Boldness, With Caution

I dropped the paperwork on my desk in an exhausted heap. It landed on top of another pile of forms, scattered haphazardly across the space. This buried an additional pile of documents, each with more pressure, disguised as helpful guidance, for parents trying to educate their children at home. Even with the support of their teachers, the Zoom screen wasn’t enough for our growing girls. They needed extra direction, and the only body available to provide the support was me.

My social media feeds were saturated with posts of despair. One thing seemed certain: our children would fall behind due to the pandemic. Just how big of a delay we were facing wouldn’t be measurable for years to come. The fear of the unknown was palpable. We knew to wear masks, keep space, and wash our hands, but we didn’t know how to make up for the social and academic time lost.

Could we recover what the pandemic sucked away?

I tend to be a glass-half-full kind of person, even annoyingly so. Sure, maybe our girls would fall behind, but our family had an excellent support system. We could make up for what was lost over time. Right?

The last question mark lingered longer in my brain than made me comfortable.

It was tempting to jump on the bandwagon de jour. Different pockets of friends drove my mind to different issues, each encouraging me to take a bold stance. Structured reading groups in first grade, Virginia history in third, and more sensitive family life topics in sixth. Overwhelmed by the input from her three big sisters, I glanced to my youngest. With more needs than most, her educational fate left the biggest question mark.

boldly advocating for our kids

My mind wandered back to a conversation with school administrators not too long ago. “Wow, you have four children, all coming through our doors! How come we haven’t heard from you before?”

I couldn’t tell if my meek silence meant that I’d done something wrong. The subtext read that I should have been more vocal over the years. I should have pushed for this curriculum or encouraged a new fundraiser. Or at least made my family memorable.

Uncomfortable with the perceived confrontation, I mustered a smile, and through the screen, tried to articulate my feelings: “I try to make it so you only hear from me when it’s really important. Because, then, I hope to be heard.”

With an abundance of noise flooding our systems, once we cross a threshold, I think it’s our natural defense to shut down. As my oldest daughter made her way in the world (even though that was just at the small school down the street), everything was critical. Every scrape, every question, every hurt feeling, all seemed monumental in my eyes. As each daughter grew, I found myself having to pick and choose where my boldness would lie. I couldn’t take a firm stance on each issue of the day, or I would quickly land in a perpetual state of overwhelm.

Hoping to find middle ground, somewhere in between comfort and overwhelm, I looked around, happy to see that what I sought was already present. Our family worked our way into a community that allows its members to each stand on their respective platforms. To encourage and support each person on their own path of growth, each using individual spiritual gifts bestowed to each of us. Sometimes, members boldly stand on a platform together, championing a cause. Other times, we watch in support as another family takes the terrifying steps forward, because the platform is theirs to own.

When the information threatens to overwhelm, and our brains are thrust into overdrive, boldness can look like finding your own gifts, with their wealth of imperfection. Then, using these gifts to do the next right thing in love. Day to day, even minute to minute, that might not look like the same action. I know it hasn’t for our family.

Through the stack of papers, my mission was clear, still with some haze around the edges. To keep our daughter safe in school, I saw the steps I had to take. I took the advice from professionals and worked with our school to create a plan. I reserved the right to change my mind, to change our plan as my daughter acclimated to her new school.

In the months that followed the final IEP meeting, I worked with intention to reach out to other families, facing similar struggles. With a listening ear, I absorbed more information, more questions. I worked to discern when and how to use my voice; the default was not silence, but thoughtful discretion. I purposefully learned to stay in my own lane, and I prayed for the strength to be bold again.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Bold”.

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