Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Signed, the Girl With the Lisp.

Another school year will soon be starting.  I know, I know...don't remind you.  One thing many schools will be focusing on this year (in addition to the curriculum, data, standardized tests, data, close readings, data, PLCs and PBLs, data, etc.) is the topic of bullying.  I have several thoughts on the topic - some even conflicting - and may one day write a better post about it.  Today, however, I thought I would share with you one that I wrote as a parent at the end of this past April.  It is one I came across the other night while going back through old posts and drafts.  Reader beware:  It is somewhat of an angry mom letter, which is really not like me at all (for the most part, I want my writings to be light-hearted).  You see, even being the child of teachers does not make one immune from mockery .  So, to keep from going to jail this past spring and losing my job - and my house - and the ability to eat out more than I cook - I wrote to rid myself of anger.  I wrote, re-wrote, wrote even more, revised it, cooled down somewhat and removed the R-rated content until I was left with the ramblings you will read below.  And there it remained - a draft - until today.  It may seem a little like beating a dead horse - after all, Ren is now out of high school and excited about college and a new, wonderful life before her - but the issue was/is too important to me as a mom to be kept forever as a draft. 

April 2013
Growing up, my mother would often say to me, "I can read you like a book."  I always hated that expression, as it was usually used when I was doing a subpar job of hiding something from her...bad grades, an admission of guilt for something, the fact that I had already eaten a candy bar before get the idea.  Now, when I hear those words...I can read you like a book...they are produced in my mouth, spoken in my voice.  I have become my mother. 

I haven't "read" my daughter as often as my mom "read" me, but when I have, especially in the past year or two, hurt feelings are usually at the root of it.  I miss the days of hidden stains, failed tests, and candy wrappers.  Why must it be so hard to be a teen today? 

Few people like being the recipient of undue attention, and high school - at times -can be a breeding ground for just this very thing.  I have never understood how some people feel they have license to highlight the inadequacies of others, even thrive on doing so, while being far from perfect themselves. 

My daughter is an outgoing, talented, confident, beautiful girl.  She does quite well in pageants, has been approached on more than one occasion by Nashville-area talent/modeling agencies and, by all appearances, leads a pretty charmed life.  Yes, she's a teen and, yes, she's far from perfect  -  I have to remind her quite often to clean her room and there are times she can cop a sassy mouth and attitude, mostly towards her father or me - but she's a good girl.  She is also a strong girl, one who doesn't like for others to see her as weak or, heaven forbid, pity her.  I think she would rather eat glass than have someone see her cry.  But I'm a mom - and moms know when their children are hurting.  This year, I have had about all of it I can take.

What's that quote...sometimes the strongest people are the ones who love beyond all faults, cry behind closed doors and fight battles that nobody knows about.  Everyone has a weakness, a vulnerability they would prefer go unnoticed.  Ren's achilles heel comes in the form of a lisp - a lateral lisp to be more precise  - of the 's' sound.  When she was about 6 we were told it was the second hardest impediment to correct.

Today, it is not as noticeable as it was then.  I don't think a lot of people she meets for the first time notice anything at all out of the ordinary and most people she's known for a long time pay little attention to it. 

Of course, there are always those two or three who, for whatever reason, keep some sort of internal file on the people they know.  These people, it would appear, take a sick delight in tormenting others.  Why else would someone act like a parrot and mimick each and every word coming from my daughter's mouth (adding a lispy 's' to all her words - not just the ones with an 's' in them) or team up to hijack a reading rehearsal of the school play and call her out on the word "sweetheart" - getting in her face to pronounce it correctly. 

To you that did this...has making fun of her made you less fat? Are you suddenly not from a dysfunctional family?  Has your own speech impediment been reversed?  Was there a little more swag in your step that day?  And when you found that note in your know...the one telling you how you hurt her and asking why...the one she signed "the girl with the lisp"...did you even feel an ounce of remorse?  If you did, you have yet apologize. 

Do you know that she left school early each of those days because she couldn't face seeing you all again somewhere?  Or that when she came home she cried for hours in her room?  And that when she finally came down she begged to be sent for speech therapy (she had googled local therapists and prepared a list)? That she spent more time watching You Tube videos of how to correct her speech than you did practicing your lines for the play (and by the way, it showed)? Or that she asked that we talk to the drama teacher to see if he would be mad if she quit the play, a play she had waited four years to perform?  Luckily, her confidence (or determination) returned and she did not quit.  Do you think because of who she is she is immune to pain? 

You know what, though...that's okay.  My daughter will be okay.  I firmly believe in Karma, and I only hope I am still around to witness your dance with it.

Posted with my daughter's permission

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