I’ve been up for hours with butterflies in my stomach. Today will be my son’s first day at one of the best Children’s Partial Hospital Programs in the country. Until a few days ago, I had never even heard this phrase – a new term in my dictionary of special needs and intellectual disabilities that seems to grow daily.
Every mom deserves to win an Academy Award. We’re forced to be actresses every day. Yesterday I sat at the PPT with the school listening to a room of fifteen people discuss what’s wrong with my son and debate how much the school would be willing to pay to help him. I’m not good sitting in these meetings. It’s hard to resist the urge to stand on the table and scream at them “This is my little boy!! Just help him!!” But I’m learning, thanks to my special needs advocate, to remain calm and “play the game.” So I let her do the talking. And I maintain my composure and assume the role of a logical business woman. The mom in me sat there wanting to cry and ask them why they would even be debating whether to pay for the educational services my son so desperately needs? Doesn’t everyone care about him like I do?
For any parent who has not had the “pleasure” of sitting in one of these meetings, it’s exhausting and stressful. But somehow you need to come out and go back to the day at hand. As a single mom who now seems to be solely responsible for our children’s bills I need to get my act together and get back to work. Once again, not easy to do since my son has been home from school for the past four weeks. So no, I won’t work. I’ll spend some quiet time – just my son and mommy. Life’s too short and these moments slip away. Fortunately he’s excited as can be about starting his new school today. He’s hoping that here, kids and teachers will be nice to him. (Truth be told he’s most excited about the lunch menu with a salad bar!) This is the one time I don’t have to be the actress. It’s just us, enjoying the day. I tell him for the “millionth time” – as he reminds me – how much I love him. That everything I do, I do for him and his sisters and that I will never stop fighting to make sure he gets what he deserves in life – happiness and the opportunity to have a good life. I remind him that he was the only reason I smiled again after his brother died.
Then the actress comes out again. I tell him how excited I am for him to go to his new school. I never let on how scared I am, how nervous I am for this step into the unknown and how I’m praying that this place can save my baby. After we go back home, it’s time to put on “the other mommy face.” The one that needs to shuttle my daughter to jazz class and laugh with her over the silly things that happened in school. One of the greatest challenges I face is remembering that my daughters need my time just as much as my son even though they don’t face the obstacles he does. It’s flipping the switch to give them the sort of attention they deserve.
Finally, I need to do my costume change for the final scene – back to the working mom as The Safety Mom. There are so many wonderful opportunities coming my way as a national spokesperson and family safety expert – potential book deals, a possible TV show, my radio program and the chance to interact with so many parents through e-mail and other safety advocates. I always say to my assistant, no one would believe that a few moments ago I was curled up on the floor crying over what’s going on with my son. I need to be “Game On”
But here I sit in the early morning – no acting – just a scared mom praying that this is the answer to make my baby healthy.
Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant.