On Being a Stupid Shut-Up


We have had a string of good days.  The sun has been spotted, and Spring begins to peep its eager greenness through the remainder of last year’s leaves, long since abandoned by the rake.

It is always a good idea to go potty before you leave for school.  As I suggested this to Ethan one morning last week, his response was this: “There he is!  Hiding behind the tree!  Fire on sector eleven!”  Mom, you fool.

I am pretty sure that we Ihms march to the beat of a different drummer.    And we do have many percussionists in the house.  They are good at keeping rhythm, and many of them disarm angry feelings, loudly, and without discrimination.  I am often called a “stupid shut-up,” a name that has endeared itself to me over time.  I will gladly be just that, a “stupid shut-up,” as long as my voice is heard.

The following are words from a place deep inside of me,  written last October as my little boy was about to transition from public school to a therapeutic day school.    They carry grief, sadness, and a tiny spark of hope; hope that this turn in the already tumultuous journey would find the wind at our backs.

“A new bus.  Another transition.  My little boy is going to Camelot school, starting Monday.  There have been so many waves of emotion and so many tears held back for something that I have known for a very long time.  I have not been quiet in my stand, nor have I hesitated to tell others how passionately I felt that my son had deep needs that were not being addressed.  March on to the next professional, who again questioned whether I was too quick to help my boy try to set the puzzle piece straight.  The puzzle piece was warped, though, literally and figuratively.  If you do not hear my voice, then I will keep going until I find someone that can.

I have been there plenty of times, on each side of the table.  As a professional, I was a case of nerves more times than I can count.  It’s a hard thing to have to tell a parent news that they do not want to hear, but that they perhaps already know.  I am so, so sorry if ever I acted with the slightest bit of disrespect.  And it is a hard thing to receive such news…to be the aching parent unable to move your chair away from the industrial table that has served as the only barrier between you and the line of doctors and interns that have just told you that your son has a brain tumor.  It is an awareness only born through (unfortunate) experience.

Curious, further, is the concept of selling your story, what you know in your heart to be true, when others are sure that you are either messed up and crazy or trying to find an excuse as to why your child behaves badly.  This goes way beyond a crabby child who leaves the grocery shop without M&M’s.  I just need to say that I am so grateful to those who have lent an ear for all this time; to those of you who have said, “that must be hard”; to those of you that have still been willing to help out with my children as my parents have moved away and my older sons have gone off to college; to those of you that have supported my calling (and I will always and forever WANT to continue to foster) and have NOT said, “well, you signed up for this…”; to those of you who have not judged me and have known that I would always want to act with the purest of intentions; and to those who understand me, and make me feel real, and sit with me for coffee, even making me feel like I mean something despite all of my brokenness (especially Dan, and the rest of you…you who know who you are).

I can say that I knew this was coming.  I can say that I told MANY others, including teams of professionals (some of whom even scoffed at me…), that my son’s needs were so great that he might one day need an alternative placement.  We learn by doing, though, and I understand that.  No regrets, just faith for brighter days ahead.  Parents know their children, and it is a rare parent that would want such struggles for their child.  I am grateful, also, as we travel this new road, that I have had my share of years to hear trumpet solos and to watch little league games.

As the seasons change and I reflect on how these last five years have brought many gifts (and a few injuries from flying objects and out-of-control children), I wonder if I will go back to my beloved job from which I “retired” to care for this boy as a newborn.  I wonder if I will have changed to be better able to see deep inside someone else, or whether I will be able to ask, “what can I do for you?” instead of whipping out my checklist and declaring, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it.”  Actually, I hope I never did that in the first place…

I guess I am looking forward to what lies ahead, though I have learned (thus far…for I’ve a long way yet to go) to embrace what I can from each day, and to let the rest go.  I know that there are many more pieces to my little puzzle, and though the end result may not be as others perceive it should be, we will get there, one day.”

Here’s to all of the blooms of spring, summer, and beyond.



About 1maniac1989

From childhood, I have wanted to take care of children, to bake cookies, cakes, and bread, to hear music, and to tend to flowers in my garden. I am blessed and lucky, and I am able to do all of these things. I live with my beloved husband, Dan, and our many precious children, in DeKalb, IL, which, perhaps in my opinion only, is the most beautiful place on earth. Sincere thanks to anyone who has taken the time to visit my blog.

5 responses to “On Being a Stupid Shut-Up

  1. Pingback: On Being a Stupid Shut-Up | Isn't That Enough?

  2. Diane DeMers

    Patty, thank you for this important and poignant blog. I have found myself having to be an advocate for each one of my three children in various ways, to professionals who look at the statistics and don’t see the individual child. It took three separate requests for IEPs over five years to finally get someone in the educational system to realize there WAS a problem and my child needed help. And during those five years, that child worked so desperately hard without mandated support (the teachers did the best they could, but there was no formal “plan”). Dave and I knew deep down there was a problem but until we could find someone who worked with us to prove it, it was agonizing. And we were right. Now our child is on the way to being successful because someone (besides us) believed in and validated her. You are doing the same thing and believe enough to keep knocking on doors until you get the answer that rings true to you. I know you will never stop, either. That’s why you are one of my most favorite people.

  3. Oh, Diane, yes! It makes such a difference if even you have ONE person that sees and “gets” what you see. I am sure there must be research somewhere that demonstrates that very, very few parents actually WANT their child to have issues. When you are there 24/7 on the front lines, you really do know. Not everything, of course, but some stuff. Enough. I am glad that she got the help that she deserves. If it is the “she” that I know and love, she is very wonderful indeed. And how ironic: you are actually one of my most favorite people! Onward!

  4. Patty – One of the ways parents should think of their “job” is to be an advocate for their children, no matter what the needs of a particular child or how hard the fight is. You are such a great example of this!! Years ago I had to argue until I was blue in the face to have one of our children repeat kindergarten because she was too immature. This would appear as a black mark against the school so the principal was adamant that she move on to first grade. The teacher, social worker and reading teacher all agreed with me and we prevailed. She had a marvelous second year with a gifted kindergarten teacher and grew up that year and was able to move ahead and succeed in school and college. We know our children and must, as you so eloquently expressed, keep knocking on doors (or knocking down doors) on behalf of our children until they can take over and do it themselves.

    • I think…and hope eternally…that when we feel the need to stand up for something, we should. We have to do what we know to be the right thing. You, my friend, are a true example of that!!

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