You are your child’s best advocate

It's OK to be 'that parent,' as long as you do it with respect

I am “that parent.”

There is no doubt in my mind that when my name pops up in the special education coordinator’s inbox, she says to herself: “Great. What now?”

I hate confrontation,but when it comes to advocating for my kids, I have no problem turning into an activist, confronting people and biases head on.

Even with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) in place, special needs parents have to watch every move to make sure services are adequately provided and goals are specifically met.

Now more so than ever, Carter’s access to his education needs has to be watched. I feel like every day I have to email someone or follow up.

When he was in the NICU, I was forced into becoming “that parent.” The one who demanded being able to hold him when I wanted, as I chose; the one who advocated, researched medical options and participated in doctors’ rounds. Every. Single. Day.

I was comfortable taking that role in the NICU and I am comfortable now taking the role with our education department. I have created a determined space for myself as an active team member.

I am not aggressive or mean, but I am forceful and determined. I don’t want to have a bad reputation; I don’t want Carter to get a bad reputation. But I have done my research and know his needs. By being “that parent”, I actually feel respected by his team and I know where my place is — at least for now.

All parents only want what their child deserves. They want what is best for them, and what they’re entitled to as children and students.

I have discovered that while women/moms who become “that parent” are seen as aggressive and overbearing, men/dads are seen as “caring” or “collaborative.” It can be so discouraging.

There is nothing wrong with being a “momma bear,” and creating your space on your child’s team. Just carry yourself with poise, discipline and firmness as you navigate an already difficult path. Own your persistence and determination, and acknowledge that this may be frustrating for members of the education or health system as well.

Carry the label of being “that parent” proudly, but carry it with respect as well.

Lauren Martone is a blogger for ParentingNH from southern New Hampshire. You can contact her at Lauren and her family’s story were featured in the July 2015 issue of ParentingNH and in the July 2018 issue.

Categories: Carter’s Corner