They Used To Be Nice

I was cleaning some papers from my time in school recently and come across two different e-mails my mother and stepfather sent to a woman who was dealing with my cases at school regarding my mental health and whatnot. The first comes from my stepfather, and was sent in 2005. It reads:

As you know per our phone conversation last week, both my wife and I were very disappointed with the results from our daughters IEP meeting on Monday, at [REDACTED], at which you attended. But honestly, we were just as disappointed in your own services. At our initial meeting, you led us to believe that you knew how to take care of the issues that we were concerned with, You stated that you have dealt with many school districts before, in vases that may not have been exactly the same but were similar to ours. You said there shouldn’t be any problems finding the correct educational laws that would apply, and we should be able to come to a happy resolution with [REDACTED]. You gained our trust.

Then, my wife dropped some papers with [REDACTED], case manager at the school, and ended up having an impromptu meeting concerning our daughter. Also attending was [REDACTED], our daughters counselor, and a school psychologist who has worked with our daughter. My wife informed them that we had an advocate, and their response was that an advocate would not know the laws pertaining to the school or the school system and that it was a waste of money on our part. My wife spoke to you that day, informed you of what they said, and you told her not to worry, that you would be studying the law books that very day.

We spoke the next week, at which time you told us you had found the correct law that applies to our case, and everything would be taken care of at the following IEP meeting. Once the meeting started, you began by reading the code section that you had found. [REDACTED], the program specialist, informed us that the school was a Title 1 school and because of this, to the best of my understanding, it received federal and state grants, and thus the code section you found did not entirely apply at this time, but that the school system was “working on being able to comply in the next couple years”. You dropped it by that point. The rest of the meeting was just a battle of wills because the school officials, my wife, my daughter and I. Where was this supposed advocate that we hired to speak in our place?

Upon our phone conversation last week, you informed me that you had not known that the school was a Title 1 school, and even apologized for it. We trusted you to do your research, not only in the educational laws, but also in the school district, especially after their warning that you not know the laws that pertained to this school. We trusted that you would know what questions to ask, and be totally prepared for this meeting. Instead, you dropped the ball and left us fending for ourselves. Yes, we came up with a plan for our daughter, for home schooling, but that was on the table before you were ever hired.

Not only did you betray our trust, but you caused us to betray our childs trust in us. After we initially met, we told her everything would be taken care of, and not to worry. We told her that again after you informed us that you had found the correct law for a case like this. Now we have all let her down. I find it irresponsible to accept a clients trust in issues like this that are so important to a childs welfare, if you are not able to follow through. We will be notifying [REDACTED] to inform them that we do not think you should be trusted to be an educational advocate, We paid you 500 dollars. I don’t know how, in good conscious, you can ask us to pay another 316 dollars. I feel like I should be asking you for our money back.”

Then, I found my mothers email to the same woman, which reads:

I have been so angry since my daughters IEP, I have not been able to call you to tell you these things person to person. I am appalled at your performance and your technique as our advocate.

First of all, you PROMISED us that you found these laws to accomplish the goal we were after, but you did not do the homework necessary to know that [REDACTED] is a Title 1 school, and that these laws do not actually apply. My disappointment is not my main concern. I am a big girl and can deal with it. My daughter, on the other hand, had so much faith in you and you let her down. She is now so worried that she will not graduate and go to college. She is even more sure now that she will quit school than she has ever been before. I cannot even mention your name around her or talk about it at all.

The extra anxiety that you have added to her life by dropping the ball at this meeting and letting [REDACTED] walk all over you, has been a  major source of stress in our life. I could have handled the meeting myself as I have done in the past.

I don’t know how you can feel you advocated for my daughter when you did nothing more than talk big game and then accomplish none of what you said you would. If this is how you do business, then I feel sorry for anyone you have been with, or may be, hired by in the future. And if you think it is right to charge us more money to have been at this meeting when you accomplished absolutely nothing, then you surely have no concern for these children or their families. I’m not sure how much I want to do to prevent you from doing the same thing to anyone else in the future, but don’t be surprised if you hear that I have pursued that avenue further. And if you feel that we still owe you that additional balance, you can bill us again.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This makes my parents sound fantastic. Look how involved they were! Look at their anger, how much they care! But there’s two things I took away from this.

The first one is notice how they talk about how my anxiety from it brings them stress. Notice how they both bring up the additional fee she charged them. Yes, she certainly didn’t do her job, and they should’ve been mad, but they were mad for THEM, not for ME, alright? They were mad that now I was even worse, and thus putting more stress on them because of it, because they only ever cared about themselves, and they were mad that they had to pay even more money because of it. Had they genuinely cared about me, they wouldn’t have said either of those things in the e-mail, especially if they knew I might have my hands on them down the road.

The second thing I took away from this is something I’ve been leaning for a while now, and that is that just because an abuser does something seemingly good doesn’t erase all the pain they caused you. Recovery is hard, and it’s hard to not feel like you’re simply blaming others for your own problems instead of yourself. But no, this erases and changes absolutely nothing. And just because they may, in some small way, felt bad for me, they were more thinking of themselves. They were embarrassed that the school was right, they were mad they wasted money and were pissed that this was going to continue causing them stress. They never used to be nice. They just, at a certain point, stopped pretending to be, especially since at a certain point, I wasn’t a “kid” anymore and so they had no reason to pretend to care, and instead just blame me for not getting my shit together, despite all the evidence I had multiple learning disorders and mental health problems. I guess it’s easier to just be an abusive piece of shit instead of putting on this facade that you’re something else.

You are not responsible for your parents behavior, and just because they either pretended to, or did genuinely every now and then, care about you doesn’t make all the terrible things they did go away or become less terrible. That’s been the single hardest thing for me to accept in my road to recovery. I keep thinking every day that things are really bad, and things aren’t great, it’s true, but god, after looking at some of these papers and remembering what my life was like back then…

…I’m way more of a whole person away from them than I EVER was with them.

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I’m Maggie. If you like this thing I made, you might like some other things I make, like my depressing webcomic “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, my podcast network “The Feel Bad Network” or my writing over at Medium. You can also find some published work for sale over at my Payhip or support my work at my Patreon! Anything helps & is appreciated, thanks!

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