Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dear Moms (and Dads), Enough is Enough.

I read mom blogs all the time. I read as mothers across the country, sometimes the globe, lay their souls bare and share with the world the trials and tribulations they have lived through on their journey through motherhood. I read about frustrating experiences with other mothers, with coworkers, with strangers. I read about maddening encounters with 4-year-olds and 8-year-olds and teenagers.

I read these blogs and I want to wrap these mothers up in a warm hug. I want to tell them that I know they are doing the best they can. I want to tell them that I know that the tantrum their toddler threw in the supermarket does not define who he is. I want to tell them that I don’t know any better than they do. That we are all just figuring it out, one day at a time, one minute at a time, one child at a time.

And then, against my better judgment, I read the comments. Inevitably, among the kind words that appear in support of these struggling moms are words that have gone through a blade sharpener on their way to the comment thread. Words that tear mothers down at the very moment they are seeking support. It is not that people have varying opinions that makes my heart hurt; in fact, that part makes me smile. Constructive discussion is how we all learn! But, the venom. Where does it come from? 

I recently joined the ranks of these women sharing their stories. I’ve been blogging for years but rarely about personal incidents and not typically to a large audience. After an experience with my pediatrician left me uneasy, I felt that writing about it would help me process it. And it did. But, it also allowed me to be on the receiving end of some of these scathing replies. It was an eye-opening experience.

Internet comment threads are notorious for their nastiness and vitriol. Wise web users often advise to avoid them at all costs. Within the parenting community it is particularly upsetting. If you have children—whether they are still in diapers or on the playground or off at college—you are in this boat with me. We are all in this together.

There is not a parent among us who hasn’t struggled at some point. Children do not come with batteries or remote controls. They don’t come with user manuals or directions. They are people and they are all different and their needs change rapidly. We need to be supporting each other as much as we can. We need to be giving each other the benefit of the doubt. We need to approach parents – online and in person – with the assumption that they are doing their very best.

None of us has all the answers. It’s possible that in certain circumstances we believe our own methods would work better than the ones being employed by the mother in front of us, and maybe we’re right. But, so what? We need to collectively swallow the urge to tell other parents we could do their jobs better than they are doing them. We have not raised their children.

You don’t know me. The sliver of my life that I’ve shared with you online or that you witness in the supermarket or the toy store does not tell you everything there is to know. As we read people’s stories, as we watch their interactions, our brains are filling in the blanks. How about we all try and fill them in with compassion and positive assumptions? Nothing is gained by tearing each other down. We’re all working together to raise the next generation of good, kind, and respectful children. Let’s show them what that looks like.

Monday, February 2, 2015

We Need to Change the Vaccination Conversation

This is an open letter to all physicians and researchers who work to inform the population on the importance of vaccinations as well as to pro-vaccine advocates who engage in conversation with parents who have not or plan not to vaccinate their kids:

Hi. You don't know me so before I dive in I want to make one thing abundantly clear. I am extremely pro-vaccine. I myself received the DTaP and flu shots while pregnant with my children and have kept them both on the recommended schedule for immunizations. I always encourage people to make sure their children are vaccinated as well. As a mother, a social worker, and a concerned member of the community I am very concerned about the epidemic(s) that await us if people keep choosing to opt out of this necessary preventative measure.

It is precisely because of this concern and my desire to see as many children immunized as possible that I believe we need to work together to change the conversation. As a therapist, when a client tells me that she has tried the same approach over and over again and isn't getting her desired results, my response is simple: it's time to change your approach.

There has been very little real dialogue on this topic. Those in the pro-vaccine camp see the issue as black-and-white. It is a necessity to vaccinate children; anyone who does not is a fool. The assumption is that this choice is based on bad science ("vaccines cause autism") or sheer ignorance ("they're toxic") and that these assertions are best met with no response for fear of validating the entire anti-vaccination movement.

The truth is, though, that the majority of people choosing not to vaccinate their children are genuinely afraid. They are afraid not just of autism, but of real side effects that do sometimes occur. And ignoring people's fear or suggesting that they are stupid, or crazy, or just plain wrong, is not going to make them any more inclined to do as we say. 

When I was a camper at overnight camp we used to go swimming in a lake. There were little fish that lived in the lake that were, for the most part, harmless. Every once in a while, however, a fish would bite someone. It was fairly uncommon and not really a reason for avoiding the lake, but it was a legitimate concern for some, particularly those with a pre-existing fear of such things. In order to combat the epidemic of kids refusing to swim, the lifeguards and counselors used to tell us there were no fish in the lake. It was a lie. We knew it was a lie. We could see them! But somehow, they assumed, likely because we were children, that if they told us there were no fish we'd be reassured and would jump right back in the lake. The lie had the opposite effect, though. We knew there were fish and by failing to address that reality, those campers who were afraid felt neglected and ridiculed. They could no longer trust the very people who were supposed to be taking care of them. It would have been much more helpful to acknowledge the risk, have a discussion about what - if anything - was being done to minimize it, and promise to continue working on making the lake a safe place to swim. 

You see when you acknowledge a person's reason for being afraid, and you work with them to find a solution, you do much more for the cause than if you attempt to pretend there is no threat. Vaccines are, by and large, extremely safe. The good they do far outweighs the bad. But adverse reactions do exist. The CDC website acknowledges this explicitly. For a large number of anti-vaxxers these potential reactions are a real fear. Putting a hand up in their faces and saying there's nothing to fear is like saying there are no fish in the lake. The refusal to meet them where they are and to address their fears makes them feel abandoned by the medical community and reinforces the notion that doctors can't be trusted. They have spoken directly to parents whose children have suffered after receiving a vaccine. Any suggestion that it can't happen to their children is seen as a lie. 

People want answers. Or, at the very least, they want to feel like doctors care and are searching for the answers. What makes certain children more susceptible to some of these extremely rare complications? Are cases of adverse reactions to vaccines carefully reported? Are we being honest about what the numbers are? I am fully confident that the statistics would show that vaccines are incredibly safe, but these concerns need to be taken more seriously by everyone on the pro-vaccine side of the equation. If people feel like they aren't being told the whole truth, they will conclude they aren't being told any truth.

Make no mistake. People who are choosing not to vaccinate their children are making a grave error. I know it seems counter-intuitive to give credence to people who are making reckless and medically unwise decisions when it comes to the health of their children and the entire population at large. I have been scoffing rather loudly myself since the practice not to vaccinate became so widespread. But the fact remains that our collective goal is to help people see the importance, the necessity, of vaccination. Our current methods are not cutting it. The longer we make anti-vaxxers feel that their concerns are absurd and unwarranted the more they are going to be suspicious of our good intentions and feel that pro-vaxxers can't be trusted. There is no question that there is a major health crisis waiting for us if the vaccination rates continue to drop. But by not engaging in the right conversation we are doing nothing to fix the problem.

We've tried one approach. It's not working. It's time to try something new.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mourning the Loss of Bill Cosby

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross knew how we would collectively react to the news of Bill Cosby. As more and more information comes to light and it becomes clearer and clearer that a man many of us loved throughout our childhoods is not who we thought he was. As woman after woman share stories of drugs and sexual assault. As the reality sets in that the beloved Heathcliff Huxtable was portrayed by a predator and we begin to understand that the Bill Cosby we've known and loved does not exist. Kubler-Ross knew: denial.

When I read the comments online - this is a thing I do that borders on masochism - I am not surprised by the many people coming to Cosby's defense.  Of course there are those who will always claim a woman is lying in situations like this - even when there are over a dozen of them, making the same claim over the course of decades. Even when there is proof of money paid to cover it up. But, there are also people who will eventually come around. People who honestly want truth, who believe in the pursuit of justice, but right now, at this moment, cannot process this information.

We were all played for fools. We allowed this man into our homes night after night, week after week, and we enjoyed our time spent with him. We believed that he was the picture of goodness, a family man with the ability to make us laugh until our sides hurt. His kindness and good humor seemed genuine. How could any of this be?

And yet, here we are. And it is almost too much to grasp. Years and years of deception. Laughs we cannot get back that make it feel like we've been complicit in this heinous behavior for a very, very long time. How are we to make sense of this cognitive dissonance? How are we to reconcile the death of this idea, this man who turns out to be a phantom? We cannot. And so we deny. We come up with theories about how this is all a lie. The accusations are false. They must be. There is no other explanation.

Except they are not. And together we are going to have to find a way to get through it. We are going to have to forgive ourselves for not knowing. We are going to have to admit that it is possible to be that good at hiding something this bad. We are going to have to commit to creating an environment where women feel safe to come forward about this kind of assault when it happens and not 30 years later. 

I am devastated by this loss. I feel like a big chunk of my youth was a lie. I think of all the times I have quoted The Cosby Show with my parents and sisters and I want to throw up. But, the fact that I can't fathom it doesn't make it untrue. We all have to come together and find our way through our grief, ultimately arriving at the last Kubler-Ross stage: acceptance. This really happened. No matter how badly we all wish it didn't.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

We Need to Talk to Our Sons, but We Need To Talk to Our Daughters, Too

I have spent the last three years thinking about everything I want to make sure to teach my sons on their way to becoming men. When my oldest was 10-months-old I put together this list of points to counter the negative messages I noticed society was sending. This past May, I sat again, and compiled a new list for my boys. This one in response to a shooting in Isla Vista in which a male perpetrator claimed his killing spree was retribution for women refusing to sleep with him. 

I have championed the idea that victim-blaming is toxic, that it is not a woman's responsibility to dress conservatively, but rather it is a man's responsibility not to assault her. I stand by this as strongly today as I ever have. But, I worry that in that message we have put so much focus on what we need to be telling our boys that we have neglected to give our girls some very important information. In the wake of the harrowing piece in Rolling Stone magazine about rape and sexual misconduct on the University of Virginia campus, I had a startling realization:  women don't realize that being raped is a violent crime.

If in the midst of a fraternity party a man with a gun barged in and demanded that all party-goers empty their pockets, I feel confident that someone would call the police in the aftermath. Why is it, then, that students are quoted as saying that they didn't believe Charlottesville police had jurisdiction over what happens in a fraternity house? How is it possible that a woman could think that a violent rape is the kind of thing that should be handled at the discretion of school officials?

The ordeal described by Jackie in the Rolling Stone article is beyond appalling, but equally as disturbing is the reaction she received from her friends. People who saw her beaten, bloody, and clearly sexually abused advised her to keep her mouth shut so as not to rock the boat or ruin their social standing at the university. This response contributes to the severity of the problem almost as much as the assault itself. We are failing our children.

It's not something we want to think about. Nobody wants to consider the possibility that our children could be taken advantage of at all, let alone to such a horrifying degree. Nobody wants to imagine their daughters on the receiving end of what Jackie endured. But our daughters need to know. They need to know that if they should ever find themselves victims of sexual assault, getting examined immdiately is the best way to nail the offenders. They need to know that filing a police report is not only within their rights but that we encourage them to go after the boy(s) who did this to them. They need to know that they can call us and we will not judge them or get angry with them, but rather we will love them and advocate for them.

And then we need to put our money where our mouth is. We need to come together as parents, teachers, administrators and community members and support our girls. We need to be clear in our conviction that we won't stand for sexual assault on our college campuses, or anywhere else. We need to make sure that these boys/men know there are consequences.

I have been torturing myself reading comment threads on articles about Bill Cosby. So many people point to the lack of police reports at the time of the alleged assaults to suggest that the women who have come forward are lying. Women don't report abuse because they know they won't be believed and then when they finally find the strength to say something, they aren't believed because of the lack of report.

Collectively we need to teach our girls that their safety and their well-being matter. Those of us with boys need to commit to raising sons who understand the meaning of the word no and the importance of the word yes. We need to stress regularly that sex is not an entitlement, that women are allowed to turn them down without fearing repercussion, and that they only get to get laid when they find a willing partner. But even with all of that, some women will be assaulted. And when that happens, we need to make sure that those girls know exactly what has just happened to them and exactly what they can do about it.

Of course there is always an option not to report, and yes, a woman should know that is her prerogative. But it can't come from a place of fear. It can't be because she feels somehow responsible for being raped. If a woman wants to go after her assailant she should know, without a shadow of a doubt, that she is supported. End of discussion.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The One Thing Moms Need? A Confidence Boost

Parenting advice is everywhere. I can't be online for ten minutes without seeing lists upon lists upon lists of what I must do, or should never say, or can't live without.  No one ever considers the possibility that what worked for them might not work for me. It's never here are 5 things I'm glad I did, it's 5 things you must do before having a baby.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of these posts have great suggestions. And I understand the desire for a catchy title that will pull in a lot of views. But I can't help but feel irritated when I read something on 7 things to never say to new moms that I actually enjoyed hearing.  I once stumbled upon a blog where a mother cautioned her readers to "Never say 'let me know if there's anything I can do to help'" because a new mom isn't going to have time to delegate. OK, so there's some truth to that. But I loved knowing that so many of my friends were willing to make themselves available to me. I didn't actually need anything from them, I just liked knowing they were there should something come up. I may be alone in that feeling, and I don't expect anyone to intuit how I feel about something, but that's the point. These lists suggest that there's only one right way to experience these life events and it's just not so.

Sure, there are certain things that are universally agreed upon (never ask a pregnant woman if she's having twins), but for the most part, what bothers one person might not bother another. Families who have children with special needs, or have adopted children, or who have gone through the agonizing loss of miscarriage or infant death are all going to experience these events differently. There is no right way to proceed when approaching these situations, other than to try and be as sensitive to the needs of our friends as possible. Many people who have been through similar situations may agree on a lot of the items presented in these pieces, but there is still something misleading about presenting it as though they are rules.

When it comes to parenting, these lists make me even less sense. More and more we are seeing that families are made of all shapes and sizes. We are different races and religions. We are heterosexual couples and same-sex couples and single parents. We are stay-at-home moms and CEOs. We are wealthy and we are living in poverty. We are biological and we are adopted. We are younger and we are older. There is nothing uniform about families, so why are we so insistent on presenting bullet points to mothers about what they must or mustn't do to be successful? Why do we think that our experiences apply to everyone around us? It's a toxic outlook and one that parents feel at all times. Other parents watching them, judging them, thinking how they would do things differently.

The way I see it, the only thing a mother needs to do to be successful is confidence. She has to believe in the choices she's making. It doesn't matter if anyone else is making those choices, or if she's the first to try. It doesn't matter if people tell her she's making a mistake and that she's going to regret it later. We moms need to rely on our instincts and our knowledge of our own children. We need to empower ourselves to make the decisions for our families without feeling pressure from the parents around us. We need to allow for the possibility that we don't know what is best for the families around us. Sharing our own experiences can extremely valuable, but we have to stop suggesting that everything in motherhood is universal. It is not.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dear Stay-at-Home Mom: What do you DO all day?!

Over the last few years I have come across blog posts and articles as well anecdotal facebook statuses and tweets written by stay-at-home moms, all making the same point: There is nothing more insulting than being asked what they do all day. Whether they've chosen to be home with their children because they can't imagine being anywhere else, or they've come to the conclusion that working out of the home is not financially feasible, or any other of the many reasons women stay at home, they all seem to agree on this one point.

Perhaps it is the way the question is phrased, or the intonation of the person who asks it, but the way it is received is most often as a belittling of the job of mother. Because this is how the question is heard, it is usually answered (when it's answered at all) with some generic response like "I'm molding a future generation" or "I'm raising my children," both of which are true, but don't actually answer the question.

I recognize why this question is hard to hear, especially given the history of feminism and the pressure women sometimes feel to work outside of the home. I also know that some people ask it in a way that is offensive and condescending and makes a woman doubt her choices, even when she is perfectly happy with them. But the truth of the matter is, it's a valid question - one that I could and would ask to anyone who has a job that I don't know very much about. I would likely use different wording, but the gist would be the same: So you're an accountant? What exactly do you do? No one I know with an outside-the-home job would be insulted by this question. I've asked my brother-in-law to explain what he does at least a half a dozen times; I still don't really understand it.

Instead of hearing the negativity, we need to be hearing this question as an opportunity to explain our lives to people who are unfamiliar with what it means to be home with children. Not only would it be helpful for the corporate-minded among us to have a better understanding of what stay-at-home parenting is (and it would be really helpful), but it would also start a dialogue that could greatly benefit parents.

I am currently home with my 3-year-old and 8-month-old and, especially as it gets cooler, every day is a challenge. If it's not a day with any classes or playdates, I wake up with this dread in my belly that we have the whole long day ahead of us. If it happens to be raining, then it's confounded by the knowledge that the park is not an option. I am constantly wondering to myself "what do other people do all day?" And every time the question pops up in my head I think about all the times I've seen women get frustrated by it. I realized that if I - a mother who is herself at home with kids - wonders about what stay-at-home moms are doing with their time, then it stands to reason that people who have always worked away from home would be curious as well.

Most people I speak to who have traditional "jobs" appear to be in awe that I spend all day with my kids. Their questions about what our days look like are genuine curiosity. If we want to make the claim that being at-home parents is as legitimate a job as any (and it most certainly is), then let's allow people into our secret club. Let's stop hearing this question as insulting - even if it is presented that way - and start sharing what makes the job the job - the good, the bad, the ugly, the exhausting, the messy, the funny, you get the idea.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Guest Blog: An Open Letter To My Son's Teachers

Something a little different for the blog today. I was approached by the mother of a 6-year-old with special needs who had a particularly frustrating experience with her son's teachers. Exasperated by the lack of support she's received from the people who are supposed to be a part of her son's team, she asked if I would share this correspondence. Keep in mind that both the mom who wrote this letter and I know that there are many wonderfully skilled teachers out there working tirelessly to help their students navigate their challenges. This particular experience, however, is indicative of a problem and sharing it seemed the best way to call attention to it.  

Email from: [The Teachers]
Subject: [Your child]'s Morning

Good Morning,
We typically do not go on email at this time but we wanted to inform you about [your child]'s very difficult morning.  [Your child] came in to school shouting and making noises and appeared exhausted ( he was yawning). After returning from Art at 9:40am he began to cry. The crying lasted for almost 45 minutes on and off. Teachers attempted to coax him with strategies such as a bean bag and pillow, we tried taking him on a walk, and offered him his usual preferred activities in the classroom. He was throwing his glasses and appeared very distraught. We just want to inform you about what occurred this morning.
Also we wanted to inform you that the gate closes at 2:50PM and [your child] should be picked up at 2:45.  Three days this week the babysitter picked him up late.  Please inform your babysitter about the correct pick up time. Thank you,
[The Teachers]

An Open Letter to My Son’s Teachers:

Good Afternoon,

I do not typically respond with sarcasm and negativity to a situation, but I wanted to inform you of my gut reaction to your email, as both a teacher and a special needs parent.

Your email came into my inbox just as I was finishing my day of teaching and sitting down to a meeting with my colleagues.  When I finished reading at 12:40 pm, I began to cry and had a hard time focusing on my work for the rest of the day.  I wondered if I should come to pick up my son, but you had neither mentioned that, nor called me at work to ask for someone to come get him. I wondered if he was still crying as you sent me this email.  I decided you were probably sending it to vent to me about my horrible parenting job and your frustration with him, me, and the system that placed him in your class.

 I realize that my son is a handful  -- an enigma -- and that it can be particularly challenging to work with him when he becomes frustrated, especially given that he has practically no language through which to vent his frustrations.  I understand you have over 30 children in your class and your email makes it perfectly clear, to me, that you really don’t want to have to deal with this child as well.  I’m also aware that in erroneously complaining last June, when I was told two days before the end of the school year that this public school was no longer an “appropriate setting” for my child, that I had been given “no warning” about the situation, that I probably brought this email upon myself.  Now, you see, I have had my written warning that your school is not an “appropriate setting” for my child.  This is a conclusion I have already come to myself but, funny enough, schools don’t seem to have “appropriate” spaces for tricky special needs children who apply mid-July for the upcoming September.  And it really eases my anxiety about the one interview we did go on, when you ask me at the conclusion of almost every written and face-to-face communication “How did the interview go?  Have you heard back from any schools yet?”  Perhaps the only thing harder than finding a space in a school for a special needs child in July of the same year you are looking at is trying to do it in September for that same year.  So, thanks for your support.  

Thank you for easing the burden that weighs heavily on my shoulders as I leave the house each morning to go teach other people’s children (some of whom are just as tricky as my own special needs child).  Thank you for realizing that as parents of a child who has, at most, 50 words and can reliably use about 15 of those, my husband and I are totally and completely disconnected from the world at school and rely on your ability and expertise to guide our child (and us) through this situation.  Thank you for loving our child the same way you would hope someone would love your child. 

I apologize for my child’s yawning in class.  His bedtime is 6:30 pm.  I might be able to make that earlier, but you see, I myself get home from teaching young children around 3:30 pm.  I spend about ten minutes in the bathroom and changing into comfortable, paint-germ-and-booger-free clothes.  I then spend a few minutes trying to give both my special needs child and my ebullient two year old equal attention, since they both are clamoring for some of my affection and my husband is still at work.  I say thank you and goodbye to my caregiver and once I get them “calm” (and you know why that’s in quotes) I ask them about their days and they respond about as reliably as a two-year-old and six-year-old with a speech disability can.  I can’t ask my child who he played with that day.  He can’t tell me.  He screams and cries, and sometimes smacks me in the face and says “No!”  Because I’ve just asked him to do about the most frustrating thing I can ask of him.  Something you, and I, and just about everyone short of Stephen Hawking takes for granted.  To make his mouth reliably work.  I’m sure if I could attach a speaker to his brain, that he’d literally be shouting all this stuff from the rooftops.  He’s (despite your report of this morning) a happy, sociable, humorous, loving guy who is always trying to make connections with other people and share these connections with his family. 

The same motor-planning disorder that traps my son’s words in the depths of his head, also keeps the rest of his motor-planning a bit wonky, so that when we move on to the next part of our day (completing the homework assignment, which is neither vaguely appropriate for my child nor based on the modifications laid out by his IEP) we encounter even more frustration than ever before.  He bites me, his shirt, the pencil.  Throws the sheet on the floor.  I am left to modify the assignment to my best ability because there has been no communication from you as to the expectations you have of him.  (Thank G-d I have dual degrees in special education and over a decade of experience in the field.  I think it was all for this moment)  And, at this time of the night I have an abundance of patience, too, since I’ve only been doing this same work for 6 hours with my own class of well over a dozen three-year-olds with varying identified and unidentified needs.  But I’ll do it for another hour for my own child.  Because if not me, then who?
This brings us to 5:00 pm and I’m so excited to start cooking dinner for my children.  I don’t eat with them.  When I do, I end up scarfing it down and getting indigestion, so I wait for them to be finished before eating (or making) my own dinner.   Just to inform you, I do let them watch television while I cook.  And then, after placing the dishes on the child table in front of my son and daughter, I get to sit on my hands, and my patience, and watch as my hard-working son battles his motor-planning disorder for the umpteenth time today as he struggles to get whatever meal I’ve prepared onto his fork or spoon and into his mouth.  Most of the time he gives up after 3 bites and starts using his hands, before he gives up altogether and just stops eating.  Sometimes his two-year-old sister feeds him.  Usually I end up doing it myself after watching a half-hour of his struggle.  But I still carefully plan his meals and place them on dishes with special suction or sides that are used for 9 month olds learning utensil control, because I want to foster his independence and (someday) break his reliance on (literally) being spoon-fed.  Usually around 6:30 pm I smell my son, inspect his face and hair and have an internal debate on whether or not giving him a bath is worth the time it takes away from his sleep.  It’s a 50-50 shot.  So my son heads in, once again unarmored against his motor-planning disorder, this time to undress and re-dress himself in his pajamas.  Because, the kind of thoughtless mother I am, also thinks he needs to learn how to do this independently and that practice is the only way for him to form this habit.  He often screams in frustration when two legs go in the same pant hole or bites his shirt instead of putting it on his head.  It makes me extremely proud and contented to watch.  Just to inform you.   So, I apologize.  Even after 13 hours of sleep (sometimes a very insufficient 10-12), my son is tired and yawning at 9:40 in the morning.  I won’t detail what the hours between 7 and 8:35 look like at our house, or what might be causing him to tire between 8:35 and 9:40 at school, but you can imagine what waking up, eating breakfast, getting dressed, walking to school, etc. consists of for a child whose words and body don’t do what he’d like them to do, when he wants, every time he tries.  And that the only consistency for him is that this is always inconsistent and unpredictable.  This is just to “inform” you about our child’s (and our) daily routine, so that I can vent some of my frustrations to you (since we’re all sharing). 

Also, I want to inform you that we have only had three pick-ups this week, and I did one of them.  I was at the gate at 2:45, no students or teachers were there and they were locked tight.  They did open at 2:55 and I proceeded straight towards you.  My babysitter is an amazing young woman who manages to care for both my strong-willed and extremely verbal two-year-old in addition to my tricky and often frustrated (and strong) six-year-old special needs child.  She gets paid for her job, but should be earning a special educator salary considering the patience and education she gives to both of my children, not to mention for putting up with being yelled at and blamed incorrectly by teachers for being 5 minutes late.  I also ask her to do this job for me because at this point, I’m not sure I can stretch a smile across my face when I see you in person, and I was taught to say nothing if I couldn’t think of something nice to say.  I apologize again, because I think this letter is in direct contradiction to that last sentence.
Thank you,
Name WithHeld