It’s “back-to-school” time… but this year, things look nothing like anything we could have imagined this time last year.
No backpacks needed as kids stay home. Corners of bedrooms turned into classrooms. Rotations for who gets to be on campus on specified days. Desks scattered throughout the room. Masks. Partitions. It feels like something out of a post-apocalyptic fiction novel brought to life.
Except, this isn’t true across the board.
Some parents stepped up, opened conversations, and their children returned to school just like in any other year.
So, how exactly did that happen?
And could you make it happen for your child?
You’ve seen the posts.
School has started, and many children are attending from home. Parents are posting “back-to-school” photos showing off their cute desks, decorated shelves, all done in the hopes of making their children feel as “normal” as possible as they sit down to a computer for several hours that first day…
And then the posts change.
“My 6 year old just burst into tears, saying ‘I’m so stupid.’ He’s never done that before.”
“My daughter is in tears missing her friends, struggling with her work… and she’s always been a top student until all this.”
“My child gave up today because he needs extra help and I have to work from home while he’s taking class.”
But, if you’re friends with Jodie Meschuk, author of “Speak Up Buttercup: How I Brought My Son Back From Autism,” you saw a different post cross your feed on the first day of school… no masks, no social distancing, PE and lunch as normal, regular time in chapel…
When schools began discussing IF they were going back and HOW to go back if they did, Jodie began making calls. Now, you might think that this is just the type of parent she is, so it was “easy” for her to do this. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was a journey to get to this point… and she hopes that by sharing it, she can shorten the learning curve to help other parents get to their desired results faster… and without having to experience the challenges.
I sat down with Jodie to ask her about her family’s back-to-school experience, the journey she took to get to this point, and why empowering parents such an important issue for her. Scroll to the bottom for a link to her free guide for parents!
B: Were you always an empowered parent?
J: No. I was always the kid pushing the envelope, getting in trouble… but as I grew into my teens and twenties, I lost that… Until I had the most insane wake up call I’d ever received – the moment my son received those 9 vaccines – but I wasn’t empowered yet. I allowed it to happen and didn’t stop it.
B: Can you pinpoint the moment you did become an empowered parent?
J: Leaving that appointment, driving and weeping, knowing what had happened, my child screaming… I didn’t have the focus or the determination yet. Everyone has that moment. It was when I was in the office with the neurologist and she said “there’s nothing you can do, don’t bother having any hope because there is no hope for autism… oh, by the way,” as she pointed at my belly, “don’t have any more kids because they’re probably going to have autism too.”
THAT was the moment I became an empowered parent. Because when someone tells you that you can’t do something, you can either say “you’re right, I can’t do anything” and be the rule-follower… OR… you’re going to say “wait, no, that can’t be true.”
That was MY moment. And it’s different for every parent. There comes a point where each parent chooses either to take the path of no hope, simply doing as told or they decide to create their own path for their family.
And as I left the doctor’s office, again, I was in tears. But this time, instead of tears of grief, of beating myself up, of unforgiveness for myself… this time, they were tears of anger and rage, knowing I was going to prove the doctor wrong. That was the moment I became empowered.
B: Looking back, what were the steps you took to empower yourself?
J: I feel like the battle over masks is the vaccine battle all over again, but this time, I’m more equipped. “Anti-mask” or “anti-vax” – these are just labels, and really, a cop-out when a question could be asked and a conversation had. Simply, “why do you not ____?” (Insert wear a mask or vax.)
You can talk to any parent who chooses not to vaccinate. We go through and research every vaccine AND every illness… and then we weigh our personal risks and benefits. We don’t just wake up one morning and decide to not to vaccinate or the fun of it. Many of us are here because we didn’t research. We believed in vaccines at some point. We didn’t weigh risks and benefits.
And the same goes for masks, whether or not to send our children back to school, and where our personal line in the sand is.
Step 1: Realize you have a choice.
I used to be a rule-follower. I thought I had to do what I was told. But, you have a choice in everything.
Step 2: Read and Research.
You can’t take anything at face value… even me. Don’t just believe me. What do YOU think about it? It’s cliché, but knowledge is power. The medical establishment is banking on you being too busy, too worried about a virus, and too wrapped up in social media to take the time and do the research.
Step 3: Reclaim your voice.
My second child was born the day my older son was diagnosed with autism. And when it was time to administer vaccines, I said, “Not now. Give me more time.”
And parents who are rule-followers like I was can do this. “Not now. Give me more time.” That pause gives us breath and lets us build confidence in standing up.
B: What would you say to parents who are scared, who think giving in is easier… how can they find their confidence?
J: It may feel easier to not rock the boat, but we aren’t taking a moment to zoom out and see what comes 5 steps from here… 10 steps…
Nobody wants to be a rebel. The shame, the threats… but there’s lots to think about with going back to school. Let’s say a school is coming back with these guidelines (all ones I’ve seen published): masks for any child over age 2, social distancing at lunch or lunch at their desks, no outside play, desks separated by distance and plexiglass, and hourly cleaning of all surfaces with bleach.
The rule-follower might say, “It’s ok… It’s just one month” or “It’s just for now.” A lot of people are saying “It’s just ___.”
But what happens when we zoom out? When we say “let me research these things”?
You get answers to: What are the physical effects of bleach exposure? What are the mental or emotional effects of these guidelines? What happens to the brain?
And then you ask: am I even ok with this?
A majority of parents aren’t researching. They are believing what they’re handed. They choose “easy.” But NOTHING ever comes easy.
What is the cumulative effect of the “easy” decisions we’re making “just for now”?
Zoom out. Ask what if…
What if kids return to school with these guidelines and someone gets a flu or cold, like kids always do? What happens then? What is that impact on your family, your privacy, and your freedom? What if your child is allowed an exemption to the mask rule… will they be singled out? If masks are optional, what happens to the child who chooses whatever the less popular choice is (wearing or not wearing a mask)? Will they be bullied?
There are so many facets parents aren’t thinking about. They just want their child to be able to go back to school.
B: What options do parents have?
J: Partner with your school. I called our school and they were willing to listen and come to the table. And if they’d closed the door, I would have looked for another solution. Be comfortable thinking outside the box. Reach out to friends and create a micro-school. Hire a tutor. Or maybe file a lawsuit.
Jodie has put together amazing resources to help families empower themselves. Grab your copy of The Right to Rule: Back to School.
And whatever it is you’re experiencing in the moment, whatever decisions it is that you are facing…
Note to Self: Zoom Out.