Sunday, March 15, 2009

Militant Moms

I was recently at a gathering of families of children with Rett Syndrome. My daughters' pediatrician introduced me as "our most militant mom, who managed to get an AAC program for her daughter." I laughed and then inwardly bristled. I've spent the weekend reflecting on that comment, offered I think, as a compliment.

I finally decided I felt saddened by this perception of militancy. First, I don't want to be unnecessarily aggressive, I am a teacher educator myself and value teachers and public schools. It is a noble enterprise that I value above measure. Public education is one of our most important civic institutions, along with the courts and the legislature. At least in my mind.
Not to mention that I am a boderline pacifist. At least a strongly committed diplomat. 


Militant? All I have done is used the legal tools that are my right to use as a citizen. I've used them not to extend my right to dump toxic chemicals into my local river, or protect myself from lawsuits related to dangerous products I made for children, but to ensure that my child's school complies with the law and appropriate education. If anyone wronged another in this case, if any one was doing harm, committing violence, it was not me or my child. So why am I considered militant? This image of me as the agressor was painful, especially coming from a friend and fellow advocate for children. 

When schools deny or attempt to obscure children's rights that are protected under the law,this drives parents to use the law to assert those rights. To label this fair use of the law, which often requires enormous resources that families do not have, as militant, connoting that parents are the ones with a vast army, a huge budget, organization and  dangerous tools is further obscuring the issues and once again, making children with disabilities and their families the antagonist in this drama. 

Parents should not further internalize the negative connotations that go with the term militant. We are the protagonists, the heros of the story. The David against the giant. 

Certainly not militant. Simply assertive, brave, courageous, committed to our children, loyal...