Advocating For Dreams by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

Often during the week I have a topic I am thinking about for my post, but then before I start writing, something way more pressing will take over in my mind and the original topic is obliterated. Today’s previously scheduled programing has been obliterated by school or rather my daughter’s academic career and my relationship to its development.

Where to begin? How about with my kvetching, or maybe complaining or frankly b!*#$ing at lunch with another mother from my daughter’s class. Turns out, my concerns about my daughter’s teacher and host of pressing issues are shared by other parents in the class as well. Okay so now what?

There are some complicated politics about why nothing will change and why feedback given up the change of command is in fact falling on deaf ears. Again, so what now? I spent the break being mad about the situation and then I remembered that I am the consumer. For the sake of clarity, let me say that my daughter is in a private school, but I forgot. She had been in a public school, but this year we decided to go private.

The irony is that this private school feels as functional (or dysfunctional if you prefer) as the charter school my daughter had been attending. Okay so what? Am I going to resolve this situation today, this week, this year? Yes, I will be addressing the situation to my satisfaction because I am my daughter’s advocate. How is still to be determined, but resolution will happen.

Now onto to this notion of being my daughter’s “advocate.” It is a statement I have used many times usually in relationship to school issues. But it has a larger meaning, which I only realized tonight at dinner when I explained to my daughter what an advocate does. I was telling her a story about my high school years and then my story shifted into things that I had not gotten to do because my parents back then—when I was in high school—did not advocate for me. I did not get to be a flower girl for the senior graduation ceremony nor was I science camp counselor because there was a conflict with the band program I was in. Basically, the band director was overstepping his authority, but I submitted.

Now, I will hold partial responsibility for my parents’ lack in this area because maybe I did not ask for help or tell my parents what I wanted, which I realized as I was explaining all this to daughter. And then in that moment, I blurted out “You have to tell me what you want or what’s important to you.”

Suddenly, the notion of advocacy takes on a whole new meaning for me. I am not just advocating for my daughter’s best interests as I see fit, but there will also be an evolution of advocacy as my daughter matures that will involve advocating for what her dreams are for herself; a profound shift—or expansion if you will—in my thinking. My task now is to listen for those dreams so they don’t turn into regrets like my little high school desires did. Being an advocate for my child is turning out to be a very complex task and big portion of what parenting is about.