My Kid Didn’t Make Honor Roll and I’m Thankful for it

The leaves are changing. The weather is cooling. It’s that time of year again when we ask ourselves –What are YOU thankful for? My story of gratitude is one that has a rocky beginning. This November, my son, Cristian, was chosen as the ERG student of the month. That may not seem like a particular feat for some, but for me, it’s a pretty darn big deal. Considering I didn’t even get a vote (or a nomination), it’s something particularly meaningful as well. But to understand the full story, you’ll need a little background information. I trained as a school psychologist. For nearly six years, I administered all kinds of tests and gave out all kinds of labels. I had great training and I was pretty darn good at my job –just ask any IEP facilitator in the county! One day, I met a woman who spoke a resonating truth. “You’ll be a better psychologist when you have kids.” I had just recommended that her son be dismissed from services. He was 12 years old and continued to struggle in school. He obviously still needed support, but he no longer qualified for services. The mom wasn’t angry when she spoke. More than anything, she seemed tired. While I didn’t understand it fully that day, today I realize just how right she was. A few years later, I discovered that I was expecting my first child. I received a phone call one day that changed my life forever. It was a beautiful Friday morning in September. I was sitting in the car with my husband watching as they put the final touches on our new house. As we sat dreaming about the memories we’d soon be creating, my phone rang. It was the doctor’s office. “Hi, Mrs. Perez….something wrong….see a genetic specialist….we’ll talk later.” That’s about all of the conversation that I remember. Next thing I know, I was begging my husband to drive so that our new neighbors wouldn’t witness my emotional breakdown. He had no idea what was wrong, but instinct kicked in and he drove. Finally, a safe distance away, he pulled over and I explained that the doctor thought there might be something wrong with the baby. That next week, we went to see the genetic counselor. I had arrived about 15 minutes late. I had been dreading this appointment. Instead of being supportive or welcoming, the receptionist curtly pointed out that I was late. Normally, I’d question her rudeness, or make a sarcastic comment back, but feeling another wave of tears coming on, I mumbled an apology and sat down in defeat waiting to hear if my baby was ok. Fast forward 6 years. While no genetic abnormalities had shown on the testing that day, a new struggle was on the horizon. As many parents were celebrating their children’s first achievements, I struggled with my son’s teachers. “He can’t read Mrs. Perez.” “We’ve done what we can Mrs. Perez.” “He never lines up on time, he loses everything, his handwriting is horrible, he doesn’t understand the math concepts, blah…blah…blah…blah”. More fancy labels came…ADHD, Executive Dysfunction, Dyscalculia…. but where was the support? No emotion can quite describe how I felt during those school days. Frustration. Anger. Exhaustion. Hopelessness. They all fit, but not one alone could quite sum it up well enough. I remembered what that mother has said so long ago…”You’ll be a better psychologist once you’ve had kids”. Hmm…I had left the public school system quite a few years ago. But, maybe she was right. Seeing life through her eyes gave me a much broader perspective. It’s easy to fall into a parenting funk. Especially when it seemed like all my other mom friends were celebrating their kid’s academic talents or awards each year. While I was happy for them, they didn’t seem to be able to relate to my struggle. Night after night I sat at the dining room table trying to be both parent and service provider to my kid. It’s not an easy combination –I can tell you. Cooking dinner, being present for my other kids, and providing more of what Cristian wasn’t getting in school, but needed so desperately, seemed impossible. It was out of this chaos that an idea sparked. I knew I wasn’t alone. Who was helping these kids? These parents? Where was the support? And so, the Educational Resource Group was born. Fast forward to nearly a decade later and it’s my kid who gets voted as Student of the Month. Wow…what I would say to my younger mom self. What I would say to my son, six years old and swinging his legs at the dining room table. Working so hard to just keep up, staying so patient and fighting through his own frustration. And what I would say to that mom who gave me what was to become one of my most powerful life lessons. Bottom line….I’d say Thank You. I’m forever grateful for that mom –sisters in the struggle so many years later –for being brave, speaking her truth, and opening my eyes to what they don’t teach you in graduate school. And today, I continue to say thank you. Thank you to my wonderful staff, both past and present, who’ve dedicated their lives to helping our kids fight their own battles in and out of the classroom. I say thank you to the moms and dads who have shared their fears, their tears, and their hopes. I firmly believe that in our difficult moments we uncover our resilience. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to be a mentor and a guide for my son and so many other wonderful families that walk through our doors at the Educational Resource Group. For me, even that rude receptionist taught me a valuable life lesson. Our families have come to expect warmth, support, hope, and acceptance. We won’t tolerate anything less. We understand how difficult it can be and we built this organization with that struggle in mind. We are an extension of your family, a support system to back you up on even the most difficult days, and we will fight, and celebrate, with you every step of the way. In closing, I just want to say thank you to my son who, day after day, put one foot in front of the other and held his head high as he crossed those school doors and walked into his own battleground of frustration day after day. Congratulations, Cristian! Look how far you’ve come baby…

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2 Responses to My Kid Didn’t Make Honor Roll and I’m Thankful for it

  1. Sophie says:

    Way to go Cristian! I know you deserve this honor, keep up all the great work. This brought me to tears. It probably doesn’t help I’m almost 5 months pregnant and sat at the high risk pregnancy office. The ERG does more than help the families that come through the front door. It is a big family that supports all students, parents and coaches. I miss you all

  2. Debbie Fields says:

    This is exactly why we chose ERG to work with our daughter, Lisa. When I first met Dr. Perez and she explained how she and her husband came to start ERG, I knew this was not just some one-size-fits-all worksheet program, or a slick sales pitch. I hoped it would be tailored to help her make progress–and it was! And it works. So a huge THANK YOU!

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