In Laura's words - Part Two
(if you missed part one click HERE)
I became Matt's advocate in many ways, because of my own experiences as a child, and because of some specific situations that happened when he was in school.
With my husband’s help and insight, I’m glad that we did these particular things:
1. I tried not to judge his idiosyncrasies, but value his uniqueness. He sucked his thumb with his “boppie” (blanket) until he was 8. What child would do this “on purpose” to challenge his parents? In my world…not one. It was part of who he was. We just dealt with things a day at a time and refused to listen to criticisms. (Read part one to know why this was important to Laura!)
2. I stood up for him at school. In preschool, his teacher called a special emergency meeting with me. I could not pick up his report card until this meeting was done. The reason? Our son “couldn’t cut with scissors". What a huge problem. Was he a little slow to develop the teacher wondered? I explained to her that he had a baby sister and at that point in time, scissors were not allowed in our home for safety reasons. I didn't care for her approach, in suggesting what was "wrong" with him, instead of what was right with him. Approaching life with a cup half full is much more creative and productive than half empty
3. I am glad I spent lots of time with my son, so I knew who he was. In first grade he was chosen to go to a remedial reading class. I strongly objected and had to fight the system. I was told he was “slow” and I retorted with that he was “reflective”. After a few months I won that battle because they began to understand I knew my child.
4. I am glad that I didn’t let educational dogma rule what was best for my son. In middle school he proved to be a bright, creative, and well-behaved student. After complaining to me about a class he could not learn in, I observed the class. It was completely unruly. The administration had attempted to place him a group of “at risk” students, hoping his good behavior would rub off on them. They were willing to sacrifice his well being in order to raise the mark of other students whose parents were unwilling or unable to adequately parent. Rescuing their children was not my son’s job.
5. I am glad that we always talked about possibilities. He was encouraged to at least “give it a shot” when he had an idea. I did my best to discuss option A and option B to every problem or situation needing an answer. There is always an option with consequences attached. This type of conversation happens to this day. Life happens, and it’s nice to have an advocate to voice things to.
The result of all the sleepless nights his father and I endured? All the second guessing, questioning and agonizing over what the right answers were?
Our son began to thrive a little in high school and a lot in college.
He changed majors with our support and continued to scrutinize his career path because he appreciated that we continued to “know him” and listen to him.
He now has a doctorate degree in Electrical Engineering, a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering and a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and Physics. He coaches doctorate students to success at a university.
He is a scientist and does research in radiation for NASA. He is the president and founder of one of the first integrated circuit manufacturing companies based in the state of Arkansas.
He also owns a working farm and is restoring a 115 year old farm house. He is a husband, a father, and a loving, compassionate, creative, and problem-solving person. He has grown into a man of influence.
He is God’s child, but God did give him a mother and a father who fought for his rights, his dignity, and his gifts. We were and will continue to be his advocates.
Those battles were not always easy, but they were so worth it.
Every child needs and deserves an advocate.
One last note. If you were to strip our son of all his earthly accomplishments, you would find an imperfect, yet courageous and persevering man. And so many times he is afraid, but not of his parents.
God cannot steer a parked car, but He can do wonders with someone in motion.