel should be available to everyone regardless of their employment, benefits, or financial status. Don’t get me wrong, there are services provided for free, and for anyone with a disability by the state of CT from birth to 3. I’m incredibly grateful for that and the therapist that we have developed a wonderful relationship with. The difference between those free services and a center like this is the intensity level of it, the newer kinds of therapies/equipment utilized and the resources provided. This is the best of the best. And who doesn’t want that for their child? 

So again, when talking about privileges I am privileged because I can get my child into a center like this. I can utilize my insurance.  If insurance wasn’t an option, I still would be able to find a way to pay for it. Now to tie this all together...let’s work this privilege backward to see where it lands. Do you see it? I owe it all to my parents. So thank you, mom and dad, for the privileges that you worked so hard for me to have. I’m sorry it took me so long to see them as what they truly are.  

I want to know what your thoughts are on this topic. Have you thought about your privilege? If you don’t have privilege, I want you to share it as well. I want to hear your perspective. Do you think a lot of it had to do with your life growing up and the opportunities you were/weren’t allotted? I want to have an open dialog conversation with you about this topic and how we can make changes. I may not have all the answers but together we can work to make a real impact in this area. 

Take care everyone.

If you’d like further information about this center and how to navigate insurance etc. please DM me. I’ve attached many videos/pics of Lyssie’s sessions on our FB page, Perfectly Placed. Please come join us :) 

How often do you look at the flip side of things?

How often do you look at the flip side of things?
Dear “Typically-abled” Child of Mine,

When I first received your sister’s diagnosis, one of the first coherent thoughts I had was, “How will Elliana handle this?” “Will Elliana feel burdened by the role she fell into?” “What if I am so overwhelmed with Elyssa’s special needs that it seems to you that I forgot about your needs?” I couldn’t get passed the lack of control I felt about how all of this change was going to shape you. I wrongly exited the present and started living in your futures. In the world of unknowns and anxiety. “What if someone made fun of you for having a sister who was differently-abled?” All I could think about was how this wasn’t going to be fair to you, how you didn’t sign up for this, and how you were going to feel slighted. You see, at that point in our journey, I didn’t understand the complex world of differently-abled. In fact, I am still working to understand its many nuances. 

Fast forward a bit to our family trip to Boston. A trip I planned with both you and your sister in mind. My heart couldn’t be fuller right now as I close my eyes and think of all the good that took place on this trip. There was so much happiness shared. Everything was centered around our two perfect girls, our family. I don’t even think you were aware but I watched you at the park with your sister and it taught me a lesson. Yes, even as an adult you learn lessons. Anyway, Elyssa was playing in the splash park for the first time and she was going up to others with a smile and attempted hug LOL. You picked up on the fact that during a Pandemic some of the other children maybe didn’t want to be touched or you just wanted to let her know you were there so I watched you go over and very subtly grab her hand and bring her to another sprinkler a few feet away. You have this unique read on things for your age and such innate protection for Elyssa- always have. 

It was at this moment that I realized what I initially failed to think about with Elyssa’s diagnosis. It’s called the flip side. And the flip side usually requires you to surrender your fear and follow your faith. My focus should have been on how wonderful her diagnosis could be in your world. How having a sister with special needs can help strengthen your already amazing character traits and instill strong core values in your life. For example, when you see your sister working hard to accomplish something that comes so naturally to you, I pray you learn humility. When you are tempted to judge someone based on anything other than the kindness of their heart, I pray you learn to not judge a book by its cover. When you see Elyssa’s concern for someone she barely even knows, I pray you learn how important compassion is. When Elyssa greets you with a smile from ear to ear because she loves you more than you can imagine, I pray you do the same with her. Because of your sister, I hope you can by-pass some of the shallowness that comes with youth and in turn teach others who haven’t been as fortunate as you about these crucial life lessons. 

Things won’t always be fair. There will be times when I am seemingly too concentrated on the “inns and outs” of being a special needs mom, but I will try my best to always settle the score. My love for you burns just the same and runs deeper than the ocean. You have the secret to life right in front of you: Life isn’t all about you and when you make your life about others, you get so much more in return. I learned that one from Poppy. I hope you teach each other to love, to love all people, and to love them well. You two are gems and I can’t believe I get to call you both mine. 


Hidden gem helps children with disabilities shatter stereotypes...

Hidden gem helps children with disabilities shatter stereotypes...
I want all you mamas out there to understand the underlying message here. Had I not done some further digging and sought this opportunity out, I would have never known about it and my daughter would have missed out. No one is going to make sure that you know about ALL of the amazing resources, therapies, and opportunities for your child EXCEPT you. If you want more for your child, go and get it. If you hit a stumbling block go around it. If you don't get the answer you want, ask someone else. Use your connections, ask questions, and model resilience for your child. Show up, stand up, and be their voice.

What my daughter said that crushed my soul

What my daughter said that crushed my soul
How many of you have had your kid say something to you at one point or another that completely crushed your soul? If you have I pray that it doesn't consume you. If you haven't I pray that you avoid hearing it. 

There are few things in the world that hurt a parent more than hearing their child say “You need to be a better parent.” The words cut like a knife. The child you love so much and have sacrificed for in so many ways now thinks you suck as a parent. When Elliana said this to me it was a huge red flag that something was up because she is never intentionally unkind or hurtful. 

 In general, when a child is hurtful, they are seeking revenge for some perceived hurt feelings on their part. They have a problem they don’t know how to solve, whether they’re angry or stressed. Not being able to handle problems leads your child to feelings of discomfort—and pushing your buttons and getting a strong emotional reaction from you helps to make up for those feelings of discomfort.

A million thoughts were running through my head as to why my daughter said this to me. It then hit me. Sometimes, as adults, I think we forget how powerful our own energy is. With what’s been thrown at us the past few months, our vibrations individually & as a whole have been lowered. Globally, I’d say the vibration has shifted massively downward.

Panic. Fear. Distress. Confusion. Concern. Disinformation. Anger. Frustration. Restriction. These are all known as *LOW VIBRATING ENERGIES*. It’s everywhere we turn right now on a global level. Low vibrations create stress and anxiety and everyone that has been stuck in this house for the past 3 months is feeling it. Including my daughter. And little did I know that my energies were being picked up on even though I was doing my best to hide them. 

Elliana has watched me "go to work" each day from 8-3. I am in the house but not available to her because I am working. As a 5-year-old she doesn't understand why Mommy can't play with her. I'm navigating teaching, emails, meetings, phone calls, Elyssa's therapies and all she sees is me "not here but there." I keep hearing the words "you are always working." In kid language, this means she misses me. 

When I go into work it is different for her. She has her own schedule. She is at school interacting with her friends and teachers. She goes to dancing class and gymnastics. She sees her Poppy and Grandma at least once a week. Nothing about this has been easy for her and because children are so seemingly resilient I just went with the flow of the everyday. Even though we are doing our best to keep things "normal" around here she was well aware that it's far from our normal. No wonder her behavior was off! 

So at that moment instead of being defensive and going into a tailspin of "all that I do" as a parent, I simply asked if she was feeling anxious about anything and if she wanted to talk. Her response let me know that I should've checked in sooner. 

She let out a heartbroken cry and quietly said, "I'm afraid of the virus, I miss my friends and my family, and I miss going to the playground."

That’s when the floodgates opened for both of us.

I tried to say the right things like, "I know. This feels hard and unfair because it is." I hugged her and assured her that in time things will get better. We grabbed some ice cream for good measure and went on with our evening.

Watching my five-year-old process the loss of her first friends, school experience, teachers, family—is the most humbling moment I’ve had as her mother. I always knew she was capable of feeling deeply. Though, I had no idea she could verbally express it in the mature way she did.

As I put her to bed that night I couldn't help but smile thinking about what transpired. In shifting perspectives I came to these thoughts...missing all of the things that she described also means she has been very lucky. She has been the recipient of good love, from many people and places, and yes, my sweet girl, sometimes when you get that kind of gold, it’s incredibly hard to let it go.

Who was your Ms. Barber?

Who was your Ms. Barber?
Be here, Be you, BELONG. I love those words by Brene Brown. Top educators teach with heart. Content aside- a student will perform for you if you let them see your heart. I know this because I lived it. Ms. Barber. The ONLY teacher I would have done anything not to disappoint. And this didn't come into play until high school. Imagine all those years of education lost feeling disconnected from school?
So let's first make no mistake. I was a pain in the ass in school. I'm not proud of this but it is key to my story. My apologies go out to each and every teacher I had. Yes, I was the kid that you were warned about. You know, the one that when your list of students comes out everyone says "OHH, you'll earn your paycheck with that one." From about 4th grade on, I had no interest in anything but the social aspect of school. Ancient civilizations were not on my priority list of things to know. 
You are probably thinking to yourself "what was going on in her life that caused those behaviors? "What was she lacking at home?" Truth is, nothing at all. I had parents who were involved. I had access to materials, sports, extra help, etc. I had a large group of friends; and average ability. Yet...I wasn't connected. I own that.
So, what was it about Ms. Barber that had me eating out of the palm of her hand? Was she really young and cool? Did she let me get away with things? Did she let us have "fun Fridays?" No, no and nope. 
Never underestimate the power of these two words...time and trust. There is a certain energy to it; an equation. See Ms. Barber showed up with her whole heart. She gave me her time; something that you can't put a price on. She brought tough conversations into ordinary moments and let it be known that being vulnerable was actually showing strength..
Want to know where I ended up because of Ms. Barber? Watch the video down below. And if you see Ms. Barber, tell her I said "thank you."

In the Arena

In the Arena

In life, I understand that self-protection is always our default. It’s how we are wired. However, I believe this pandemic experience is a massive experiment in our abilities to surrender and accept being vulnerable. 

In the last week, while concern about the Corona Virus has increased, it has been interesting to observe the behaviors and/or the words of others. The ways people are handling this time of scarcity, uncertainty, and isolation is from a place of fear. Rightfully so. I know it is hard to feel alone in your struggle and fear. I know the pain of feeling isolated and the pain of a special occasions going other than planned. 

As a special-needs mom, and a teacher, I have become exceptional at accepting uncertainty. This is not the first time that I’ve been told we’re going to have to do something that feels nearly impossible. It is not the first time that I’ve had no guarantees on the outcome that I tirelessly pray for. I’ve learned to surrender to what is and not waste time and energy putting up resistance. In the end, we can only change what we can control.

With that being said, while this period of time in our life is hard, we NEED to dig deep. My greatest push to remain calm is my children. I know they are watching and learning about how to respond to stress and uncertainty. I want to wire them for resilience, not panic. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly and persevere. So, while this situation sucks for ALL; we have to pick back up. We are all grieving the loss of something at this time. Let’s show empathy with the array of experiences because our perspectives are based on what is in front of us at the given time. 

The Corona virus is affecting us all in some way- whether directly or indirectly. Lets remember…

*People who are extremely worried about their older family members
*Those that are already sick w/ the virus
*Those that are immunocompromised
*Kids that miss their friends at school
*Families that don’t have food
*Those w/ asthma or other pre-existing conditions
*Small Business owners struggling to earn an income
*Parents trying to manage working & their own kids school work all day
*HS Seniors w/out proms and graduations
*Any student at the graduating level of schooling
*Health care workers on the front line
*Teachers missing their students 
*Athletes that lost their final season of sports

Some suggestions for parents…

*Home schooling is a new thing for most of us. Many of us are trying to work from home while tending to our children and making sure they stay up to date on their school work. There are many plates that we are trying to keep up in the air. Rather than setting academic goals every day focus on spending extra time just being together with no expectations. There will be a time to resume school work. But accept that it may not be now because without emotional regulation, children can’t learn.

*Let them experience boredom. Every minute does not need to be accounted for. Remember just as we can come out of our skin at times, they will too. They will spend hours complaining before they settle into that strange place that’s rarely visited by today’s children – their imagination.  We don’t need to entertain them, we need to model for them. Boredom is sacred. We shouldn’t deny our children this experience.

*Never forget that your little family is the best team you could ever have. Lean on each other and soak in this precious time that you have been given to reconnect. 

Some suggestions for teachers…

*Breathe. The space that you educate from doesn’t need to be the classroom. Lead with your heart. The students will feel that no matter what curriculum you throw at them. Make this new space one that the kids look forward to showing up for. Let them release the crushing weight of what is going on. You are the guardian of this new space. Make it count. Find a way to make this experience memorable for them in a positive way. 

As we move forward let's give each other grace. And don't forget to give yourself some. Just know that, if you are struggling in anyway during this quarantine, I am here. I’ll be connecting online and you are welcome to join me at any point. The space will be safe and exactly what you need. Just click the link below. 

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay connected

Not second in my heart...

Not second in my heart...
Dear Elyssa,

You didn’t make me a mother. You were my second child. Not in my heart, but one did come before you.

With you, it was different. There was no elaborate shower.  I didn’t take many photos, didn’t spend every waking moment reading. My mind was busier; worried about your health. My body more tired because I was caring for your big sister.

And then, before I knew what happened (because time passes so much quicker the second time around), you were here.  And in an instant, that was it. I was yours. A mom of two beautiful little girls. We were a family of four. 

The worries eventually lessened, though apparently still present. My thoughts drifted often. They questioned if I was managing my time, energy and love equally enough. You having some additional needs was new to us all. The time spent at appointments or in the hospital away from home were difficult to endure. Though, I’m sure it was most difficult for you.

But, Oh Elyssa, my sweet girl, the lessons you’ve helped me learn.

You’ve taught me that kids truly are resilient, and that my love covers the gap for you or your big sister when i’m not there.

You’ve taught me to slow down, chill and roll with the punches.

You’ve taught me how absolutely strong I can be, and you’ve given me a confidence I lacked the first time around.    

But more than anything, you taught me that a heart is limitless in size, and that my love for you is the antidote to any fear that pops up.

So, it’s true. You didn’t make me a mother.

But you sure made me a better one.