Even Higher Expectations

October 29, 2016

We thought we had done a pretty good job prepping our daughter for high school. Anne had friends, she was involved in school and extracurricular activities, though not very interested in school work, she would regularly sit and do her homework without much of a struggle.

We weren't prepared for a teacher who demanded even more from us and from Anne. Did she still watch little kid television shows? Play with dress up clothes? Dolls? Sleep with a blanket? Well, maybe a couple of those things. She knew she had to leave her blanket in bed so what was the harm in that? She enjoyed the Disney channel and what were the alternatives?

That darn teacher did not let up. She kept pestering us, "It takes a long time, you need to start now! High school goes by so fast!" Her point, which we eventually accepted and even embraced, was that Anne needed to see herself as a young adult, not a kid. And to do that, she needed to move on from the accessories of childhood. The toys, the blankets and the princess dresses all needed to go. That teacher would ask Anne, "Do you see the other high school girls doing it?" If not, Anne needed to adjust her own behavior.

We all acknowledged there were limits to this approach, yet the underlying sentiment made sense for us. When the blanket wasn't permitted to go along on our spring break trip, it wasn't even missed and was never mentioned again. That was when we decided Anne's teacher knew what she was talking about.

That same teacher pushed us and many other parents and students to make the big effort to regularly schedule dates with friends, to not spend all weekend with family (because that's not what teenagers do!). She also encouraged Anne to develop friendships with other kids with disabilities, not just the typical peers.

It was a big pain in the neck to organize alternatives to the easy option of watching a Disney movie but after four years, Anne has actual friends. These are friends who hang out together, who text each other, who have developed true relationships.

Anne graduated this past spring but deferred accepting her diploma. The high school kids have mostly scattered but Anne is reaping the benefits forced on us by that pushy teacher who is now a true friend.