Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Lately I am learning that I have to be an advocate for Andrew.

And every time I think about that, I feel very jealous of the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I wish I could go inside a cocoon for more than two weeks. Lucky caterpillar.

The truth is, I don't want to be an advocate. Advocates are annoying. They rock the boat. They are pushy and nobody likes them. And I want EVERYONE to like me. I don't want to rock the boat. EVER. But, little things are coming up that are showing me that I need to figure out a way to make that role work.

Over the past four days, I've gotten 3 pep talks, from 3 different people, about speaking up for Andrew. It seems the universe is organizing itself to get this message across. Meanwhile, I'm looking for a cocoon to crawl in.

Andrew has had a rough couple of days at school. And he's not getting the support he was getting in preschool and yesterday, when I heard the report from the teacher, I asked to speak to the principal right away. (how annoying!) Andrew's school is brand-spanking-new, which is lovely, but it means not everything is in place yet. Not all of the therapists have been hired, and without the support he's used to, he's starting to flounder. The principal reassured me that help is on the way. The teacher and I made a game plan and she told me over and over that I need to SPEAK UP. Pushy parents get things done.

Why does it have to be like that?

I really don't want to be THAT parent.

Luckily, the staff at this school seem like they are willing and able to work with us. They want the right things to happen too. They seem like good folks to practice my advocacy voice on. It will get easier, right?

Do you find it hard to speak up for yourself too? What do you do about it?

I keep thinking, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease. the squeaky wheel gets the grease." That helps. A little.

But honestly, did you SEE what I baked?!?!
Look at this!!!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies!!! WHAT?!?! See, the thing is, they look good and all. BUT THEY TASTE AMAZING! Just the kind of thing to turn to when there are no cocoons to hide in. ;) MAKE THEM!


Plume said...

Sadly I'm not that good at speaking up for myself either. I've learned little by little to speak up for my son, because I if I don't do it, no one will. And I should be able to speak up for my son--I'm his mom, after all. But it comes hard.

And, yeah, I've been that annoying mom too, but I've just learned to not care much. I won't get what I need done if I'm caring too much about what other people think. But again, it's not easy. :-)

Mama V said...

Yes! Go, mama! We're behind ya', Robyn!

Did you feel annoyed by squeaky parents as a K teacher? Or did you prefer the quiet ones who never asked questions or spoke up?

I wonder if this will be a good experience for you to perhaps shift your perspective on the definition of an advocate. Not all advocates are unliked or unpopular or annoying (clearly I come from the perspective that advocacy is a virtuous quality!). ;) The WAY one advocates for their child can make all the difference in how people perceive you, if you still care about that in the end. I'm not recommending that you read The Autobiography of Malcolm X (What am I saying? Maybe I am! Heck, everyone should read that one!) but my experience in past leadership positions has shown me that good advocate voices are so important and appreciated, and in fact, helped me do MY job better. And who doesn't want to look good doing their job?! ;)

I was wondering if a whoopie pie would appear here eventually after your trip to Pennsylvania Dutch country recently! They look and sound divine! The link wasn't working for me; could you try again? (And was that too annoying and pushy?! I hope so!) ;)

Mama V said...

P.S. I LOVE trying to picture your inner Mama Bear coming out. Raaarrrr!!

(And I'm entering this P.S. so that I can receive follow-up comments in my inbox.) ;)


Ruth said...

I'm cheering for you from over here! Be Andrew's voice for him, it can only produce the results he deserves.

Maria Ontiveros said...

You're such an awesome baker, why not bring a little something along with you when you go to advocate?

Robyn said...

Mama V,

As a teacher I didn't really mind parents speaking up. well...there was one mom that was pretty unreasonable...but by in large, it didn't bother me at all. It's a good point though, I should try to think of that way. That it didn't bother might not bother them.

And I liked the parents that I talked to a lot...because there was more relationship, you know? I mean, one mom would walk in my room at the end of the day and ask, "did you get the new Eddie Bauer catalog yet???" Loved that.

Thanks for all the cheerleading, guys. Enormously helpful!

Maria, FANTASTIC idea! I love it! It's perfect. Gets the job done, but with a sweet, impressive touch. ;) on it.

Erin Leigh said...

I used to be a special needs teacher in a school for the Deaf, and I can honestly say that the "pushy" parents were more respected than the silent ones. It showed they cared - and we took notice of that. Not to say that silent ones don't care - they may be shy - but I can recall quite a few who never went to bat for their child and it was so sad. Also, there are different ways to speak up - you can be pushy in a good way :) BTW, I understand - I'm an introvert, too.

Robyn said...

oh oh! I fixed the link!

Terri Deal said...

Hi Robyn,

We have never met but I found your blog through Kathy Sweet (our church in Charlotte is a partner with theirs) and have been reading your blog for over a year now -- you have become one of my favorites to read and I would LOVE to meet you next time I'm in NY. While I don't know your son's diagnosis I have a 10yr. old daughter who has a diagnosis of Aspergers (I consider her high Austism/low-med Aspergers), she is also VERY ADHD and has struggles with sensory issues, primarily sound (she actually hears at dog level). Long story short I also do not like to make waves and really struggled in the beginning with being an advocate. One way I found was to volunteer as much as possible at the school(I know with another little one it could be harder for you, my other daughter is older) but I found I could get alot more of what I wanted because I was there alot. It is hard to be the advocate but remember no one else will!! The beginning of the year will always be hard because even when all the staff is in place they will be testing new kids and arranging schedules, we always seem to have more discipline issues those first couple of weeks until her schedule is a little more solid. Anyway - Hang in there it does get a easier as they get older and you get a feel for the best way for you to advocate for him -- OH and NEVER be afraid to request teachers once you are familiar with the staff be sure to get familiar with the next grade up so you know who is a good fit for your son!! If you ever want to email feel free -

Goes On Runs said...

okay....terry commented. that is so cool. as a teacher (and i think you mentioned this too) the relational parents were so easy to deal with... because they engaged me AND were advocates. i can hardly imagine you being anything other than gracious and kind as you advocate away. you will still be you.... and that is a champion for your son and so NOT a pushy, demanding, obnoxious person. it is a mental shift to remember that it is a positive trait, as mama v said. i am terrible at being the squeaky wheel.... but it removes the opportunity for someone else to serve and exercise their gifts. god is growing me in my ability to be weak... not that you are but i am learning how to ask for help... even from my spouse. :)

Robyn said...

Wow, Teri, thank you! That is a really good idea! Thank you, also, for sharing your story. I find hearing other people's stories about these issues super helpful. More helpful than "how to" books at this point.

Kathy, I know what you mean. So much of my struggle is being the one that needs SO MUCH HELP. It feels embarrassing. But, it shouldn't be just is what it is. Right???

MandiCrocker said...

Robynski... you are an amazing woman. In college I always admired your ability to be yourself which was always slightly off the beaten path (which I TREASURE!) I think as time passes we have a tendency to become shrinking violets to life, there's so much going on we get scared to ripple the waters. Who can handle even more chaos!? WE CAN. :) Speak up, Robynski... You've got that red hair for a reason, woman. You ARE a powerhouse. As a gal that wants everyone to like her, too, I totally get where you're coming from. But when God breathed you into this world he made you whole, complete and perfect. It's only our environment & experiences that soon shape us. And if none of this resonates with you, I say do what scares you or the universe will keep throwing it in your face til it's overcome. And THAT'S annoying as h-e-double hockey hell. :)

Love you. (That's my little 'Inspiration With Mandi' moment of the day). ;)

Tara Whalen said...

I love the parents of my students that come to partner with me in their child's education! And I agree that it totally shows how much they care about not only their child, but the road you both are on!

And if woopie pies don't help you overcome that, I can come out and help =)

PS. I am going into conferences tomorrow and Friday- I am looking forward to talking with those parents!

MandiCrocker said...

P.S. I hope that made sense. Meaning you have all the tools already... we just forget we were born with them due to the experiences we've had in the past, people hurt us & we shrink away. You're worth ruffling some feathers- don't forget it. Okay, I'm done now, I swear. :)

Miss Vicki said...


Robyn said...

Tara, I keep thinking that you would be so, so, so good at this.

Can you move to Brooklyn, learn the Board of Ed, and be our Special Ed advocate? phew. ok. good. Andrew would have every intervention under the sun if you were his mama! I need to access my inner-Tara! ;) are such a SWEETheart. I don't think I knew I was on a slightly different path. I thought of myself as so mainstream. It's so interesting to hear you say that! And a relief that you admired it! It's all about growth, I suppose. but...what if I don't want to grow! that I think about it...that's exactly what the caterpillar was doing when he was inside the cocoon. growing. duh.

I need to find another analogy.

Deb said...

Oooh...the whoopie pies look amazing!!! If speaking up were only as easy as baking is for you, you'd have it made!

I know what you mean though, it is always tough for me to speak up, but I believe that when people take a stand and when that stand is taken on the basis of love, it's better received. It would be different if you were one of those mom's who is in the face of school officials for nonsense things like, "My Johnny HAS to wear that [crazy] t-shirt to school because I just can't deal with the drama in the morning..." type of stuff.

I have faith in you, Robyn. You'll do and say the right thing when the place and time is right. xo

Goodyreid said...

Most of my favorite people are advocates. I think people who don't advocate are more annoying then those who do :) "You're silence will not protect you" and all that.

Way to go Robyn! I bet those whoopie pies would do just fine in the mail, no?

Melissa said...

Wow! Your post touched me and then reading these cool. I, too, struggle. Not wanting to be "that" parent or even that "person", wanting to crawl into that cocoon and not emerge as the butterfly, but have my surroundings become the butterfly! It's amazing how our love for our children forces us to be better people.

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