Does advocacy have an "off" switch?
If it does, I need to find it, because my daughter is going to college next fall and everyone tells me she's going to have to be her own advocate. No more conferencing with teachers and networking with staff and negotiating accommodations for you, Mom! No more IEPs or packets of information for professors. Time for the girl to grow up and do it for herself.
Well, okay. Can't say I'll miss those IEP showdowns. It's nice to think that at the stroke of age 18 or at the hand-off of a diploma, a young person who's needed intensive intervention and coordination between home and school will suddenly get hit by the advocacy stick and be able to speak up for herself. Hey, that language disability that's kept her tongue-tied and timid since childhood? No problem! Speak on up, hon.
An MSNBC article earlier this week, chastising parents who become over-involved in their adult children's job searches, reminded me that just hitting the snooze alarm on my advocacy and waking it back up after college won't do. Apparently, it's not okay for parents to come along on job interviews or call employers to negotiate salaries. I'd like to think I'd be a little more subtle than the parents profiled, but c'mon. Fighting to have my kids' capabilities recognized has become a way of life for me. I'm supposed to stop doing that when it's only their ability to earn a living at stake?
I do think the advocacy I've done in the past -- including pushing her into inclusion and forcing her to stick with things like the high-school marching band -- has made my daughter more able to stand up for herself that she would otherwise have been. Throughout high school, there have been more and more incidents where my interference just made things worse, and though she doesn't always handle things the way I would, she handles them. More and more, I'm finding that I can coach her from the sidelines and let her carry the ball.
Still, for a parent who's been energetically involved throughout a child's schooling, it's a steep drop from team member to tuition-payer, from expert to excess baggage. If you have a child who's made this transition, how (and how much) did you let go? Share your experience in the comments.
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